Pandemic-Era Fitness and Wellness

Fitness and wellness instructors reflect on pandemic and look ahead to return to normal

By Sarah Hernandez

SAN MARCOS, Texas – A little over a year after the Student Recreation Center (SRC) was forced to close its doors, personal trainers are looking back on adjustments they had to make and are looking ahead to a return to normalcy.

When the pandemic hit last March, Anthony Navarrete, a personal trainer and exercise and sports science senior, says it took a while for him to get used to the reality of it all, especially since training sessions were his source of income. Luckily, he says Texas State and the SRC did a good job of giving employees additional ways to make income such as virtual training sessions, which also took some getting used to.

“It definitely took a little bit of a while to kind of get accustomed to it, because I’m not really like a big on camera person,” Navarrete said. “So, like, at first, I was a little bit iffy about it. But I actually became a lot more comfortable with virtual training, and like being in front of the camera after that.”

Along the way, some of the problems Navarrete ran into included clients not having the correct or sufficient equipment and not being able to see his clients’ bodies to point out corrections such as a stance that needed to be fixed.

He says he improvised a lot and ended up using things like water bottles instead of weights and sweat towels for resistance workouts. He had to adjust many of his clients’ training regimes to include body weight exercises, which he says taught him new things he otherwise would not have thought of.

“So, the way I adapted was like, really having to learn new movements, where we can just use the bodyweight and still target like all the major muscle groups,” Navarrete said. “So that was definitely a little bit of a challenge at first, but it definitely opened up my mind to new ways to like workout with your own bodyweight, because like I said, it was either like the no equipment or like really the minimum.”

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While some clients adjusted to virtual training easily, others found it too difficult to continue. Samantha Alarcon, personal trainer and a health and fitness management junior, says she had clients who stopped training altogether when they made the virtual switch.

“Some adjusted all right,” Alarcon said. “One of my clients was so serious about continuing to train and reach her goals, she went and bought some equipment so we could stick to her routine as best as possible. Some hated it. They lived in small apartments, so it was difficult to work out there. Some had to work way more during the pandemic, so finding a time to meet was difficult.”

Now, personal training sessions can be conducted virtually or in person with masks and social distancing. All group training sessions are held online.

“I have all in person clients now. We still offer the virtual training for anyone who prefers that method, but we find that in person is more popular,” Alarcon said. “It’s difficult because we can’t really play music or make sure people are doing the exercises safely and effectively. All the instructor sees is a black Zoom screen from the participants while I instruct an empty room in front of my computer.”

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Alarcon and Navarrete both say they miss the interaction they got from in-person training and that they can’t wait for a return to normalcy so they can get that back.

“I miss the banter you hold with your clients, the conversation in between sets that make it worth it to pay for sessions,” Alarcon said.

Associate Director of Fitness and Wellness at the SRC Mitzie Rojas says she and her colleagues had to make the tough decision to keep virtual classes for the remainder of this semester because of the potential spike in COVID-19 cases, especially with students returning from vacations.

“We had hoped to be able to go in person sometime throughout the semester like early on,” Rojas said. “But I think we also just wanted to keep it simple for everybody, so we decided to keep everything virtual to be on the safe side… It was just going to be a lot of dramatic change.”

Rojas says while classes and sessions have mostly been virtual, they have still hosted a few pop-up outdoor exercise events such as an outdoor Zumba class in which masks were required.

SRC Zumba instructor Alondra Vasquez leads the outdoor Zumba event. Registration was required for this event and masks had to be worn. Photo by Sarah Hernandez.

Like her instructors, Rojas also misses the human interaction, liveliness and encouragement that came from teaching classes in person. It is the thing she misses the most from before the pandemic and it is what she looks forward to once it is safe to work out in person again.

“It does kind of weigh on you and you feel like you’re just acting by yourself if that makes sense,” Rojas said. “Having that human touch, having that impact I guess you could say. That’s what I miss, it’s what our instructors and trainers miss as well…Not being able to enjoy that because of an obstacle like this is a big challenge.”Personal trainers at the SRC had to adjust to new ways of teaching clients when the pandemic hit.

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