Wednesday, August 12, 2020

by Lisa Yaker

Quarantine can be incredibly challenging. But out of our moments in isolation, we can also cultivate great strength. Solitude bares for us who we are when no one else is around, allowing a level of mindfulness that can push us forward in ways we didn’t know were possible. Today, it is easier than ever to turn solitude into self-improvement through digital communications platforms that can bring physical fitness training and mindfulness classes to anyone, anywhere.

Before Joseph Pilates, inventor and namesake of the Pilates fitness regimen, came to the United States, he worked as a boxer and self-defense trainer in England. During World War I, Pilates, along with other German citizens living in England, was moved to an internment camp where he spent years separated from the outside world. There, he began leading his fellow internees in minimal-equipment exercises that would eventually become the modern field of Pilates. Soon, what he once used as a way to rehabilitate wounded veterans became a universal practice for building both mental and physical strength.

Today, not everyone is a natural Pilates expert, nor do most folks have a personal trainer in their home. But even though you can’t yet go back to your favorite fitness studio, the wealth of digital streaming and video platforms can bring classes into your own home. Only a few years ago, the COVID-19 shutdown would have been a fatal blow to most of New York’s gyms and fitness studios, but today we have the tools to be inventive, thanks to the rapid pace of innovation within the tech industry.

Getting out of your daily routine and breaking free from the physical strictures of quarantine are a huge way to take control of your health during this time. And the expertise of a good trainer is often the push our clients need to overcome that creeping feeling of quarantine lethargy. That’s why our studio, even while we’re temporarily closed, is offering online mat classes and keeping in touch with clients.

Day to day, we are using Facebook and Instagram to keep our clients in the loop about our online offerings. We’ve used Zoom video calls to connect clients and trainers, taking our classes face-to-face, even if we aren’t in the same room. And the backbone of our operation has been the digital infrastructure we’ve used to stay in touch with one another. Leaning on Gmail and Google Calendar to schedule meetings, we’ve kept up with both staff and clients, and our search engine listings remain updated with our current contact information, new schedule, and all the details clients need to hop into a Zoom class with us.

It’s hard to imagine where our business or any other local fitness studio would be today if it weren’t for our digital infrastructure. More than ever, we rely on digital tools to compete in the online market and prepare for crises like this pandemic, and that will only increase as our economy progresses.

A third of all small businesses say they would have been forced to close part or all of their business if it weren’t for digital platforms, according to a survey released by the Connected Commerce Council and Google. That’s why it’s so vital that our state’s small business owners are able to access digital business technologies at a reasonable price like we can today. They’re a lifeline small business can’t afford to lose. As local businesses across the country are under threat, worried we may never have the opportunity to reopen, New York’s elected leaders would be smart to invest in protecting and expanding access to these platforms and help build digitally-resilient communities statewide.

Lisa M. Yakel has over thirty years in the dance and fitness industry. She earned a B.A. in Dance Performance from Russell Sage College, performed with local dance companies, including Maude Baum & Co. and Dance Eclectic, taught at local dance studios, and Russell Sage College and choreographed for numerous school productions. Lisa also founded In Motion School of Dance, as well as taught fitness classes for many years at The Sweat Shop of Albany.

Discovering the Pilates Method was an “a-ha” moment for Lisa…sensible movement. It gave her an empowering awareness of her body and mind and truly connected the two.

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