As state health officials announced mandates requiring the closure of non-essential public spaces, including gyms, many people began to wonder where to look for inspiration with daily exercise. The fitness industry is certainly being tested in 2020. Going into the fall season, exercise centers in California are working within maximum occupancy mandates that allow less than 50 percent of capacity. These restrictions and the precarious nature of a pandemic create uncertainty resulting in only 20 percent of Americans feeling comfortable gathering in gyms. 

As local wellness businesses continue to push their boundaries to become more creative, similarly, self-confined individuals have had to find new ways to engage in movement and fitness. 

The fitness industry is a 95-billion-dollar business that will continue to reinvent itself. Its history goes back to ancient Greece. Two thousand years ago in Athens, a gym consisted of a large open-air space devoted primarily to men training for Olympic sport. Gyms are now reverting to this with accommodations of open-air options such as tented outdoor structures and programs for running, biking and hiking. As the Coachella Valley begins to blossom into its ideal seasonal fall temperatures, we will see more local studios attempting to accommodate this “open-air” experience. In addition, many facilities are offering digital classes. 

The current pandemic is creating a fitness evolution. This has occurred in history before. Following the Spanish Flu, in the late 1920s, Joseph Pilates announced to the world a system of exercise that helped participants stay healthy. To this day, Pilates is regularly practiced by many. Throughout time, exercise ebbs and flows, yet it has always had a presence in our lives.

During this current period, we can create our personal at-home practices that bring us joy and wellness. Walking is more popular than ever this year. At-home resistance bands, spinning bikes, suspension systems, such as TRX, or an open space at home for a dance or yoga class, help reduce stress. These are all healthy personal empowerment approaches. 

We must also not forget to support the creativity and entrepreneurial spirit of our local gyms, which on many occasions, teach us how to move properly and feel good while inspiring us to reach new levels. Throughout history, gyms have been important social institutions, such as in ancient Greece where philosophers and academics gathered to socialize. We cannot overlook the importance of connecting with others and the sense of place and people we develop from our gym culture. 

Choosing exercise feeds our physical and mental health, and there is no better time to seize the moment. Let’s keep uplifting ourselves at home and find ways to reincorporate our local studio, gym or wellness professional who is working with perseverance to capture our imagination and keep us healthy.

Jennifer Di Francesco is a wellness explorer and desert adventurist and can be reached at [email protected].

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