By Nancy Kelley

How has your fitness routine evolved over the last two years? With most gyms, small fitness studios, local YMCAs and other recreation centers now fully open for in-person workouts, it may feel like pre-pandemic times. You might think it natural or necessary to go back to your pre-pandemic schedule. But some of us have changed our routines for the better. Personally, I fell madly in love with my new hybrid schedule and have no intention of ever giving it up.

When the pandemic hit, I was lucky to be able to keep up my Pilates workouts, because the folks at MOVE Wellness were quick to pivot to live online classes. Let me be clear, I was not excited at the thought of online classes, but because it was my only option at the time, I played along. Little did I know that online classes would become a lifeline socially, emotionally, and physically for the next 10+ months.

Like everyone else who missed their old routines, I was super excited to return to my in-person workouts when the studio reopened. But here’s what surprised me:  as much as I absolutely wanted to return to the Pilates studio, I did not want to give up my at-home online classes. Could I do both? Yes!

What slowly came into focus for me as gyms and studios reopened was the opportunity to adapt my fitness routine to include both virtual and in-studio training. As a result, I was able to build a more robust, flexible, and sustainable fitness routine. For the first time ever, my fitness routine fit my life, on my terms, instead of the other way around. I was working out more than I had in a decade. More classes and more consistency led to more results.

What I love about my online classes:

  • Seeing who shows up for class (a little like happy hour)! I do feel like part of a community. Sometimes we chat, sometimes we don’t; either way it’s okay.
  • The flexibility of changing my clothes (or not) five minutes before logging on for class.
  • The ease of adding on extra classes when my schedule allows it—avoiding the pressure of an early commitment to something I’m not sure I will be able to do.
  • Occasionally doing class in my pajamas with the camera off.
  • The ease of working out while traveling or on vacation. I spend a lot of time in northern Michigan and can take my online routine with me.
  • The travel time I’m able to save by taking virtual classes, I can be in and out of an online class in 50 minutes! I’m a contract employee paid hourly, so every minute counts.
  • The overall value—I am getting live, professional instruction at an affordable price.

What I love about my in-person classes:

  • The 1:1 in-person connection with my trainer, who can correct my form with more nuance or encourage me to push a bit harder.
  • The equipment—jumping on the Pilates reformer, chair, or Cadillac keeps things interesting.
  • In-person interactions with friends and instructors.
  • Occasionally leaving my house to both physically and emotionally immerse myself in the fitness environment.

What’s next? A hybrid fitness routine?

I have learned so much by being forced out of my normal fitness routine and experimenting with live online classes. It’s something I would never have tried, had it not been for COVID-19 shutting down all the gyms, tennis clubs, and fitness studios in Ann Arbor. It’s easy to point to these online classes as a silver lining in a very difficult time.

I have often heard MOVE Wellness owner Elaine Economou say, “the consistency and frequency of your routine builds positive outcomes,” and I have to say, she is right. I was able to increase my workout frequency while still receiving quality instruction, all from the comfort of my own home. And I am definitely seeing the benefits. At a time when most people were moving less, I was actually moving more and both my physical and mental health benefited.

Truth: If I could only choose one form of exercise, it would not be online fitness. I’d choose tennis! I’m so grateful to be back on the courts and taking in-person fitness classes. But thankfully, I don’t have to choose. It’s extremely clear that online classes have a very important place in my routine, adding significant value, flexibility, and very real positive outcomes. I also know how much Pilates improves my tennis game and keeps me injury-free. Since I don’t have to choose, I plan to continue with a mix of virtual and in-person training. This hybrid fitness routine keeps me moving more and stressing less and reminds me of another Elaine Economou mantra: “the more you move the better you feel.”

Nancy Kelley