Fitness Trainers Keeping Orindans Fit During COVID-19

(Sally Hogarty, Photographer)
Carolyn Mueller of CoreKinetics helps Earl Flage do his workout on the trapeze table, known as the “cadillac” by her clients because it feels so good.

    We’ve all heard the jokes and have seen the memes about gaining the COVID “19” pounds during this pandemic, but how are we supposed to stay fit when everything around us is telling us to stay put?
    Even with the newly lifted shelter-in-place sanctions, we’re still cooped up in our homes, sitting through long Zoom meetings and staying indoors because the air quality index is in the double-digit zones, again.
    Well all is not lost, thanks to our local gyms and fitness trainers, who have pivoted their business models to reflect the new not-so-normal lifestyles we’ve all, unwillingly, accepted these past eight months.
    Zoom workouts, much like watching Jack LaLanne or Suzanne Somers – remember them – have kept many businesses in business.
    “Like all other things in life right now, we had to go virtual, and I think we did a phenomenal job with it,” said Jami Edgell, manager and trainer at Anytime Fitness in Theatre Square. “It was nothing any of us had experience with, but we researched it, and we were able to get our virtual classes up and running within two weeks.”
    Their idea to go virtual literally went viral and connected people across the United States.
    “We offered all of our classes for free not only to members, but the entire community, and even across the nation,” Edgell added. “We had members getting their friends and family on the East Coast to take a class with them. It was a way for them to connect, regardless of distance.”
    Sheena Lakhotia, a 12-year personal trainer and nutritional planner who does body composition analysis and teaches spin classes, created a safe environment for her clients, in addition to using Zoom.
    “[I allow] one person at a time, 30-feet away, masks and gloves,” she said. “I also have a HEPA air filter in my gym, and I am also on Zoom. I train most of the time on Zoom and some of the time at the gym. I am providing weights for people who need them at home since they are difficult to buy right now.”
    She said gyms are trying to figure out how to reinvent their businesses by providing a safe and valuable service within the new landscape.
    “I am glad that I can offer my services during this difficult time, when people need fitness and health the most,” she said.
    Carolyn Mueller, owner of CoreKinetics in Orinda, formerly in Walnut Creek, said her business has graciously survived during this pandemic because she dipped into her rainy-day funds; however, she did add Zoom to her services as well.
    “I have reached out to my Zoom clients, and that worked!” said Mueller. “Of course, it is not the same as being in the studio.”
    With a recent green light to reopen her studio with limitations, Mueller said her clients are ecstatic about the news.
    “My Zoom clients are so happy, as well as the clients who didn’t do Zoom!” she said. “Zoom was good for a while, but there’s nothing like being in the same room at the same time. The important thing is the corrections to the body that help clients find their center. We can’t do that online.”
    Mueller offers advice to those who don’t have gym or studio memberships.
    “Walking and running is always good exercise, and they can do that anywhere. There are so many wonderful trails in this area!” she said. “Those two things, combined with Pilates stretches, strength and alignment for the whole body, is a very good health regime.”
    Tristan and Tiffany Tool of Orinda, personal trainers who purchased their gym in June of 2019 – now called In Forma Integral Fitness – spent most of their time upgrading it. Then the pandemic hit.
    “We have had less than 10% of our normal revenue in the last six months. The state has put protections in place that inhibit a landlord from evicting a tenant, but once those protections are lifted, we will owe upwards of $60,000 in back rent,” said Tristan, who is a third generation Orindan.
    Like many others, they’ve offered virtual training.
    “We’ve been offering Zoom classes since the end of April, and we’ve had a small percentage of our membership participate in those, though most have found that Zoom isn’t as engaging or have had technical issues,” he said. “So, it isn’t ideal.” 
    “We’ve also been able to do some limited outdoor training, but we haven’t had a ton of traction with that either, as our client base has found it difficult to stay engaged without the equipment they are used to,” Tristan added.
    So, the Tools decided to think outside the box and try crowd sourcing by creating a GoFundMe campaign to keep their dream alive.
    “We hope to get the word out there about what we do and what we’re trying to do with the gym and the community here in Orinda,” said Tristan. “It is part fundraiser to help us meet our financial obligations and, as mentioned, it is part marketing to get the word out about us: what we’re trying to accomplish and the dream we’re trying to build. We’re also hoping that donors will be interested in becoming members.”
    The GoFundMe page can be found at
    For Lakhotia, and all the trainers and gym owners in Orinda, their passion for keeping themselves and their community fit and healthy is strong.
    “I love helping people to achieve something that they always believed they couldn’t do. I love to hear their cholesterol has dropped significantly, they are no longer Type 2 Diabetic, at risk for cardiovascular disease or they are swimming faster and with more stamina than ever,” she said. “I never expected fitness to reach this deep into the quality of people’s lives and their health. I also love to work out and teach classes!”
    Mueller gets a kick watching her clients fully engaged in their exercise routines.
    “Our clients range in age from 30 to 92-years-old and everything in between. I am especially proud of my elders who walk standing straight, freely swinging their arms – walking like they mean it, with confidence,” she said.
    Edgell says fitness is needed now more than ever, during the pandemic.
    “Talk to any fitness expert or fitness fanatic, and they will tell you that fitness is a stress reliever. We are more stressed than ever right now with everything going on in the world,” said Edgell. “We need fitness to release all of that negative energy that’s building up inside of us. High levels of cortisol – the ‘stress’ hormone – hinder our immune system, which can lead to several illnesses. Keeping our stress low and our immune system high will help us stay healthy and happy longer.”

For More Information, Visit These Websites | Tristan and Tiffany Tool | Jami Edgell | Sheena Lakhotia | Carolyn Mueller

(Sally Hogarty, Photographer)
Anna Fields (R) trains at Living Lean fitness center under the watchful eye of founder Sheena Lakhotia (background), who keeps her clients safe by coaching the workout from across the room.

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