Fitness industry reacts to Niagara lockdown changes

·2 min read

As the Niagara region moves into the province's red level of its COVID-19 reopening framework, fitness instructors who moved their businesses online reflect upon the year passed and look toward the future.

Michelle Latocha is the owner and one of the fitness coaches at Be Active Live Better, based out of St. Catharines. She said the initial move online in March 2020 was just to “fill the gap” for her community members. “Never, in my mind, did I ever think this would last as long as it has,” she said.

Latocha said at first, the expectation was to get people moving in their homes. After about a month, however, she decided adjustments needed to be made to ensure clients were receiving the “quality classes online, like they were getting in studio,” and maintain the connection she had with her clientele.

Though classes were initially limited, Latocha said eventually, her business was able to facilitate fitness classes of many different kinds online, similar to when her studio was open. Beyond classes, Be Active Live Better offers an online 21-day challenge and Latocha also hosts a podcast to share knowledge on fitness/health, community awareness and to interact with the community and industry professionals.

She said that she found success with shifting online, with more clients attending more classes more often, now that they were easier to access. Latocha had decided in September to take her business exclusively online. Although lockdown levels have changed since then, she said an entrepreneur has to be “ready to roll with the punches” so she will remain online even after lockdown ends.

Sally Jane Southern-Grice has been group fitness instructor at the YMCA for over 20 years. She started out as a volunteer, but is now the centre manager at the Grimsby location. She said she was reluctant about the initial transition online last year, but that was because of her own insecurities. “I don't necessarily like to be recorded or see myself teaching,” Southern-Grice said.

She said although it was “no classes or it’s virtual classes,” when she reached out to colleagues who were already teaching online, it was then that she became excited to teach. For her, it was the opportunity to continue teaching fitness to those she already had a connection with, that changed her mind. “I quite enjoyed the thought of doing it. And it's proven to be a very worthwhile endeavour,” she said.

Southern-Grice said that it is ultimately her fondness for social interaction that makes her want to teach in person again.

She said, “Taking a step back and looking at the world a little differently,” some clients will be willing to come back while others may not be and for some, it’s a matter of convenience rather than will. Although she is looking forward to teaching in-person, teaching online “will always be an option.”

Moosa Imran, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Grimsby Lincoln News