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) pandemic, 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 Marie Hickey, a certified fitness instructor in New York City.
What do you teach?
I teach yoga, strength and conditioning, and indoor cycling. I teach throughout NYC, Brooklyn, Queens, and Northern NJ for LiVUnLtd, The Monster Cycle in Chelsea, as well as independently for private and corporate clients! I've been teaching for five fabulous years!
Why did you start teaching?
In short, to remind individuals how to empower themselves, of what they're holding inside that's ready to be revealed.
In detail, I was so impressed by a video that I came across one day while scrolling through Tumblr. I remember watching the video, thinking, "That. I want to do that, and I want to be able to teach other people how to do that." I had a background in dance, gymnastics, and sports that were cyclically started up and abruptly halted due to injuries. So, I was dying to try another form of movement that just might be the winner — something I could take part in without dusting off my always reliable, crutches. I immediately began looking into yoga teacher training — I didn't even practice yoga yet!
I was living outside of Boston, studying fine art and design, working in the service industry on nights and weekends, and picked up a little gig as a yoga studio intern. This, in turn, gave me a complimentary membership, which led to regular practice and showed me the MANY benefits that yoga has to offer. I was given the gift of movement again, injury-free.
I didn't know what anxiety was before, or that it was the root of so many of the obstacles I had faced. Yoga provided me with tools to grow and heal. It brought up digestive sensitivities that I had brushed aside for years, inspired me to change my diet, and care for my body better. I was able to lower the dosage of medication I was prescribed, and eventually, come off of it completely. Within a few years, I flew out to La Jolla, CA to take part in my first 200-hour training and moved back to NJ, where I ended up leaving my design job, teaching yoga, and working part-time at Lululemon.
At that time, the only movement I would take part in was yoga. Our team organized a high-intensity challenge which encouraged me to take my first SoulCycle, OTF, and CrossFit classes. I fell in love immediately and knew I had to add these styles to my resume! Again, a few years later, I started teaching cycling and boot camps/HIIT in gyms, and then at The Monster Cycle. Cycling opened more fitness doors for me, birthing my love for (Power) Lifting and Strength Training.
What do you love most about teaching?
The shift. That AHA, Eureka, OMG moment; where someone pushes right outside of their comfort zone and can feel how powerful they are when they let go and GO!
Even when the student or client doesn't see how much their practice has improved and I barely have to adjust... it's amazing and so gratifying.
What is the current state of your studio?
They have all been closed until further notice.
What virtual classes are you offering? How can people find those classes?
Yoga, strength, and flexibility in addition to all things nourishing from meditation, to food, to astrology! All can be found on my Instagram, @iammariehickey.
What is your biggest takeaway regarding COVID-19?
I would say I've had some serious realizations. First, the importance of rest. I didn't realize how badly my body and mind needed rest until I was forced to take it. Second, how essential the ability to adapt is. If you don't have access to a coach or trainer, be your own! Come up with an alter ego if you have to — have fun with it and get it done! Lastly, remember to honor the need to move your body when it needs it. I always say in my classes, "your body is made to move, the best gift that you can give to yourself is movement."
What long-term affects do you see COVID-19 having on the wellness industry?
I think there will be a variety of long-term effects.
It's wonderful that we're all so tech-savvy — that we have been able to adapt to what we've been dealt. I'm hoping that we can get back to real human connection, back in classrooms, and create new normals and routines for ourselves and our communities. I think (and hope) there will be a new sense of gratitude and appreciation for our "I'll squeeze in a quick class/treatment/session, before/after/in-between" that we, a lot of the time take for granted.
I have a pretty significant teaching schedule, but it's a schedule of mostly one-on-ones. In between my classes, I'm also a Colon Hydrotherapist (at Vitality NYC). I cannot even begin to tell you how much I miss a real human connection, giving and receiving treatments, teaching, and taking classes. I miss the benefits that they all offer. I think this removal or "indefinite pause" of convenience to wellness (if it hasn't already) will open our eyes to how truly important wellness is, and how essential that the wellness industry is.
What is one thing you want the world to know about the wellness industry, especially in light of COVID-19?
We miss you and we're here for you. Keep up with a wellness routine at home — be kind and patient with yourself. It's important for your health and immune system. We all want to see you back in studios when the storm settles. So, as we share classes, tips, suggestions, know that we're taking time to create content for you for your benefit so you can come back with us, just as strong as before!
If you are a wellness professional interested in sharing your story, please email email@example.com.
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