From leisure centre to garage: moving referral classes online
Christine shares the challenges of moving her classes online
Date: 22 June 2020 Author: Energise Me
Lock down has changed how we all work and many of us have had to adapt to work from home. But when working from home means virtually inviting a whole yoga class into your house, what impact does this have on the rest of your household?
I’ve worked in the fitness industry for 30 years and started MSE eight years ago. I started out as a female only running coach, supporting women to run anything from 5k to a marathon. I also teach yoga and Pilates classes, open to anyone, and run specialised yoga workshops for athletes. My classes are suitable for everyone from beginners, taking the cellophane off their mat at the start of class, to people who have been doing yoga for years. MSE fitness has allowed me to form a close relationship with the women in my class. I am even sometimes the first person to know they are pregnant!
My business is part of me, teaching classes is who I am, and I wouldn’t know what to do without it. I knew that keeping classes going would be good for my well-being as well as my members.
At the start of the pandemic, before lockdown, I told my classes that I would be there next week if they were. I had the mindset that as long as I had a room to teach in I would be running my classes. Like everyone else, it was a shock to my system when we went into lockdown. My routine and business were suddenly up in the air.
I decided to take a week to myself before doing anything. I wouldn’t say it was too challenging adapting but I needed to get my mind settled before jumping into anything. I stepped back and thought about my options.
For me, there wasn’t much decision in keeping classes going somehow. My business is part of me, teaching classes is who I am, and I wouldn’t know what to do without it. I knew that keeping classes going would be good for my well-being as well as my members. I wanted to be able to do my bit to support them through this time. It was also vital that I kept classes going to keep my business alive.
It wasn’t an ‘I need to do this right away’, more a ‘let’s get my head around it and see what I can do to keep going’.
When I decided to go online, I went straight to using Zoom. I spent that first week experimenting with what worked best. I have two tech savvy daughters who helped me with ideas. I tried teaching classes to them with me in the lounge and them upstairs using different technology: phone, laptop and computer. Once we had the right mix, I went live.
I am currently running yoga and Pilates online. Since my running group can’t really go virtual, I have also been running a yoga for runners class that is timed so it is just after the virtual Parkrun. I have also started a lunch time classes for people working from home as well as an evening relaxation class to help people destress.
When planning my classes I moved my normal morning class from 9:30 to 10:00. I knew that a lot of my attendees have children and might want to take part in PE with Joe. I didn’t want to compete with them having a nice time with their family and also thought they might need time to get their children settled with homeschooling before joining the class.
Each of my classes starts with a 30-minute chat. I knew this would be what my members would really be missing. Although it’s not the same as face to face socialising, it does something to fill the gap. These chats have got more popular every week. Everyone has been excited about being able to see familiar faces and have a chit chat.
For me and my business, I knew that I wouldn’t be able to make my virtual classes free. I decided that I would lower my charge to the minimum I could afford so that both myself and my attendees could keep doing what they enjoyed. A lot of families might be struggling financially through lockdown and I wanted to make my classes accessible. I also knew that virtual classes aren’t the same as normal classes. I can’t walk around the class and give help. Plus the people in the class can’t give me feedback.
It’s a big deal inviting a whole class into your home so I decided if they could do it I could too.
One of the biggest things about doing online classes is the impact it has on your home. When lockdown started, I was instantly moving the house around trying to figure out where I would do my classes. I moved the computer from the office to the conservatory, but then when it rains all you can hear is the rain. So I’ve had to take over multiple rooms in the house.
When you decorate your house, you don’t do so to have space to teach a yoga class. One of my participants initially suggested that I could use the background effects on Zoom. I thought it was only fair for me to show my house if that’s what my members were doing. It’s a big deal inviting a whole class into your home so I decided if they could do it I could too.
It’s a lot of work moving your home around just to join a yoga class so I wanted to show everyone you could take part in whatever space you have. There’s no fancy equipment needed and my sofa often gets in the way midclass. I go by the motto, it doesn’t matter where you are just roll your mat out. I think this has helped my attendees feel more comfortable with the online classes. We frequently have children joining in or husbands sat on the sofa in the background. There have even been a few that have then joined in themselves. Dogs and cats often make appearance too!
I think doing the classes from home has been the hardest on my family. Yes, I miss getting up and driving to the studio to teach. And yes, it can be hard to get away from work when its at home. But it’s my family who have been impacted the most. My conservatory, where I teach from, is right next to the kitchen. As I want to keep it professional and without the clanking of cups and plates in the background I have had to ask them to either eat breakfast before my morning class or after. This means they have to be up and have eaten before 9am or wait until 11am.
Overall, I think that going virtual has been a fun and interesting experience. My classes have been successful with lots of ex-members rejoining as well as regular and new faces. I have even had some international attendees.
It’s been hard work and I think I spend more time than ever before doing back of house work on the computer. I have had to put a lot of time into my social media channels to get my classes out there, but it has definitely been worth it!
After lockdown, I would really like to keep doing my evening relaxation session online. Although doing classes from home has affected my family, I think not having to leave home really adds to this class. People light candles and incense and even join in their pyjamas!
Christine shares the challenges of moving her classes online
Amanda, from Momentum, shares how they are staying accessible.