What A NYC Pilates Instructor Thinks About COVID-19 And The Wellness Industry
Health and Wellness

I Sat Down (Virtually) With Emi Gutgold To Talk About Coronavirus' Impact On The Wellness Industry

Just because coronavirus has greatly impacted the wellness industry doesn't mean wellness stops.


If you're anything like me, your weekly fitness classes are a huge part of your routine. They keep me fit, healthy, and sane. Honestly, these classes help my mental health stay in tip-top shape just as much as they help my physical health.

Due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, gyms and fitness studios are facing temporary closure. Yes, this means my personal routine is thrown a curveball, but this also means the wellness industry is one of many that is looking at unemployment and hardship. Do I miss my Monday spin class? Of course. But do the wellness professionals whose worlds were flipped upside down have a lot more to overcome than a slight change of routine? Absolutely. Thankfully, if anyone can prove the ultimate flexibility, it's the wellness industry.

I'm talking to wellness professionals to learn how COVID-19 has impacted their lives, as well as how they're adjusting how they teach to make quarantine a little healthier for all of us. Today, I chatted with Emi Gutgold, a certified pilates instructor and former senior editor at Odyssey.

What do you teach? 

I teach Pilates at New York Pilates in SoHo, NYC. I've been teaching for two and a half years.

Why did you start teaching? 

I started teaching because I had turned into a Pilates monster! I originally found Pilates when I first moved to New York and started working a desk job. I was pretty out of shape and found just living in such a physically taxing city like New York was wiping me out.

After a few years of practice, I wanted to be able to offer the same modality that changed my life and my body to others, so teaching came really naturally to me. I found that the human connections I made, just being around people and helping my students move, gave me way more satisfaction than just chugging away on a keyboard.

What do you love most about teaching? 

Helping people! I work with a wide scale of clients — sometimes my students are working more on rehabilitation and better mobility, sometimes my students are people who just want a stronger butt and toned abs! All are equally awesome and important for me. It's like music to my ears when students tell me that they feel better or look better. When we move better, we feel better. When we look better, we feel better. And most importantly, when we feel better, we are all happier, more productive, and have more energy to do the things we want to be doing.

What is the current state of your studio? 

Our studios are fully closed but plan on reopening as soon as we're able to. We are launching virtual classes and privates.

What virtual classes are you offering? How can people find those classes? 

I'm currently offering ~live~ classes via Zoom video calling four times week, I post my schedule frequently on my Instagram, @miscongeniemily. I find live, real-time classes are really rewarding right now. It's nice to have the human connection on both ends, and I'm able to check my students' form!

What is your biggest takeaway regarding COVID-19? 

I wouldn't say there's any takeaway, but it has reinforced my belief of how important movement is. My personal workouts have been my saving grace during this time. I'm a very energetic person and to be "stuck" to my apartment has been challenging for me mentally. On an average normal day (pre-pandemic). I usually average 10-plus miles on foot and end up working out two or three times throughout the day. I've had to get a little creative, and invested in some at-home equipment, but I've still been hitting my normal activity levels which has been super important and grounding for me. I think I speak for everyone that this is just a sad, anxious, and uncertain time. My motivation to keep moving is two-fold: it's my job, yes, but even more so, I keep trying to just physically exhaust myself so I'm not up half the night with anxiety.

From my students' perspective, they feel the same way. We're all creatures of habit. They like routine too. The first day I was out of work, I did an Instagram Live at 7:30 a.m., my most poppin' class time, and taught class just as I normally would. It was therapeutic.

I've unpacked a little bit emotionally that I have a few layers of sadness and anxiety because of COVID-19. There's the big looming sadness I have for our world has a whole and the sadness that our lives and economies are being interrupted. But then I get what I call these little sadnesses... that I'm not waking up every day and teaching my usual students, my usual classes. Or, 'Oh, it's Tuesday, I usually treat myself to a Matcha from my favorite coffee shop after I'm done with this session.' Trying to find that routine in a virtual space has been challenging, but helpful for my mental health.

What long-term effects do you see COVID-19 having on the wellness industry? 

I think once life gets back to normal, we're going to see a huge boom in people wanting to come to class and get back to routine. I've been joking about it with my colleagues that what's getting me through is fantasizing about that first class back.

The wellness industry has been also toying with going digital for the past several years, but I think Peloton (and soon to be SoulCycle) with their at home bikes, plus a handful of trainers like Kayla Itsines, have been the only ones super successful at it. I think trainers and instructors are now just becoming even more multi-faceted content creators and studios and gyms are quickly rushing to make it happen so they can pull in revenue. I think we'll still see a lot of online offerings linger after life resumes back to normal, but I always think IRL will reign supreme. You can't replicate the same touch connection that we have in a studio.

What is one thing you want the world to know about the wellness industry, especially in light of COVID-19? 

Support your instructors AND your studios! Especially if your studio is not a chain or has under 10 locations, they are not making big bucks in comparison to super large chains and are likely already suffering from not being able to hold classes. If your favorite instructor is doing their own thing and offering virtual classes, take them AND Venmo/support them any way that you can. If your studio has gift cards, or in some dire cases, GoFundMes, DONATE. Give your money if you can. My biggest worry is that some of our favorite boutique studios (and any small businesses) might not come out on the other side. Many studios operate week over week or month over month. If you are not able to show your support financially, even reaching out over Instagram, email, text, etc., to your favorite studios or instructors to wish them well and check-in, DO IT.

You can also support this industry on a political front by learning about Senate Bill S8125A.

If you are a wellness professional interested in sharing your story, please email lily.moe@theodysseyonline.com.

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