Columbia Orangetheory Regional Director Dan Mitchell said the public has been “phenomenal” and very appreciative of the gym putting out virtual content during the quarantine. Credit: Dan Mitchell.

The step machines and treadmills are unplugged. The music is gone. The lights are off. The doors are closed.

The stay-at-home order issued in South Carolina because of the coronavirus pandemic temporarily shut down all gyms, leaving owners and employees in uncharted territory. Fitness fanatics who are used to the faces and equipment at local Columbia facilities are now having to find creative ways to work up a sweat at home.

“It’s definitely been a hard transition,” said Alison Purcell, a senior at the University of South Carolina. “I expected to come back from spring break and ease into my normal routine, but that didn’t happen.”

Before the coronavirus outbreak, Purcell went to Orangetheory Fitness in Forest Acres three to four times per week for hour-long heart rate-based interval training sessions. She began streaming the gym’s virtual workouts when the stay-at-home order was issued.

Local coaches are posting fitness classes on the gym’s Facebook page. Columbia Orangetheory Regional Director Dan Mitchell said people still get the “community feel” of in-person workouts even though they’re virtual.

“Our coaches are the bread and butter of why Orangetheory is so successful,” Mitchell said. “They’re engaging and very motivating.”

As of now, people do not need a membership in order to join the Orangetheory Fitness Forest Acres Facebook page.

“We don’t want anyone to be in a financial bind or worry about putting food on the table,” Mitchell said.

Instead of using the treadmills, rowing machines and weights in the facility, people are encouraged to jog outside, do high knees and use household items for weights.

“I appreciate that they’re trying to make it as close to the in-class sessions as possible,” Purcell said.

These classes are not the only content Orangetheory Fitness is providing during the quarantine. They also host virtual 5Ks, give parents physical education lesson plans for their kids and post nutrition tips on social media.

“We already had a good relationship with our members on social media, and we already provided a lot of content,” Mitchell said. “Now, we’ve taken it to the next level.”

Mitchell said staying active will help people stay healthy, both physically and mentally.

“It’s so critical for us to help keep their spirits high during this hard time, and we want everyone to be in a good state of mind when we come out of this,” Mitchell said.

Keeping people in good physical and mental health during the quarantine seems to be a common goal for gyms across Columbia. Pure Barre Columbia started livestreaming classes on its Facebook page when owner Addie Fairey closed the studio on March 17.

“We never skipped a beat in terms of giving our clients opportunities to workout,” Fairey said. “Their health and wellness is very important to us.”

The Pure Barre Columbia livestreams give people social interaction that they otherwise might not get during quarantine, which Fairey said motivates them to stay in good shape.

“I’ve always been a big advocate for group exercise and the pack mentality that comes with it,” Fairey said.  “The accountability aspect is huge, too, and you don’t have that at your home.”

In order to complete one of these at-home workouts, you need something to help keep you steady like the ballet barre would in studio.

“Whether it’s a chair, a counter top or even a crib, all you need is something that will help you keep your balance,” Fairey said.

Fairey also suggested using a mat and weight substitutes, such as soup cans or water bottles, if you have them.

Barre is an exercise that is doable in the average household, but other exercises might be more challenging to do without certain equipment. For UofSC senior Tye Baruffaldi, it will be difficult to continue his powerlifting training without the equipment he regularly uses in Brickhouse Gym.

“You don’t have 400 pounds lying around at home you can put on your back,” Baruffaldi said.

Not only is powerlifting equipment expensive, but it’s hard to get your hands on the limited supply, Baruffaldi said.

“Most, if not all, powerlifters will be set back over the next few months,” Baruffaldi said.

He plans to spend the social isolation period finding unique ways to continue his training, maintaining his diet and doing workouts that target his weaker areas, like his mobility.

“Don’t allow the gym closures to let you slack,” Baruffaldi said

Neal Boozer is one of the many Orangetheory Fitness coaches who lead workout classes on Instagram live. Credit: Dan Mitchell.

Along with posting content to Facebook, Orangetheory Fitness is using Instagram Live to stream workout classes to people in real time. Credit: Dan Mitchell.

Pure Barre Columbia Owner Addie Fairey closed down her studio due to “social responsibility.” Credit: Addie Fairey.