I Sat Down (Virtually) With James Jarrott To Talk About Coronavirus's 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) 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 James Jarrott, a Senior SoulCycle instructor in New York City.
What do you teach?
I am a Senior Instructor at SoulCycle and I teach in NYC – 77th, 92nd, 83rd, Union Square, and Chelsea… or anywhere they send me. I've been teaching for five years as of April 1, 2020.
It has been a wild ride from classes in Westchester, 6 a.m. classes every week on the Upper West Side and every summer I try to spread a little personality "out east" (aka the Hamptons). I consider myself a fitness personality because you've got to play to your strengths in order to stay relevant and ahead of the curve.
Don't get it twisted — I still give you the high-intensity cardio work out you paid for — but I'm also there to make you feel good, to get you to laugh a little through the pain, and by the end you leave feeling like you matter. That's the key. Anyone can work out, but to feel seen or noticed… it becomes special.
Why did you start teaching?
Before I moved to New York to be famous (because why else do you come to this wild city), I was teaching indoor cycling at Life Time Fitness in Austin, TX. I ran the summer camp program and one of the moms invited me to take a spin class with her. I barely survived. From then I was hooked on group fitness.
On my own, I never worked as hard as I did when I was surrounded by friends/strangers sweating together. It sounds cheesy, but it just felt like we all motivated each other. And, if we are being perfectly honest, I needed to keep myself in shape through college because well, you know how college goes. I kept riding and eventually my soon-to-be boss had me get certified, audition and start teaching some open time slots — my music, my rules, and all the people I used to ride with. It was perfect.
What do you love most about teaching?
Teaching, for me, is a 45- or 60-minute experience of human to human connection. Looking at riders start from their very first class and then watch them find their confidence on the bike — it's magical. I used to laugh when I worked the front desk and they told me, "You'll get to know these riders on levels you can't even imagine. You'll learn about their families and this or that."
Sure enough, over the years, I've met some of the most amazing people who have helped make New York feel like it is MY spot in the world. SoulCycle gives you a place to create friendships that feel more like family and a safe space to just be yourself whether you're in the back row or rocking out front and center. I love being a part of that.
What is the current state of your studio?
Unfortunately, our studios across the globe are shut down for the safety of our staff and our riders. While it is hard to be away from our pack, our routine, and our workouts, it's worth it to keep everyone safe. We will reopen when it is safe. We will get back to riding our hearts out. We will be stronger than ever.
Like all things in life, this is just temporary.
What virtual classes are you offering? How can people find those classes?
Personally, I am not offering any virtual classes. This is my time to do what I do best – keep the people entertained. I've been trying to focus on some silly content with my wig collection and my comedy background.
(You can follow James on Instagram here.)
Several instructors have been offering online workouts either through ZOOM, Instagram Live or their own personal platforms. Tomas (@fitnessbytomas) has been doing Instagram Live at 5:30 EST (Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday) that I have been doing to keep my brain and body active. My Upper West Side rooster partner-in-crime, Julie D. (@juliedsoul)., has been going live on Instagram Monday, Wednesday, Friday at 8:30 a.m. for a quick workout before the day begins.
I would say fitness right now is exactly like it was when you first started out — there are so many options out there. Try new things. Check to see what your normal favorite instructors might be offering. Enjoy this time to rest your body. You have an amazing opportunity to find what works for you during this "new normal" period.
What is your biggest takeaway regarding COVID-19?
I think now, more than ever, we are finding deeper levels of connection. I live alone and because of a heart condition, I've very much distanced myself from the outside world. I am the type of person I never wanted to be — anti-social. In order to get my fix of human interaction, I make time every day to FaceTime with my friends and family (call your loved ones, people, even if they're just in the other room). It's been beautiful to see how we all check in on each other and the little things we do for each other from afar.
I think, globally, we are realizing A LOT of what we could be doing better when it comes to health and safety. We need to take this as a learning opportunity for our future. I'm not going to lie, I am in that group of people that believe this is the universe urging us to SLOW DOWN and to really do some deep thinking about our day-to-day practices when it comes to how we treat this planet.
Also, let's not forget about all the teachers who are GROSSLY underpaid for all they do. The parents who are currently homeschooling better recognize just how much hard work goes into educating children and with what little resources our education system offers.
Our grocery store clerks and postal service workers deserve huge raises going forward and honestly could stand to be treated with way more respect. They have always been some of the nicest people in my neighborhood and I would be lying if I didn't admit that I took them for granted before all this. I am the type to always say "thank you" as I grab my bags, but now — more than ever — is the time to really mean it.
What long-term affects do you see COVID-19 having on the wellness industry?
As this pandemic started to really take hold over here in America, I saw our amazing staff step up to the plate with how well they kept the studios sanitized — above and beyond our normal routine — for all of us. I think going forward, that shouldn't be just because of a health crisis. I think we need to be more vigilant about how we all affect each other. When you show up to "sweat out your cold" you need to realize just how many people you are putting at risk — the staff, the instructors, and even your fellow riders.
I think we also need to recognize what a privilege it is to have these workout facilities to escape to when we need an endorphin boost or a sweat sesh with our favorite instructors. These types of workouts aren't accessible to everyone because — quite frankly — a lot of them are too expensive. I love boutique fitness and I understand the opportunities it has given me, but I think we can make it more inclusive and more universal for all, not just those who can afford a $10 green juice.
What is one thing you want the world to know about the wellness industry, especially in light of COVID-19?
We are still here for you. Period. Just like you've always been there for us when we need you, we will always be a team. When studios across the country and globe reopen, we will give you the same amazing product you had before, if not better. No matter who you are and where you are from, we will continue to do our best to give you a safe space, whether it is on a bike, a mat, a treadmill, or whatever your workout is, to come back to. We miss y'all as much as you miss us.
If you are a wellness professional interested in sharing your story, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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