There’s nothing that can shake Westminster-Canterbury of the Blue Ridge (WCBR)’s commitment and dedication to our residents. Not even a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic.
That’s why, within 24 hours of the state of Virginia going under quarantine, we had a plan in place to keep people active for the duration of the COVID crisis. It took some creativity and resilience, but we found a way.
Matthew Barresi, WCBR director of fitness and wellness, began looking at contingencies in February as he started to realize how serious the pandemic could be. It was then that he talked with IT about the possibility of moving exercise classes from the Fitness Center to the Rotunda.
The Rotunda had been upgraded in November to allow live programming that could air on the in-house television channel. The original plan was to let community members attend important meetings and talks from the comforts of their homes. In the wake of COVID, the advanced technology was repurposed. Televising exercise classes was the perfect way to keep WCBR residents active while the Fitness Center was closed.
Matthew and his team then began going over schedules to see which classes could be adapted to a televised format – space limitations in homes were one concern. They also wanted to preserve a social element and add a little fun. “Staring at a fitness instructor on a screen can be a little boring,” he said.
As a result, while other facilities were relying on YouTube links, WCBR residents were enjoying familiar workouts led by familiar faces. They didn’t have to adjust to new exercises or unfamiliar pacing. They were exercising with the same instructors they worked with every day.
WCBR is now airing two classes every weekday morning. Instructors include additional challenges in the televised sessions, such as secret messages revealed one word at a time over the course of the week to encourage people to stay tuned. Residents are invited to send selfies, which instructors use to create slide shows to play at the end of class.
The WCBR commitment to fitness doesn’t end when the class is over, though. Residents also can participate in weekly themed wellness challenges designed to keep them invested in physical, mental and social activity. They can pick up printed activity packets if they’d rather go at their own pace.
In some ways, the changes have worked out better than planned. “We’ve heard from people who weren’t exercising before but are now that they can do it at home,” Matthew said.
He expects the televised classes to continue into the foreseeable future. Even after fitness centers can re-open, it likely will be with social-distancing restrictions. Access to treadmills and exercise bikes likely will come first, then classes with fewer participants. WCBR is looking at increasing the number of classes offered in order to serve more people.
WCBR wants to be careful and not rush into a fitness center re-opening, though instructors are looking forward to the day when that happens. “We’re excited to see people again,” Matthew said. “There’s a certain energy in a live class that makes it more fun for everyone.”