This post was written and submitted anonymously from one of our community members.
Today, I’m sweating a little harder than usual as we go to the next interval. I’ve achieved the ideal state of mindfulness— only concentrating on my movements. I notice Taylor Swift is playing in the background. For what probably lasts a fraction of a second (although time is hard to judge these days), everything feels completely normal to me. It’s almost a state of bliss.
But as we go into Russian Twists, I catch a glimpse of the instructor in the mirror behind me. She looks like a surgical intern. Suddenly, I remember the pandemic—the mood breaks, and the feelings of disappointment start to flood in again.
Being in a semi-secret fitness pod is the 2020 version of a 1920’s speakeasy, but with alkaline water instead of moonshine. No one is in a flapper dress but everyone is wearing a mask.
For several months, I’ve been taking a private, unlisted, indoor fitness class with the same two women and instructor at the same time, on the same days, twice a week. Indoors gyms are shuttered where I live and while I also take outdoor classes, I prefer being indoors in a clean, fancy studio instead of a dirty parking structure. It’s the only thing I can do that gives me a minor illusion of control in a crazy world.
The biggest pandemic fitness trend no one is talking about
If you’ve been mainly focused on home fitness options during the pandemic, you probably haven’t heard about pods. But that’s because there’s hardly any information out there. If you Google “fitness or exercise pods,” you’ll see indoor gyms with stations separated by repurposed shower curtain liners.
That’s not what this is. Fitness pods are basically micro-group classes with the same people and instructor at the same time every week.
During this period when so many things I enjoy (like interacting with other humans) have been taken away from me, getting to exercise indoors is the only thing I have that makes me feel normal. The other women in my pod have expressed a similar sentiment.
That being said, all the cliches apply here— I know things can be worse and most people have it harder than I do. But it doesn’t change the fact the pandemic has impacted everyone’s mental and physical health.
I also love the studio that I go to and I want to help keep their business alive because so fitness studios have shuttered during the pandemic.
Assessing my risk
I’m aware I’m taking a risk every time I go to my pod but during a pandemic, everything is a risk. Going to the supermarket or Target is a risk. However, I feel the pod is safer than hitting up my local Trader Joe’s. We all wear masks, stay distant and I’m pretty sure there are fewer germs on the bar I’m deadlifting than the bag of organic kale in my dirty cart. I trust my fellow pod mates aren’t attending super-spreader events every weekend, but I can’t say the same for the person grabbing a bag of macadamias just inches from me.
At the same time, I don’t think fitness pods are for everyone. I’m not immuno-compromised and no one in my household is, so I feel I’m not being irresponsible. That being said, I wouldn’t feel comfortable going to a large gym indoors and exercising, even with those plastic dividers.
While the fitness pod is definitely taboo in my area, at least right now, I feel the benefits outweigh the risks for me personally. I have anxiety and exercise is the only thing that helps me. I also have back problems that get worse if I don’t exercise. Working out in my small apartment, leaves me feeling more anxious and restricted. So having a reason to go out and exercise has now become a radical act of self-care.
How do I join a fitness pod?
Because pods are still mostly considered taboo, they’re not easy to find. If you’re already a member of a studio or frequent one, call them to ask it’s something they offer. Or ask in person if you also take outdoor classes.
You can also ask to start your own pod or see if they’d be interested in providing an instructor for you and a friend or two. Because many studios are still allowing one-on-one training, even if they don’t have outdoor classes, the doors probably aren’t closed entirely.
If your favorite studio can’t accommodate, you may want to find a trainer with their own space who can facilitate, which is also more affordable than private sessions. But no matter what you do, remember: the first rule of Fitness Pods is that you don’t talk about Fitness Pods.