Inside Jobs: How Local Fitness Professionals Rise to Current Challenges
April 10, 2020 @ 10:00am
There’s been an interesting narrative about fitness in the time of Covid-19 circling around almost every (digital) social circle. Somehow, there’s an idea that we should all use this time to get “model” hot, as opposed to just surviving and doing our best each day. While that’s not only an unrealistic and unhealthy goal, there’s a happy medium stemming from the health and fitness world in the wake of a time when those very things are being threatened. Enter three D.C. fitness professionals, all passionate about more than just physical results. While no one will deny that those are great too, these individuals have done much more than get fit through their routines. They’ve created communities, encouraged mindfulness and given countless people positive outlets. Just because the doors to their studios or one-on-one classes have closed, doesn’t mean they’re not hard at work bringing all of the above to the District and beyond in a time when it’s perhaps needed most.
Five years ago, Dan Carter left his job as a senior digital producer at The Discovery Channel, and opened Danimal Yoga. He craved the connection and touch provided by in-person yoga and fitness classes, noting that “touch is such a beautiful gift we give in yoga.” With physical contact nearly impossible, Carter is pivoting back to his roots while creating ways for audiences to connect with yoga’s other gifts.
“Here we are five years later, and I’m having to relearn all of the technology that I used to use all the time at work,” Carter says. “I am very lucky in that I have a bit of a head start, but I am also feeling very challenged by the fact that I picked this job because I wanted to be there with people and now I’m having to do it all over the internet again.”
Those challenges haven’t stopped Carter from adapting or injecting the humor and lightness that have become a hallmark of his classes at Danimal Yoga over the past five years.
“Thankfully, there are platforms like Zoom where I can now see my students, and I can give them a little bit of feedback as the live feed is going along, as opposed to Facebook and Instagram Live, which are a really great way to get a big broadcast out, but are not as intimate.”
Carter offers free live weekly classes on his studio’s Facebook page, and leads other classes via Zoom for a more interactive component, which can be purchased on his website. In recognizing that this is a difficult financial time for many, he also offers discounted or free memberships to those who may be impacted by the financial fallout of the current climate but still want to be in a yoga community.
“I would say the main goal of yoga is to still the fluctuations of the mind – to get our minds to turn off for a moment. I don’t feel like yoga poses are the only way to get there,” Carter says. “I offer yoga bootcamp, mindfulness, self massage – lots of different formats. Above all else, with all of those formats, I am always keeping people laughing. I think we just need laughter right now,” Carter explains of the benefits of the Danimal Yoga approach to fitness and mindfulness.
“We’re getting really creative with these classes now. I’m doing a drag-themed fitness class, where I will be performing as a drag queen, and students are allowed to do the cardio sets with me or I will put on lipstick numbers and they can watch those. It’s a nice option for people who like to get a workout, but also want to take rest and be entertained and laugh. I’m just trying to keep things as light and as happy as possible.”
In addition to finding equal time for stillness and silliness, Carter also encourages reflection on what truly makes people happy in order to cultivate a mindfulness practice, something that seems especially essential in these uncertain times.
“One big change does not totally transform your life. It is a series of small decisions that you have to make. Take 30 minutes of day for mindfulness practice, whether that’s meditation or journaling or just finding an outdoor space that is safe to be in. Sit there and let [your] mind wander and just imagine your best self and like what is going to make you happy right now,” he says.
“I think that’s where the small changes will come from because we all have time now. We’ve all got an opportunity to cook from home, to do more fitness classes. But it seems like most people are unhappy right now, and I think people need to set aside time to find that happiness.”
To take a class with Carter, visit www.danimalyoga.com for a full schedule of his fitness activities available through Zoom and social media.
Keep Up With your Community
In the process of adjusting to her new reality away from her recent past life of 5 a.m. classes, Gina McAlpin, community marketing manager and founding instructor of Barry’s in Dupont Circle, realized one of the hardest parts of this new normal was being away from her community.
“Yes, we’re a fitness workout. But that’s not the biggest thing that stands out to me when I think about Barry’s. I think about family, and I think about community,” McAlpin explained. “This time is so strange, and we have to be separated from that human connection we all crave. The one thing that makes Barry’s so special is that no matter what people are going through, they would come to our studio all the time to be able to be with people that build them up and make them stronger.”
To offer instructors, other staff members and their wide-reaching community in D.C. and beyond a digital sense of their already strong camaraderie, the studio quickly sprung into action with live workouts to connect everyone virtually.
“[We realized] we need to take this community online, still show up for each other and [work out] in a live format to where we can physically see how many people are coming together every single day at any given time,” McAlpin says.
On Barry’s website, workouts are described as high intensity interval training classes, “alternating muscle focus to ensure the body gets a balanced workout and proper time to recover.” Though they typically take place in the studio’s signature Red Rooms, McAplin and other Barry’s trainers allow you to transform whatever spot in your house you have into a Red Room of your own. While no equipment is necessary, you can purchase a Fit Kit online, complete with accessories needed to round out your workout.
“For anyone who’s curious about Barry’s, they can literally be in the comfort of their own living room and no one has to know they’re just dipping their toes into the water, especially without the equipment. All they have to do is show up in front of their cellphone,” McAlpin says of Barry’s new online offerings.
“It’s right there on Instagram Live. It’s 100 percent free. And I think what we want is people to get that first taste, get that experience [with Barry’s]. And as things are pretty much uncomfortable all over the world, one thing you can do is make yourself better and stronger during the process.”
To access Barry’s livestreams, you can visit www.barrys.com/barrysigtv/ or follow on Instagram for a full schedule and join via Instagram Live whenever you choose. Instructors from around the world, including McAlpin herself, are leading these at-home workouts. You can also purchase a Fit Kit and learn more about the workout on www.barrys.com, so you’re prepared to hop into the in-person community in the future.
Embrace Something New
As a current instructor and owner of Barre3 on 14th Street, Alicia Sokol recalls running as “the first example of moving [her] body for no other reason than it felt good.” As her busy life as a mom and professional progressed, she sought out a workout that was gentler, eventually leading her to Barre3.
Her passion for this approach to fitness, described on the Barre3 website as a “full-body balanced workout combining strength conditioning, cardio and mindfulness,” is apparent in her current roles at the D.C. studio. Although the recent pandemic forced the studio to swerve from 70 in-person classes per week to a fully online platform, Sokol and her team haven’t stopped providing clients new and old with a holistic workout and an online community.
“The thing I am most proud of is that my studio is a place of healing. Some people come to us with injured knees, or shoulders, or necks, but more often than not, our clients seek healing for their heads and hearts. One of our members recently said, ‘it’s amazing the cork floors aren’t broken yet given how much heavy baggage is dropped on them every day,’” Sokol recalls. “I thought that was so on point. We provide a welcoming, safe space where people can come just to be who they are and let go of what’s weighing them down.”
Now, a library of classes is available to members online for easy at home workouts, and you can still register for livestream classes through Zoom, filmed in studio with just one person inside for safety.
“This has allowed us to see each other and communicate in a way we never imagined would be necessary. We are offering one class per day at various times during the week. Our classes are either 45 or 60 minutes and include a combination of strength conditioning, cardio and mindfulness,” she says. “Each workout is designed to be done without props (just a mat is needed) and every posture is fully adaptable so that each person can feel successful in the workout.”
Whether you’ve religiously attended Barre3 in person, jumped from different studios or are looking for something to pass the time at home, Sokol encourages you to explore your options from home, and find some form of movement that you love, instead of forcing one that’s not enjoyable.
“This is a great time to start something new,” says Sokol. “All of our routines and patterns have been disrupted, so why not explore a bit. Grant yourself some grace and do what feels good. I always think it’s funny when people say things like ‘I started running, but I hate it!’ If you don’t enjoy something, find another thing. There are many ways to move your body that feel good. Now is a great time to explore what that might be.”
If Barre3 sparks your interest, you can get started with livestream classes. As an added benefit, Barre3 has partnered with No Kid Hungry to ensure those out of school are still receiving meals.
Barre3 is selling the class packages (3, 5, 10 and 20) at 10 percent off and donating 10 percent to No Kid Hungry. Class packages can be used for livestream classes now or saved for when the studio reopens. And if you’re a healthcare hero on the front lines of the pandemic, Barre3 offers livestream classes at no charge for two weeks. Just email [email protected] to get set up.
All other new members can sign up for a 15-day free trial to access at home of pre-recorded Barre3 workouts. To work out with Sokol and her 14th Street studio community, purchase class packages at https://bit.ly/b314thclasspacks.
Barre3: www.barre3.com; @barre3dc14thst
Barry’s Dupont Circle: www.barrys.com; @barrys
Danimal Yoga: www.danimalyoga.com; @danimalyoga
More Movement + Mindfulness
Turn your living room into a dance studio with this joyful, judgement free dance workout that will have your heart racing. Check out their robust assortment of classes – even meditations – offered through their YouTube channel. www.305fitness.com
In addition to a rotating cast of Facebook Live classes, you can access pre-recorded at home workouts, free online coaching. Les Mills group class templates, and a workout of the day via Balance Gym. If you want to truly up your game, you can purchase hybrid training or sign up for live, one on one coaching via Skype. www.balancegym.com
The Be.come Project
This all-levels friendly, body-neutral workout comes with the motto that ensures participants will be “working out because we love our bodies, not because we hate them.” This program has always been digital and your first 10 days are free – all you need is a mat, a phone or computer, and 25 minutes.
No bag or equipment is required to get the most out of this creative, high energy boxing workout. The studio published a weekly schedule on Instagram, and everyone is welcome to tune in via Instagram Live. www.boombox-boxing.com
Epic Yoga DC
This yoga studio has taken its regular offerings and transformed them for fully digital consumption. Registrations are done as most yoga studios follow, through a membership, a class pack or a one time drop in, and classes cover things like movement and meditation, yogalates, and vinyasa. www.epicyogadc.com