It took a couple of tries before Deb Putnoi’s Peloton found its forever home. When the exercise bike first arrived, she set it up in her son’s room; he was at college. When the 20-year old returned in mid-March amid coronavirus concerns, he was cool with it. He used the bike often and didn’t mind when his mother and 23-year old sister, also home from school, stopped by for a class.
Until he did.
“My daughter likes to work out early, and my son likes to sleep in,” said Putnoi, an artist and educator. So she moved the Peloton to the second-floor family room, relocated her Zoom teaching setup to the living room and her mask-making station to the hall. “Always pivoting!” she said. “They need a lot of exercise. It’s keeping them sane.”
Kimberly Huestis, founder of jewelry company Porcelain and Stone, reconfigured the dining room of the Huron Village rental she shares with her husband to make way for an exercise bike, rower, and power tower. In December, the couple discussed purchasing a single piece of equipment, thinking they didn’t have room for more. Not so. They pushed aside the dining table, which now functions as Huestis’s in-home studio, and replaced their whiskey collection in the built-in hutch with jewelry-making tools. “I’m aiming for five pull-ups at the end of this,” she said. “Currently at one, up from zero!”
Between March 16 and April 30, Peloton extended the free trial period of its digital subscription service from 30 to 90 days. The company’s third quarter shareholder letter reported that during that time, 1.1 million-plus people signed up for their free trial and completed more than 8 million workouts. Home renovation site Houzz reported that home gym equipment sales have been eight times higher than they were prior to the pandemic.
Not everyone feels the need to shop, however. The search term “home workouts, no equipment” trended on the social image-sharing site Pinterest, with a 329 percent increase between March 4 and March 17 compared with the two weeks prior.
Fitness programs are seeing increases on digital platforms. Pilates-based workout studio Xtend Barre, which had already offered recorded and live classes on its Openfit app, launched more live classes in mid-March once studios suspended in-person instruction. The subscriptions doubled from March 15 – April 19.
Beezee Honan is a live streaming convert. “I don’t miss the early morning drive or the anxiety about getting a spot near a fan and not too close to the stereo speakers,” she said. Honan, an account manager at Designer Bath/Salem Plumbing Supply in Watertown and Beverly, had to reorganize her basement to accommodate her new routine. Then organize it again to accommodate the contents of her college-aged son’s dorm room when he arrived home. “You need a certain square footage to do a virtual conditioning class,” she said. “I have hit the built-in cabinets and the foosball table inadvertently.”
Emily Webster, proprietor of design company Langford & Lewis, went from self-described “couch potato” to Zoom fitness junkie. She participates in live classes twice a day, six days a week in her living room. Webster dragged a decorative screen out of the garage to use as a backdrop and to hide the dining room from her fellow classmates and instructor. In the morning she pushes the coffee table out of the way and opens the screen. After class she pushes the screen to the corner, tucking her props and weights behind it. “I love the online community and camaraderie and seeing people from all over the country!” she said.
Xtend Barre has also observed this desire for community connection. “Members are logging in early to connect via Openfit’s classroom chat feature,” said Selina Tobaccowala, chief digital officer of Openfit.
Lindsay Gibson, owner of Majestic Yoga Studio in Cambridge, began offering live group classes on Zoom on March 16, one day after in-person instruction stopped. She has been Skyping with private clients for about 10 years, so was able to pivot quickly. “It’s a way to connect with people on some level, though sometimes I feel like a girl stuck in a box,” she said describing the digital experience. “Yoga and meditation are intimate; we’ve worked hard to adapt our way of teaching.”
As for her clients’ responses to the online offerings?
“Gratitude that we’re doing this for them,” she said. “It makes me want to cry.”