When the pandemic struck and the lockdown followed, fitness clubs and programs were among the first to be closed down, deemed high-risk areas for transmission of the novel coronavirus.
Among those forced to make changes was the Woolwich Community Health Centre, which gradually shifted to an online format for its wellness programs that serve a wide swatch of the population.
Going digital was an easy choice for an organization keen on keeping groups such as seniors as active as possible, said Linda Girard, WCHC’s fitness coordinator, noting the technical hurdles made it somewhat daunting.
“This is all new to us… we would have never in a million years thought we were going to ever be doing something like this,” she said of the transition from in-person to online made for most, though not all programs.
The fitness classes will be run online using Zoom videoconferencing, which may not be ideal, but it does the job.
“Some of our instructors, because they’re all contracted instructors, they do often have their own clientele and so many of them have been doing fitness instructing over Zoom since the beginning of the pandemic,” said Girard of the alternative format, noting that does present some technical challenges when delivering programs.
The whole team at WCHC has also been using the face-to-screen interactive application to participate in meetings. On the other end of the screen, participants may have difficulties of their own, Girard notes of potential issues with internet connectivity, for instance. However, staff have come up with a solution to the problem, and are happy to introduce a course that will be run over the phone.
The social component of the course offerings was something staff were mindful of in adapting programs to the digital realm. As such, WCHC will include a block of time at the end of the sessions encouraging interaction and conversations between participants.
“I know how much people enjoy coming to the classes just to be able to chat and socialize with others, and that was a huge disappointment for many of the people,” said Girard of the loss of in-person classes. “I spoke with a lot of the people when we were canceling them (the programs) and explained what was happening. Many of them were so disappointed that they weren’t going to be able to see these people that they exercise with.”
The building strength and balance course will be run by Laurie Buehler, who’ll be leading classes over the phone, benefitting those unable to connect via an internet connection.
“They’ll answer the phone, and I’ll be at the other end,” Buehler explained. “So, I will start the exercise class, and they will have an exercise sheet to follow. Everyone will be in different locations in their own home, taking the class, and I will be teaching it so they’ll be able to hear me and follow along with the exercises that they have in front of them.”
Registration for online workshops or the building strength and balance program can be done online. or for the phone programming specifically, people can phone 519-664-3794, ext. 239. The courses will be capped at 20 participants.