DIARY OF A TRAINER: A PANDEMIC PATH

DIARY OF A TRAINER: A PANDEMIC PATH

By Lisa Vonnegut, CSCS

Sunday, March 15, I received a message from two of my long-term clients saying they wanted to discuss how to manage their training sessions. Though vibrant, healthy and more active than people decades younger, at 73 and 82, they knew they were in a demographic most vulnerable to COVID-19.
“We don’t want you to lose any money,” they said, “but we don’t want to come into the studio.”
Thinking on my feet, I suggested we try training via FaceTime; them at home and me on the mats at my studio.


We struggled a bit to find the right angles and eventually settled with their iPad on their bedroom floor so I could see them on the ground for mat work and positioned further back for standing work. I guided them through a workout circuit using what they had: resistance loops and two 5lb dumbbells. We were mutually delighted at how easy it was to create movement that was challenging and fun.
It was an ominous glimpse of what was about to come.
The next day that my iPad began to go crazy. Then one of my partners called and called again, then my husband. It became clear that something had happened. Five different people sent me texts with the same article about sheltering in place.
I left my Oakland studio that day not knowing when I’d be back. I still don’t. But my resolve was clear. With the world turned upside down, I had the ability to provide something sane and consistent for the people in my care. I immediately contacted my clients to prepare them for Online training going forward. By 8 p.m. all but one client agreed.

The novelty of working from home was initially a breath of fresh air. After all, I had two extra hours in my day without my commute. I slept in, walked the dogs and hung out with my daughter, who began her spring college quarter from home. It wasn’t long before the tiny spare bedroom that became my training studio felt confining and the ambiguity of the situation created limbo-like surrealism to my workdays. How long can this continue?
As a participant in a historic event happening in real-time, emotions are hard to put into tidy boxes. There is a strange paradox to the sense of gratitude I feel at the reliability of an income, with the big picture uncertainty of what will happen to my studio and my new FitCation business, a business that involves travel to exotic vacation destinations with clients.
My video sessions open a window to broad ranges of despair.
“2020 is a lost year,” one person told me.
“But it’s only April,” I thought.
“I don’t know when I’ll ever feel safe to go out in public,” someone else said.
Some people want to talk about nothing else. Some people want to talk about anything else. Regardless of the paradigm, everyone is processing. I fall back on the only things that feel steady and constant.

Lisa Vonnegut conducts personal training online from her home during shelter in place restrictions.

“Use your breath,” I say, “keep your core stable and reach out on an inhale–and exhale and fold.” Or “10 more seconds to rest and then we jump.”
I am clear that I’m providing a necessary service to my clients.
The 45 minutes I spend with them are a connection to normalcy, a link to life outside of quarantine. I also realize how much I need the sessions, too.
Connection, even video connection, can help with loneliness and act as a salve for our anxiety and isolation. It is the silver lining of the pandemic.
The relationships that we took for granted four weeks ago are our lifelines and for the first time in our lives, are accorded the value that they deserve.

[Lisa Vonnegut is a trainer and coach specializing in neural performance and wellness. She is a partner at Bay Functional Fitness and founder of Body Synergy Fitcation. Follow Lisa: @bodysynergyfitcation and PM your health and fitness related questions to her.]