Sweating It Out in the Living Room
Staying strong, healthy, and motivated while fitness studios remain shuttered
At the beginning of January, I joined a small fitness studio on Stevens Avenue in Portland called Honor Movement Studio. The Honor Method, created by owner Shannon Osborne, is a series of music and movement-based workouts that build strength, rhythm, balance, and the mind-body connection. After just one Fusion class—a mix of yoga and toning that left me sore for days—I was hooked. I went to the studio as often as I could. The workouts were transforming my body and my mind.
Then along came COVID-19. As instantly as I was hooked on Honor, it was gone.
Shannon closed her studio temporarily in accordance (and agreement) with Maine’s rules and began offering a reduced roster of classes through Zoom, hoping to reopen in June. As the weeks dragged on, reality set in. Reopening under social distancing guidelines meant Shannon could have four clients in her studio at a time. Before the virus, she was packing up to 20 women into her space for her busiest weekend classes. The news was devastating. “The first time it really sunk in, I closed my laptop and sobbed for an hour,” she says. Her loyal followers, myself included, also mourned. Honor Movement Studio’s clients weren’t alone. Shannon’s was the fifth fitness studio to permanently close in Portland due to COVID-19 and likely will not be the last.
Suddenly without my go-to workout, I went in search of online fitness options similar to Shannon’s unique program. It was an incredibly overwhelming process. There are literally thousands of options on YouTube alone. I had good luck with Core Power Yoga on Demand (.com). Since the shutdown began, they’ve been offering six free on-demand classes per week. I found Core Power Yoga by using very specific search terms, but where does one even begin when starting—as opposed to continuing—a fitness practice? I asked Shannon for advice.
“After nearly a decade in the fitness game, I know this one thing to be true: If you don’t connect to your workout, it’s not going to stick,” she says. The worst thing you can do is make exercise another box to check on your list. Especially right now. Shannon explains that the intense focus we have on the implications of COVID-19 “can literally cause our nervous systems to set up a holding pattern for that place between fight or flight—the freeze.” Exercise offers us a mental break, enabling us to take action when many other things in our lives feel stuck. “On the days when my motivation is lacking, I remind myself of that post-class ‘I did it’ feeling,” Shannon says. “There’s only one way to get it.”
With the right workout and the right instructor, the time you devote to moving your body will feel consistently fresh, challenging, and ultimately good. If you’re able, set up a studio space in your home, even if it’s just a designated basket or shelf to hold things like weights, balls, yoga mats, or anything else that you need to feel connected to your workout. It may simply be a place to set your water bottle, since Shannon insists a no-equipment workout that utilizes your body weight is totally fine. “Your body is the only piece of equipment you will ever need,” she says. “When you know how to engage and move from the muscle, you can get an incredible, balanced workout, anywhere and anytime.”
One of the challenges Shannon has encountered while teaching online is how to give alignment pointers through the screen, which are critical for stability and injury prevention. “Core engagement, glute activation, and pelvic positioning have so much to do with whether we feel stable or not,” she says. When in-person observation isn’t possible, Shannon advises her clients to pay close attention to how their bodies feel when they’re moving. “If it feels right, it probably is,” she says. “The opposite is also true.” She encourages her clients to set up a mirror in their home studios. “I know, I know,” she laughs. But, Shannon explains, she has witnessed many women’s relationships with mirrors changing in front of her eyes during her classes, all held in a studio with mirrors. “That person looking back at you is your ally,” she says. “You owe it to that person to check your form and really understand the mechanics of your movement.”
Shannon says the most empowering step we can take right now is getting really honest with ourselves and honoring where we’re at today. Sometimes that means pajamas and Netflix marathons. Other times, it’s action. It’s moving our bodies. This new era of home fitness requires a lot of self-accountability, and that means a loving, honest approach. “This is how self-care becomes non-negotiable,” she says. “More than ever, we need strength, stability, and a mind-body connection that feels tuned in.” It’s not going to be perfect right away, and that’s okay. “The beauty is that we can keep trying. We have to drop the guilt.”
Shannon is taking her entire business model online, revamping her website and membership options to provide a library of on-demand videos (10-60 minutes in length), livestream classes, and other resources, so clients can get studio results at home. “Virtual fitness is here to stay,” she says.
And although the studio vibe and energy will be missed, “the workouts really can be just as good.”
To try the Honor Method Online, visit www.honormovementstudio.com
If you are looking for equipment, these are Osborne’s top picks:
- 9-inch pilates/core ball
- 2-5 pound hand weights (with enough reps these get heavy)
- Ankle weights (80’s-style!)
- Resistance bands (a mini loop band and a theraband cut to a 5- or 6-foot length)
- Floor sliders (available online, or use a washcloth on a hard floor, or a magazine or paper plate on a carpet)
- Yoga blocks
- a Barre (or use the back of a chair or a countertop)
Sarah Holman is a writer living in Portland. She is enthusiastic about cheese plates, thrift shop treasures and old houses in need of saving.