“There's been a lot of ups and downs and emotions wrapped around it all,” Dunn said. “It's been very stressful. But at the same time, I also felt very grateful for the support and engagement we've seen from our members.”
When Travis and Williamson counties limited in-person gatherings and nonessential business operations in mid-March, gyms, fitness centers and studios were forced to navigate unprecedented circumstances, Dunn said. So much of the work she and fellow fitness instructors do, she added, relies on one-on-one, in-person interactions.
Through the pandemic, virtual workouts became a stand-in for gym sessions and studio offerings, lending way to a kind of personal engagement people had been craving, she said.
Following Gov. Greg Abbott's executive order that allowed gyms to reopen in Texas starting May 18, some locations, including Dunn’s, held off on opening to clients. Dunn said that for Pure Barre, she wanted to ensure the studio’s reopening strategies protected both staff and clients from the health crisis.
Karen Lenhard is a group fitness trainer in Pflugerville and an instructor for U-Jam Fitness, an urban dance workout that includes choreographed routines to Latin, hip-hop, Bollywood and pop music. Since the pandemic shut down in-person classes, Lenhard has turned to virtual classes as a form of exercise, mental relief and community.
Lenhard’s classes run on Tuesdays and Thursdays, just as they had prior to the pandemic. One of the unexpected results of turning to virtual classes, Lenhard said, is the extension of her fitness community—from Pflugerville’s 24 Hour Fitness to participants across the country.
“What's really neat is that now we can virtually take other people's classes in different areas of the country,” Lenhard said. “I think it's great to stay connected—this opportunity to dig into what some other instructors out there are doing. Even though the dance and the music is pre-choreographed, everybody's going to put their own elements into it.”
When classes resume, Lenhard said she is most excited to see her class attendees and to celebrate the progress they have made during the past few months.
The energy of in-person classes is palpable, she said, adding that no matter how that looks with social distancing measures, she will still be reunited with her “back corner hustlers.”
“I don't know how it's going to work, if we stay in our own little square,” she said. “But you know, if we can be in the same room and hear each other and see each other—I'm really looking forward to that.”
As many people have turned to online classes for exercise, Dunn said just as many have sought out fitness as a source of refuge and mental relief during this time. Whether it is a positive word of affirmation for a client during her digital classes or their Friday happy hour Zoom virtual meetups, Dunn said human connection is what is needed most.
And on June 1, even with social distancing measures in place, those same connections will finally come from something other than a computer screen.
“We feel like we're kind of coming together,” Dunn said. “It's that sense of community. And we've heard over and over again—this has been my saving grace kind of through all of this.”