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The effects of COVID-19 continues to alter every aspect of our lives, shifting the pace of the world and forcing us to focus on our own well-being in new ways. As a community, we have banded together and learned how to navigate this shift with innovative ideas that allow us to support one another while remaining healthy. The latest adjustment to our lives is that many local gyms have moved their operations outdoors. With fitness’s proven ability to relieve stress and fortify the body, a workout session might be exactly what the doctor ordered.
It was strange to believe that the safest and healthiest change to our lives was to stay at home, but fitness instructors all over the world encouraged us to maintain a healthy workout routine. We saw the socially distanced fitness trend emerge in March with hundreds of viral videos illustrating socially distanced classes held on rooftops, balconies, backyards and the most popular method being through Zoom. As the trend transcended the world, it did not exclude Santa Monica and inspired many residents to look into local options to stay fit and most importantly safe.
Santa Monica’s latest development is the brand new Your Space Studios, a physically distanced outdoor fitness experience located on the corner of 5th Street and Arizona Avenue. The innovative new outdoor studio space created by Downtown Santa Monica, Inc. allows residents to get back in the groove of working out with some of Santa Monica’s best local fitness instructors like BoxUnion, Coreology, Hot 8 Yoga, Pure Barre and the YMCA. Depending on your preferred work out, you can enjoy a rejuvenating yoga class one day and return for a more intense HIIT session later on in the week. Each session includes up to ten people with an instructor, while you enjoy 100 square feet of personal workout space. All reservations can be made through each individual fitness studio.
For an “insta-ready” workout, the Santa Monica Pier is taking an oceanfront workout to the next level, repurposing the pier parking lot to include 84 workout spaces designated by artificial turf. Known worldwide as a destination for activity from Roga (running and yoga), to a first-class Paddle and Ocean festival, the Pier exercise classes have already begun and will offer folks of all levels of fitness an opportunity to get a workout while looking over the Pacific Ocean. Executive Director of the Santa Monica Pier, Negin Singh says that “We at the Pier Corporation are thrilled to offer our new Pier Deck Park to Santa Monica fitness businesses, which we believe carry our the city’s wellness culture that locals and guests have loved.” Singh explains that the goal of the project is “to offer safe, physically-distant, amazing classes against the backdrop of the iconic Ferris Wheel and gorgeous Ocean” and that “we’re so thankful to all who have worked so hard to make it happen.”
Owner of Pure Barre, Kayla Allen is “really excited” to offer classes at the new Pier and Your Space Studio’s locations. After seven long months of being away from her clients, she believes that it is time to bring her community back together.
Pure Barre is the perfect low-impact, but high-intensity workout focused on creating “a denser body where it’s long and lean,” says Allen, making it the perfect workout for everyone at any age. Since March, Allen has “motivated people to stay committed” to their workout routines by utilizing Zoom to continue teaching. She is amazed with the level of creativity that her instructors and clients used to continue their workouts from home, substituting the ballet bar that you would find in a studio with chairs or their kitchen countertops and substituting weights with household objects, such as wine bottles. Although this method has been popular among her clients, Allen is ready for the new outdoor experience.
Allen says that the new fitness experiences are “going to be different from a studio” but that it will still be “really fun.” The only equipment you need to bring is a mat and your water bottle and you can enjoy a silent disco barre workout at Your Space Studios or a sunset barre workout at the pier. Allen believes that returning to a communal work-out experience is the future of fitness and that it is “important to connect with everybody” and especially important to “give one-hour to your body and to your mind” so that we can come back “stronger than ever.”
As the outdoor fitness trend encapsulates Santa Monica, SoulCycle has also introduced SoulOutside. The new experience is held on SoulCycle’s rooftop at 395 Santa Monica Place, where you can enjoy a 45-minute spin workout for just $30. Classes are available six days per week and can accommodate 40 riders, all spaced 6-feet apart. This fun experience will be available through December, where riders can enjoy a fantastic workout with some of Los Angeles’ best SoulCycle instructors.
Although many fitness centers had to modify their practices, Burn Fitness on the Santa Monica Promenade was ahead of the outdoor fitness trend. Their roof deck, overlooking the Third Street Promenade with gorgeous views of Santa Monica Beach has 8,500 square feet of outdoor workout space available to their members. Focused on fitness, health and well-being, the two-floor fitness center has created a “full-health club experience on the roof deck” says owner Tom Williams. The roof deck is supplied with all the equipment you need for cardio-vascular or strength training workouts and Williams says that “clients are loving” the outdoor experience where you can enjoy “ the sunshine and fresh air.”
For those that want to participate in the outdoor experience, but don’t see their favorite studio on the list, Santa Monica has repurposed their Commercial Fitness Trainer Permit Program. The program was designed “to create more opportunities for safe outdoor fitness instruction in compliance with LA County Public Health protocols,” according to the Assistant Director of Community Services, Danielle Noble. The permit program allows local gym owners to designate private outdoor spaces such as sidewalk space, parking lanes and parklets to perform classes outdoors.
This program has greatly assisted many local fitness centers, such as beloved Ocean Park yoga studio, Santa Monica Yoga. The serene yoga studio has been livestreaming class sessions through Zoom since mid-March. Owner Bruce Bair says that “we weren’t that surprised,” following the first official lockdown notice and were able to get classes livestreamed in just one weekend.”
Bair sustained this model for about four months, choosing not to reopen his studio in mid-June, when restrictions began to lift, believing that it was “a bad idea.” Once he learned of the free Commercial Fitness Trainer Permit, he saw an opportunity to extend his classes outdoors and began holding classes at Clover Park in early July. The sessions are held in the mornings and are limited to a total of ten people, with physical distancing measures in place and masks to be worn at all times. Bair explains that “The people that are going [to classes] really like it” although enrollment is still lower than expected, but is keeping his options open and flexible “to figure out what works and what doesn’t.” For now, Bair is excited to continue both outdoor and Zoom classes and says that “I hope that by doing these classes we are able to help people.”
For those looking for a higher intensity workout, Circuit Works on Main Street is the perfect way to get your heart pumping. Circuit Works focuses on “training smarter, not harder” by understanding the metrics of how fast your heart is beating, how much you are metabolizing in your workout and focusing on the intensity at which your workout is. By incorporating HIIT training and sticking to “true circuit training” according to owner Raphael Verela, you are sure to see an improvement in your gains.
Verela has owned his studio for 15-years, originally starting out on Abbot Kinney in Venice and moving his studio to Santa Monica about eight years ago. After months of uncertainty surrounding his ability to keep his business open, Verela had an epiphany moment looking through “the reflection from our front door” and immediately set up his parklet to be his new outdoor studio.
Verela lugged out all of his equipment onto the parklet and laid out astro-turf grass and rubber mats, grabbed dumbbells from inside and voila! A new outdoor studio. Verela says that his clients “love the workouts” and that this option gives him the ability to keep Circuit Works open and his staff and instructors paid.
Santa Monica’s quick and innovative thinking has re-built the fitness community to adhere to Los Angeles County’s safer-at-home order, while keeping many of our favorite local business owners up and running. Although fitness is a personal journey, it is with community support that we are able to uplift one another in a positive and transformative way. We are no longer living in fear of COVID-19; we are supporting one another by living a happy and healthy lifestyle.
A complete list of fitness studios, trainers and gyms by neighborhood can be found here.
For LA County Department of Public Health protocols for gyms and fitness facilities, visit: covid19.lacounty.gov/recovery-recreation-outdoor-spaces.