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Coronavirus And The Ascendance Of The Home Gym

Margaret J. Krauss
90.5 WESA
Weights and a barbell at rest in recently converted garage gym.

Efforts to reign in coronavirus have made home the one place most people are supposed to be. Home has also become the office, school, a place of worship, and, for an increasing number people, the gym.  

In a time of national and global uncertainty, exercise is something people can control, said Jason Stowell, fitness and membership director for the Jewish Community Center of Pittsburgh.

“Everyone is kind of feeling this stress of the weight of the world collapsing in on them,” he said. “Fitness gives us something that we can do from the comfort of our home to create small improvements in our life.”

That sentiment seems to be widespread. Google “home gym” or search the phrase on Twitter and the query returns thousands of suggestions for home workouts. There are people lamenting the loss of their regular gym routine, of course, but many more improvising weights out of water jugs or cement-filled flower pots; doing yoga with their dog or their kids; some people are pleased to discover their long-ago purchase of a squat rack was, in fact, a good idea. 

And then there are the home gym aspirants who have overwhelmed manufacturers since social distancing went into effect.

Last week, Columbus, Ohio-based Rogue Fitness halted online orders for 24 hours in order to allow their operations team to catch up. Rogue did not respond to a request for comment, but the halt may also have been related to the company’s conversion of some of its manufacturing capability to supply goods and equipment for health care workers.

Customers interested in certain items from from makers like Bowflex can expect shipping to take up to three months. A bunch of equipment isn’t required for a good home workout, Stowell said, but a lot of people want to replicate their outside-the-home experience.

“In the last 25 years fitness has been exponentially growing. It’s niching, diversifying,” he said. He attributes the spike in equipment sales to people trying to recreate those very specific workouts. “Because there’s no other option.”

Many gyms, including the JCC, are recording and distributing online content to stay connected to their members. The sense of community those videos can provide is just as important as working out, especially now, said Stowell. It’s also important that exercise be seen not just as a physical pursuit, but as an investment in wellness, he said; lifting weights or hefting a toddler for 10 reps or going for a run are all mentally and emotionally beneficial.

“By being a better version of myself I can help the world be a better version of itself."

Or at the very least, feel better for a little while.