Homecoming: A Return to Boutique Studios

Barre on Demand
Angie Omata
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In early March of last year, I started to feel anxious with the impending doom of the pandemic.  With each click of a headline, I felt it inching closer and closer to reality – and was consumed with uncertainty, fear, and disbelief.    Of course, as with the rest of the world, I hoped and prayed that the ominous virus would just be a false alarm.  That we’d look back and laugh at how much we overstressed and overreacted. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen.

As a workout junkie, relying on 4-5 classes per week at various boutique studios, I recall checking Instagram and emails religiously to make sure that my favorite studios were still open.  It was a source of security that perhaps things weren’t as bad as they were starting to look.   Then the day came where the first announcement was made, then another, and another.  I was struck with a different type of anxiety as my lifeline studios were shuttering their doors one by one – without indication of when they might be able to return.

The first stage of lockdown, we witnessed the boom of IG live sessions, Tik Tok workout challenges, and pre-recorded classes from our favorite instructors and fitness influencers.   Some boutique studios were able to adapt more quickly than others.  The agile ones pivoted, pushing streaming workouts for their members, while others chose to hold off on creating content in hopes that the lockdown would soon pass and that doors could reopen.  Those studios were forced to reconsider while imposed lockdowns lingered months later.

First home workouts with makeshift barre

Being a lover of indoor cycling, I swiftly placed my order for a Peloton bike at the first threat of a potential lockdown.  I had been on the fence in joining the craze for over a year – as I’ve always preferred group fitness settings.  Plus cue that infamous holiday ad who ultimately got the last laugh.  Despite the convenience and flexibility, I knew that I’d always shell out the extra bucks and opt for riding in a pitch black room packed with others.  It was part of the experience.

However, once the pandemic started to take shape, my decision seemed clear.  In fear of not having access to regular workouts, and not knowing how long we’d be in this for, I caved in.   I was fortunate enough to score a bike delivered to my doorstep a couple of weeks later.  In the months to follow, demand and prices for home workout equipment skyrocketed and waitlists upon waitlists were the norm.  In hindsight, grabbing that bike was like grabbing myself a half hour or 45 minute dose of sanity throughout the pandemic.

Home workout with Peleton

Come the summer of last year, outdoor workouts were finally deemed ‘safe.’  Studios started securing open spaces in their parking lots, local parks, or even public venues.  Although relieved and eager to see familiar faces, I ventured out to some of these socially distant, masked workouts with some trepidation.  Anti-bacterial wipes, controlled breathing (in fear of breathing in or out “too much”), and scrubbing my hands and body clean post workout seemed necessary to me.  After each workout, there was an internal check – contemplating if the risk was worth the benefit.  After the initial wave of anxiety (and oftentimes guilt) cleared, the answer continued to be “yes.”  I always left feeling lighter and happier – having shed some layers of angst along with the sweat.

The Benefits of Taking Barre and Pilates

Throughout the pandemic, I came to rely on these daily workouts.  At first it started as me protecting some of my me time; unsure if I’d find an hour to myself otherwise.   Then after a few weeks, my body and mind began to require it. I felt like I couldn’t let a day go by without claiming that hour.   I needed to close the door, blast music, meditate, sweat and move my body in order to cope with, and metabolize what was going on in the world around me.   Entertaining my 2 young children, navigating distance learning, cooking almost every meal, steering my business thru uncertain times – all while stomaching an onslaught of never-ending doomsday headlines, I was clinging onto one of the few things I could control.

Group Fitness at Barre Therapy, Oceanside

One year, one month, and weeks later (and still not a workout missed), there finally seems to be a light.  Cases are lower, and more people are getting vaccinated.  New guidance from the powers that be are moving towards a full reopening in the upcoming weeks.  Studios are now moving back indoors and lifting capacity and mask restrictions.   Although I am incredibly grateful, and hopeful to get back to the new ‘normal,’ I can’t help but feel a bit cautious in breathing so ‘freely’ –  after so fiercely protecting my little pod for so long.

That said, I can not wait for the day where I can get back to all of my favorite boutique studios without a five step anti-viral protocol.   I look forward to showing off cute workout[fits], making plans for barre and brunch dates, and feeling that sense of camaraderie and community that can only be achieved by sweating alongside friends.  I look forward to seeing unmasked familiar faces, commiserating about the last year,  sharing that unobstructed smile or much earned eye roll during the hard parts of class. But most of all, I look forward to working out again for the sake of building strength and flexibility; for the challenge of pushing myself to achieve new goals; for the pure love of movement and healthful living, and not as a coping mechanism to escape reality.





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