Manchester gym survives online, thrives in person

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MANCHESTER — Watching the news in early March, The Manchester Gym owners Dan Colgrove, Dana Dussault and Lia Taylor were quick to recognize the emergency situation the pandemic presented.

For its members' safety, they closed the gym a week before the State of Vermont required it and Taylor said they used the time to freshen up the gym

"doing repairs, painting and intensive cleaning."

Then the gym switched to offering classes online.

A wide range of offerings: including cardio kickboxing, core, Active Life, yoga, strength training, high intensity interval training, barre, spin and Zumba, have been been made available for members through live streaming on Facebook and Zoom.

The ability to access classes anytime appealed to working or busy participants like Sue Cedar who participates in most yoga classes.

Instructors encouraged participants to work to their capacity and demonstrated modifications.

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Some virtual workouts were broadcast from the gym while others were conducted in homes of instructors or outdoors.

Instructor Cassie Halstead said her biggest challenge was " keeping her family quiet while she was teaching live.''

Preparing to teach virtually and presenting a class in an empty room takes getting used to. Instructors adapted by setting up equipment early, reviewing directions for clarity, and initially stuck to familiar moves for their group.

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To keep members' spirits up, the instructors have held occasional Zoom sessions for supportive discussions and used live stream to provide answers to questions about strength training and nutrition. During one session, Colgrove and Taylor provided a detailed discussion on adapting weight room practices and nutrition for a young body-builder.

As hard as the online sessions were, reopening required diligent preparation to follow the extensive Agency of Commerce and Community Development's guidelines.

The Manchester Gym was dedicated to staying on top of the rules to increase safety and reduce risk.

Entry and exit are set up so members avoid passing each other. Sanitizing, cleaning stations and reminders for social distancing are provided. Members wear masks before and after classes and bring any equipment they need. Dussault said members have been respectful of each other and the guidelines.

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Personal trainers wear a mask and demonstrates proper form without touching a client. In addition to regular disinfection, members wipe down equipment before and after use. Owners schedule personal training sessions to ensure one person is always at the desk to welcome and check in members and members reserve classes in advance ensuring there is space using apps, the website or calling.

Adequate ventilation is maintained with open windows and use of fans, spacing, and instructors' use of masks allow safe participation in on-site classes. In addition, instructors modify movements to avoid chance close contact.

To maintain social distancing, class sizes, which ordinarily could be up to 30 people is currently limited to nine participants.

Instructor Amy Thomas said "participants bring an energy that is contagious in a face-to-face class," and that "the thought of returning to normalcy is appealing."

Attendance has been growing but the gym plans to support all its members and instructors by offering both onsite and virtual classes. Instructor Barb Lowes said she appreciates the ability to continue practicing yoga virtually.

A variety of membership options are available and donated memberships are available for people who might be having to forgo participation due to financial hardship.Member Alison Stannard highlights how important the gym has been to its active members.

"It has been wonderful for me physically and mentally to be able to keep to this routine throughout this weird and frightening time," Stannard said.


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