By Kate Skinner

    Australia’s fitness industry has been hit hard by COVID-19 restrictions. Karen Bee, a personal trainer and qualified Metafit coach who runs her personal training business at The Exercise Room in Footscray has had her career turned upside-down due to gym closures.

    “Everything changed for me,” she said. Initially, she tried to hide her head in the sand. “My mental health suffered. I’m a person that needs routine in my life and my routine and my social life went down the tubes,” she admitted. At home Karen is a ‘solo-isolator’ with her cat Stanley.

    “I found that really difficult,” she said.

    Like many others she had to turn to an online platform to continue her job.

    “Online was very challenging at first, I’m not tech-savvy either so I had to teach myself to be tech-savvy,” she said. “I was going into unknown territory.” She was also facing extra challenges after many of her regular PT clients weren’t keen on online PT, and she was prohibited from taking online Metafit classes as part of her Metafit contract. With the help of a friend, she learnt to use Zoom to hold PT sessions and HIIT classes for her Metafit clients.

    But exercising on Zoom comes with its own set of challenges.

    “In my PT, there’s the frustration of not being able to adapt exactly what I want to do online, I had to work with what equipment they had within the space where they were training,” she said. Karen’s HIIT training was further complicated due to the slight internet lag.

    “There’s a lot of work behind the scenes such as adapting the class structure and altering the work and rest timings,” she explained.

    Almost all of her Metafit clients joined her HIIT classes and are thoroughly enjoying them.

    “They’ve still got me bearing down on them to get lower and jump higher,” she said. Karen also utilised Zoom to work to her strengths.

    “I think I’m quite articulate when it comes to explaining how to perform an exercise using words only,” she said.

    Victoria’s slight easing of restrictions at the beginning of May helped Karen re-introduce some of her PT clients to start training again, this time at her pop-up gym in her backyard.

    “I have hand sanitiser and wipes, some of them wear gloves,” she explained. “I’ve got a way of changing things over without touching where they touch.” She also re-wipes all equipment in-between clients.

    “It works out really really well,” she said.

    Karen plans to return to The Exercise Room when it re-opens, but the gym will look and operate very differently. The Footscray gym will have to abide by State Government restrictions, including having only 20 people in the gym at any one time. But for now, Karen is content with the new status-quo.

    “This is a way of life, this is what’s happening.”

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