March 12, 2020 marked the last time I led a Saddle Row ride class in-studio. On this date, we decided to ensure the safety of the crew, instructors and staff by shutting down operations. Four days later, the quarantine began.
News of people around us getting sick was raising our anxiety really fast. We couldn’t bear to see our crew skip their workouts and succumb to poor health. Staying relevant became the main priority. The only way we could reach out was to remind them how important it was to focus on their well-being.
The day before my last in-studio class, a good friend and former Saddle Row client who had moved to Beijing, China (which was six weeks ahead of us in dealing with the pandemic), reached out to me via text with some ideas in case we had to work from home. Her encouragement conditioned me for what lay ahead and helped me pivot to online classes.
“ It was a steep learning curve adapting to technology. I had to upgrade my internet, laptop, get a webcam, ring lights… the works. We kept experimenting with different headsets for better audio quality. ”
My fellow instructors and I turned to IG live, presenting short workout videos our members could follow to stay active and boost their immune system. Instagram stories and Facebook were our platforms to share tips on how to keep busy indoors and deal with this new normal. We rented out the bikes and the rowers in our studio and scheduled online classes via Zoom.
The first few days of hosting online classes were extremely difficult for me. I’m borderline Baby Boomer/Generation X, perceived to be tech-phobic — but I’m not that at all, though it was a steep learning curve adapting to technology. I had to upgrade my internet, laptop, get a webcam, ring lights… the works. We kept experimenting with different headsets for better audio quality.
Pre-pandemic, I taught live classes in a dark studio where the acoustics were so good for our voices and the music we used. This time, each of our home studios varied in acoustics and lighting specs.
As a new, amateur, on-cam talent, being in front of a webcam under a bright light brought all physical imperfections to the fore, including the lines on my face from my pillow. I knew how to use makeup, but I had to step up my makeup game. It would be ironic looking haggard on Zoom while yelling out encouragement to everyone to stay healthy.
It took me about two weeks to get the hang of teaching online, from the setup that took 15 minutes to just five. What I found difficult was having the screen between me and my students that made me feel like I was talking to myself. In live classes, I relied so much on eye contact and the exchange of energy, but now I couldn’t see clearly the expressions on their faces. I learned to listen to my gut feel and trust that I was getting that motivation across to them and that they were actually listening to me.
The silver lining was that online classes became a game-changer. It expanded Saddle Row’s reach globally. Today, I have students from the US and Europe. The services we offer now include video on demand, where the team of instructors and I record workouts to use with the spinners and rowing machines.
The past four months pushed me to adjust and adapt, especially once quarantine restrictions eased and I had to pick up extra classes as some of my colleagues returned to their physical workplaces.
The new normal brought huge changes, but one constant has strengthened — and that’s my commitment to sharing the benefits of a healthy, active lifestyle wherever one may be.
Edited by Tanya T. Lara