• Sarah Ballan

I would take a deep breath to center myself before going on the platform. I’d peer into the crowd and see 50 stationary bikes whirring up their single wheels, all 100 eyes on me, looking for inspiration. As the lights dimmed, and the music blared, the hairs on my arm would begin to push themselves out from the follicles; partly nerves, partly because the room was kept cold. I’d interlock eyes with my front row riders to confirm that their game faces were on. We were all about to sweat. A lot. Together. There’s nothing like being in a packed dark room, pushing it to your limit when the beat drops. But, that was fitness BC (Before Coronavirus). Now, specifically in New York City, gyms and boutique fitness studios have yet to fully reopen, and consumers and trainers alike are mourning the end of an indoor fitness era.

Studio workouts are a thing of the past. 

Boutique fitness studios with jam-packed schedules had to eradicate their rosters overnight to abide by city and state laws set in place to contain the spread of coronavirus. The few establishments that could afford to resurface during state re-openings have drastically diminished their size in numbers. Places like Barry’s Bootcamp are having class at less than half capacity, masks required. Other companies, such as my previous place of work, Flywheel Sports, do not have the funds to reopen. Flywheel filed for Chapter 11 last winter 2019, and was acquired by Town Sports, which later dropped the deal in April 2020 AC (After Coronavirus) when they, too, filed for bankruptcy. Flywheel was forced to file Chapter 7 and liquidate all funds. They remain 50 million dollars in debt. 

Group fitness will never be the same again, and neither will getting a job as a fitness professional.

The indoor boutique fitness empire has collapsed and been remodeled, and now, effectively has been replaced with online fitness conglomerates that are monopolizing the business. The powerhouses, like Peloton, Mirror, and Obe Fitness, only favor a few, established trainers, leaving many qualified and hardworking fitness professionals unemployed and dumb out of luck. These mega companies are turning select instructors into celebrities, while the rest of us struggle to get clients on zoom. 

If you’re lucky enough to work at one of the top boutique fitness studios that still has some money in reserve, odds are you have an opportunity to teach remote on a bigger platform and continue to grow your following and customer base. Companies like Barry’s Bootcamp, Rumble, and SLT have made a relatively smooth transition, given their studios are still banned from reopening in many states. There is a high demand for fitness, but the market has become oversaturated with startup apps and instagram content. Although there is endless free fitness content, the amount of at-home workouts and instagram live videos during quarantine was, and still is, overwhelming. Also, some people need more motivation than watching a video to achieve their fitness goals, and benefit from having a more personalized session or working out with a trainer they know and love. Tons of trainees turn to their favorite instructors for Zoom indoor and small, socially distant outdoor workouts. 

Many people choose to work out at home with well-known trainers, whom they recognize from reputable brands, who have a following and rapport. This is great for trainers at nation-wide companies at places that were hit hard from the pandemic, but still manage to pay employers and adapt to an online format. However, many talented and furloughed fitness trainers are still suffering because the studios simply don't have the money to hire everyone back. 

Instructors host zoom classes that allow the trainer to keep 100% of the money, which actually adds up to a pretty penny if you can rally ten or more people to participate. Another upside of online fitness is the freedom to create your own teaching schedule. The instructor's life “BC” consisted of very early mornings: waking up at 4:30am to teach a 6:00am class across town, and getting home after 9:00pm if you taught the late night, after work shift. On Zoom, you are no longer factoring in commute because you are teaching from the comfort of your own home! Also, you get to charge whatever you want. The downside is, it may be more cost effective for a client to invest in one of the conglomerate fitness media brands. Peloton, a company that used to only teach and broadcast spin classes, has expanded its services to include treadmill, yoga, stretching, barre, and more, in its monthly subscription. 

Why pay for personal training if you can have it all in one package?

Today, more than ever, our lives are primarily online. We host virtual meetings, classes, and happy hours, all on Zoom. We barely make our daily minimum on our fit bit step count, and we complain about Covid making us chubby. Covid-19 has dramatically changed our world, and has had a particularly dire effect on the fitness industry. Even though many fitness trainers have started their own donation-based or fairly priced online classes, the options are seemingly endless, and people are looking for a good deal. People crave connection and companies like Peloton give members a sense of unity and community; these cult classes are the closest thing we have to an in-studio experience during a pandemic. 

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  • Sarah Ballan

Updated: Mar 25, 2020

In the last two weeks I, along with everyone in New York City, and many others across the country (and 6/7 continents), have been stuck in limbo. All sense of normalcy and routine has ceased to exist as a result of a series of unfortunate events that took away our freedoms one by one *cough* coronavirus. Is “cough” a trigger word now? Anyway, thanks to this novel coronavirus, people are now not only expected, but mandated to stay home and wait for this worldwide pandemic to subdue. Our lives remain on pause as we do our best to abide by the new laws enacted to flatten the curve. All gyms and boutique fitness studios were deemed unsafe by the government due to the infectious disease, COVID-19, spread by this virus, consequently putting me and 98% of my company out of a job. Many industries, particularly performance and service, along with the entire stock market are declining. This microscopic, yet omnipresent POS is wreaking havoc on society and paving its way by propelling fear! I know days of the week are seemingly irrelevant during this “unprecedented time,” but here are a few things that are helping me stay sane and survive social distancing. 

1. Get The F*ck Up Out Of Bed! 

This new “stay at home” policy allows for everyone to sleep in. There’s nowhere to travel since we are all OOO, but creating boundaries in my apartment helps me stay productive and on track. I know if I stay in bed all day I’ll end up watching TV and wasting a ton of time. Therefore, I limit the amount I spend in bed so I can make the most out of my day. As soon as I get up, I make my bed right away. Making the bed is crucial, otherwise you may feel tempted to crawl back under the covers. 

Self-care should stay a priority! 

Basic hygiene is a give in ie: brushing your teeth and showering, but what about getting dressed? Does it really matter if you look glam for a conference call? I argue the answer is yes. I am not suggesting you suit up, nor would I even go as far as squeezing into a pair of jeans, but if you look totally sloppy you may start to get lazy in other departments. I love how even my tinted moisturizer makes my skin, and even though I rarely leave my apartment, the glow-up is a mood booster. Even though you can’t get a mani/pedi at a salon, try a DIY spa night in. Put on your favorite panties under your pj’s. Brush your hair. I personally feel my best when I look my best, even if it's just for me, myself, and I. Don’t use WFH as an excuse to LYG (let yourself go). And if you really don’t feel like any of this is worth the effort, then please, for the love of god, change your f*cking sweats

2. Move your body. 

Working out is a great way to release energy and stay fit. Unfortunately as I mentioned, gyms and boutique fitness studios are closed indefinitely. The good news is, many fitness instructors, myself included, are offering online at-home workouts. Tuning in for a live workout is encouraging because it’s happening in real-time and you’re working out with other people. In fact, I started an instagram account with friend and fellow Flywheel instructor, Greta Bradbury, @coronachronicles_ which helps keep us and our followers entertained, informed, and active. In these moments, among isolation, I feel a sense of community and connection. Another thing I’ve been doing daily is going for a walk or run outside - while maintaining safe social distance, of course!

3. Don’t Touch, but Keep in Touch

We’ve been hearing a lot about social distancing, the trendiest hashtag on Twitter. This social phenomenon requires you to maintain an appropriate physical distance (6 feet +) between yourself and another person. Handshakes and hugs are taboo, but it is also frowned upon to walk side-by-side with a person with whom you do not reside. Of course, there’s not much of a reason to go outside right now given every aspect of attended entertainment has been “cancelled.” The President recently stationed the National Guard in NYC to enforce the temporary order to stay home unless you are out of food or medication, so instead of face-to-face time, switch to FaceTime! Even if you’re just catching up while you cook, it’s important to stay connected to friends and family. Some other virtual "quarentivities" include DJ’s like Diplo who are spinning LIVE sets on instagram for everyone to listen to together. Try having a virtual dance party or happy hour with friends on Zoom! 

P.s. those of you who are quarantined with a partner or roommate, be sure to respect each others’ needs and find a #healthyballance of space and company. 

4. Stay woke!

Keep up with the news and take precautions. Rules are constantly changing as we learn more and more about the virus. There has also been a ton of false information circulating, like the “hold your breath for 10 seconds” test. If you complete this wildly unscientific BS task without getting breathless, you are said to be in the clear of corona. Don’t believe everything you read on the internet (duh) and be wary of articles like “top things to do to cure corona,” because no-one knows wtf this is or how long this state of emergency will continue... *FYI This post is purely for enjoyment and none of what I am saying is in any way scientific*

5. Positivity is a CHOICE

If you feel you’re getting a little too negative you’re already on your way to positivity. Noticing when you are negative takes you out of the “bull sees red” moment and brings you back to reality. Noticing your thoughts and intervening is how you gain control of your mind. 

If you are reading this you have internet and wifi. Be grateful. Focus on what you have, not what’s been cancelled or postponed. If you feel sad or scared, sit with the emotion and ride it out. Try and do something constructive with your energy, like keeping a journal! (or painting or drawing or making a collage or cooking or running or playing a board game or watching tv or calling your friends…)

Stay present and focus on what you can control. 

Your brain is a complex muscle and unwanted thoughts may come. Your ego may be bruised if, for example, you're like me and out of a job right now. People tend to get anxious and upset when they experience uncertainty, but guess what? You decide what information you feed your stream of consciousness. You do not have control over other people’s thoughts, so learn to control your own. 

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  • Sarah Ballan

I order the best food. I simply do not cook. I’m not sure if it’s laziness, or maybe I just don’t know how. Not that I’m all that lazy - I teach eleven Flywheel classes a week, freelance, and babysit whenever I have a free night. I always get slightly intimidated when I go to the grocery store. I food shop when I’m hungry and end up buying a lot of items I don’t need, or sometimes an excess of one particular item. After a long day, take-out is usually the best option, and in New York City, the choices are infinite. 

I decided to give Blue Apron a shot because Flywheel gave me the chance. The ordering process was simple. I created an account online, then I chose my meals from a lengthy list of recipes. There are multiple categories: Signature meals, Weight Watcher meals, and Vegetarian options. Each order serves two people, but there is an option to upgrade to four servings. You can pick your meal based on cook time. If you know you won’t have a ton of time, opt for a 25-minute recipe instead of an hour-long ordeal. After scrolling through the virtual cookbook, I decided the Garlic-Caper Chicken and Curry Beef Burgers. 

The large cardboard box containing my two meals for two arrived on Tuesday night, which was fairly quickly since I ordered over the weekend. Shipping and processing the orders usually takes a few business days. Blue Apron does a good job of telling you exactly what day and time you should expect your delivery to arrive. If you aren’t home at delivery time on the dot, don’t worry because there’s a ton of ice in the box to keep the ingredients fresh. I did a fancy instagram-style unboxing and carefully took out the contents of the box, only to stock the items in the fridge because it looked too intimidating. Needless to say, I settled for sushi instead. 

The next day it was time to tackle Blue Apron. I looked carefully at the ingredients and directions I had been so quick to dismiss the night before. Each ingredient - quantity and all - was perfectly packaged, ready for immediate use. 

I went with the Garlic-Caper Chicken: 35-minute cook time, 580 calories. The ingredients were as follows: a small bag of orzo, one zucchini, a lemon, dried oregano, chili paste, two sizable chicken breasts, and parmesan cheese to sprinkle on top. The only thing I needed on my end was a pot, a pan, and some EVOO. I had wine in my apartment, but you can opt to add a wine pairing to any blue apron recipe, if that’s your thing. 

The directions were clear and concise. I neatly arranged the contents on my counter and began boiling the water for the orzo. As the water boiled, I sliced my zucchini and simmered it in a pan with the pre-portioned mix of oregano, chili paste, and lemon squeeze. The aromas of edible food began to fill my kitchen and I felt accomplished.

From start to finish, the meal took me an hour to prepare, instead of the allotted 35 minutes.

If you are a more seasoned cook (pun intended) perhaps it would take the suggested amount of time, but just in case I would leave an extra 20 minutes or so as a cushion. 

I am by no means an experienced cook, but Blue Apron gave me a confidence boost. My instagram followers joined me on my journey and gave an overwhelmingly positive response. 

My friends who usually joke that I burn water seemed impressed by the aesthetic of the final Blue Apron product. Those who don’t know me as well were conned into thinking I can cook! I didn’t have a  surplus of ingredients leftover in my fridge for once! I used all of the ingredients and didn’t spend the extra time or money in the grocery store. And who knows, maybe soon I’ll be able to finish a recipe in the allotted cooking time. Verdict: I can definitely see Blue Apron in my future as a feasible dinner option. My second box arrives tonight.

 *Shout out to my secret weapon: my friend Jordan who did far more than me in this process. However, I'd still like to take credit for turning on my stove and not bringing home Sweetgreen or Cava again*

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