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Kathy Dolan of Carlsbad conducts an online workout with a client on March 21. Fitness instructors, yoga studios are flooding the internet to keep their clients engaged as workout facilities across the state have been closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Courtesy photo
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Online fitness a growing trend in wake of stay-at-home restrictions

REGION — All aspects of life are being upended due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

With several states, including California, instituting statewide stay-at-home orders, normalcy has been redefined. As such, small businesses are taking the brunt of the massive economic downturn, yet many are finding creative solutions to stay afloat.

In the fitness industry, gyms, yoga studios and more are closed, but those owners are battling to keep their clients engaged through the online platforms.

Desiree and Scott McBride of Oceanside opened Lagree Fitness of Oceanside in April 2018, but closed on March 16. The couple has since expanded to include Versa Fit (think climbing machines) into their offerings.

However, since the Coronavirus has paralyzed business, the couple is driven to keep their clients engaged through free, daily classes on their Instagram Live feed. They also set up a GoFundMe page as a way to pay their instructors.

Many others are also joining or have already been offering online services, such as Kathy Dolan of Class It Up Fitness and Candy Gibson, who bought Carlsbad Village Yoga nearly three years ago.

All four stressed the importance of staying active, whether at home or going on walks, runs or hikes, to relieve the anxiety.

Desiree McBride, who owns Lagree Fitness of Oceanside, uses Instagram Live for free, at-home instruction since her studio closed on March 16. She and her clients are replicating the Pilates-like machines used in the studio. Courtesy photo

Scott McBride said the free services were the right thing to do, as the gym uses Pilates-like machines, yet are not offering their full scope of services.

“It was really to help the instructors, that was our main goal,” he added.

Desiree McBride, who is also an instructor, said her first class on March 18 had about 50 people join in. The workout, though, called for creativity to try and replicate the Lagree movements.

She said her new at-home routines include using paper plates, towels, rollers, duvet covers and other household items. However, once the stay-at-home orders are lifted, Desiree McBride said it is unlikely her studio will remain online-only as they incorporate two different machines for the workouts.

“This is going to help us get through … but you can’t replicate the real thing,” Desiree McBride said. “It’s about the workout, but I feel this is more about staying connected and moving to feel slightly normal.”

Dolan has been using online platforms on and off for years. She moved to Carlsbad several years ago, and has been building her business through the internet reaching clients across the country.

But now, she feels the online market will be flooded with trainers offering their services in virtual models. Some, including larger gyms, are charging, but her business model is web-based, so she’ll continue to push forward, although she is looking at some potential social media streaming.

However, a new revenue stream is opening up for her, Dolan said, as the trainers going online are seeking her out on how to build an online-based clientele, platforms to use and more.

“I think every trainer, to stay alive, is going to have to do both,” Dolan said. “There’s so much anxiety right now, that you have to learn and exercise every day to wash off the anxiety.”

Gibson, meanwhile, finally made a profit in February after buying the studio several years ago, but had to close. She said many people thought it closed, but slowly she has been spreading the word to attract new clients.

Like the McBride’s, Gibson is offering her classes free online through the studio’s Facebook page. Her instructors, meanwhile, teach at the studio, which is bleached, to give those watching at a home a more connected feel.

However, she doesn’t see her studio going to a full online model once the stay-at-home orders are lifted because of the connection her clients enjoy. Still, those working out at home are still able to comment and re-created their sense of community through those platforms.

“I think I’ll be OK for a few months and then we’ll see what happens,” Gibson said. “I hope it peaks mid-April and it’s behind us in mid-May.”


Lagree Fitness of Oceanside: Monday at noon; Tuesday at 8 a.m.; Wednesday at noon; Thursday at 8 a.m.; Friday at noon; Sat.-Sun. at 9 a.m. All sessions on the company’s Instagram Live page, @lagreefitoceanside.

Carlsbad Village Yoga: Mon. at 10 a.m.; Tues. through Thurs. at noon; Friday at 10 a.m.; Sat. at noon; Sunday at 10 a.m. All sessions on the company’s Facebook page.