Active Aging Week starts Monday, October 5, and this year, it seems to have extra significance. People of all ages have had to find ways to fit in fitness when schedules have been disrupted, routines turned upside down, and risk factors for COVID-19 come into play.

These changes are reason to explore digital fitness options—from apps to streaming workouts—with a surprising bonus: a sense of community that’s actually blossoming online. Where social media can leave people feeling isolated, technology such as Zoom is connecting with group fitness and one-on-one training in ways we haven’t experienced before.

Community without the classroom

Virtual group training combines personal coaching and a sense of community that may develop just as quickly as in the studio.

The coach will demonstrate the workout as well as watch and guide individuals during class. It’s easy for newcomers to feel a little shy and leave their cameras off, until they realize their classmates are not watching them—they’re watching the coach. In a virtual group setting, the ice is likely to get broken more quickly as someone’s toddler wanders in, or a dog joins for a few reps, or participants might spot that they have the same bike in their garage.

There’s another bonus: Virtual group training allows friends and families to do something together when their options are limited by distance or COVID-19. Christina Hawthorne, Fitness Manager at 24 Hour Fitness Escondido La Terraza Super-Sport, recalls a participant whose son joined in from overseas. And the format allows the coach to give modifications so that all levels of ability can participate—perfect for a long-distance date with Mom or Dad.

Effective without equipment

Jared Roach, Fitness Manager, 24 Hour Fitness Solana Beach Sport, and Jack Goldberg, Fitness Manager, 24 Hour Fitness Glendora Sport both train people one-on-one via Zoom, including clients in their 50s and older. Roach and Goldberg agree that these members are far from unwilling to use technology; they like the alternative to the gym for several reasons—and they like the results.

Roach says clients in their 60s and 70s want to feel strong, and that means improving core strength, posture and cardiovascular endurance. It’s rewarding for Roach because he knows he can make a difference in how they feel and function—pain-free, sturdier—more quickly than progress on goals like gaining muscle.

Goldberg notes that while the gym’s bustle and music can prime a client for a workout, a trainer’s energy is important to the client’s motivation and performance, too. Goldberg says it’s “five times as important” in the virtual training setting, where distance and technology otherwise can have a diminishing effect. He makes a point of projecting through the tone and volume of his voice and the pace of the workout, to keep his clients energized. (One of his clients calls Goldberg’s coaching sessions her morning coffee.)

Both Roach and Goldberg take steps at the start and end of virtual training sessions to ensure they’re effective for their “Active Aging” clients—and everyone else, as well. For new clients, Roach arrives at sessions a little early to test the technology, review with the client what equipment they have (if any) and what they’ve done in the past.

Goldberg takes the last five minutes of a session to go over his client’s plan for the rest of the week. “I’m training them for three hours a week at the most,” he explains. Regardless of how good those sessions are, he continues, “If they don’t do anything else the rest of the week, they won’t get results.” He says that the best clients are the ones who are honest about whether they might struggle on days when they don’t train with him. Then Goldberg can talk with them about opportunities to be successful, and together, they can come up with a plan.

Active Aging Week is October 5-11, and 24 Hour Fitness is celebrating with a week of free virtual classes and energizing workouts designed to support older adults. Invite your loved ones and move with us – anyone can join from anywhere! Get the details here: