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Yellowknifers keeping physically fit by virtually connecting

Cameron Twa will remotely join the Quarantine Backyard Ultra run on Saturday on his treadmill linked up to Zoom. photo courtesy of Alice Twa

Physical activity buffs in Yellowknife are unable to pursue their passions in groups but still keeping themselves moving and connecting remotely. 

Following COVID-19 forced the closure of gyms and sporting venues in March, some city dwellers continued their classes in virtual formats. 

The Stanley Boxing Gym announced on March 22 it was closing down but less than 24 hours later it began broadcasting workout classes via Facebook Live. It also transmits the classes through Instagram and Zoom. 

Cameron Twa planned to remotely join the Quarantine Backyard Ultra run on recently on his treadmill linked up to Zoom.
photo courtesy of Alice Twa

Scott Thomson, the gym’s co-owner and head fitness coach, has led the classes from his living room. They last up to an hour and Thomson focuses on a variety of exercises including strength training, cardiovascular workouts and kickboxing movements. 

“(I go) online and run a warmup and demonstrate all of the movements and give tips and tricks for any modifications that may be required. Then (I do) the workout with the live group,” Thomson said, adding that people have told him "having some sort of scheduled workout to join, and knowing that others are doing it at the same time, helps with some normalcy in their lives.”

Virtual boxing classes could become a possibility via Zoom since that program allows for direct connections with users and the trainers could see and correct the form of participants, Thomson said.  

For now the virtual classes are free and open to anyone who wants to join them. 

Virtual dance moves

Bella Dance Academy closed its studio on March 18 but the dancing continues without the venue. 

The academy livestreams 43 classes every week from Monday to Saturday via Google Classroom, covering hip-hop, jazz, ballet and modern dance, among other dance forms. 

“(The dance) schedule is slightly condensed from our regular season schedule. The teacher runs a 'normal' class and the dancers follow along in the comfort of their own homes,” said studio director Phoenix Smith. “Over 50 students logged on on March 30 for our first classes that evening. It was amazing to watch them adapt -- instead of having a ballet barre to hold onto for their exercises, dancers used chairs, laundry racks, bunk beds, bookshelves, and walls to support themselves.

We are in uncharted waters, which is requiring a level of flexibility and adaptation like never before. Our students and teachers are doing just that, and have jumped in at home with continued dance training.”

Class participation grew in the following days and hundreds of students have joined the remote classes. 

Taking the classes from a physical studio into a virtual one has resulted in a few technological hiccups, namely ensuring that the staff and families have logged into the proper accounts and have their cameras and sound levels set up right. 

“Our teachers have created completely new warm ups, stretches, exercises, and choreography to adapt to a smaller space and different floors, and as they go through this week they are encountering some things that can be harder to teach, and some that are easier,” Phoenix said. 

Bella has reduced its prices, added a bonus week of classes for the full-season courses and has given scholarships to students whose families are facing financial hardships due to the economic consequences of the pandemic.  

Running in place

While no health advisories discourage runners from lacing up their shoes and heading outside, members of the Yellowknife Running Group decided on March 19 to postpone their group runs to maintain social distancing. 

Cameron Twa runs on his treadmill at home in preparation for the Quarantine Backyard Ultra run on Saturday. photo courtesy of Alice Twa

The members still run on their own, sometimes sharing video clips on social media. On April 4, some of them joined the Quarantine Backyard Ultra run that linked up more than 1,500 runners around the world. 

Cameron Twa, one of the unofficial leaders of the running group, explained that the event is based on doing 160 km.

He plans to do almost 21 km on his treadmill at home. 

“Others have routes planned around town. Others are doing it literally in their own backyard, like 200 laps in their backyard or more. They're just trying to do something. You can see that people are trying to do something to keep it going. This is one way we can participate all together,” he said. 

“We all have different goals here in town. Some people want just one lap. Some people want five laps. Some people will just go for as long as they can. But I’ll only have a two-minute break between laps.”

“I’m not going to 160 km but some people will do more. You have an hour to run that lap. Normally there would be a course where you would run it. You have an hour to run it, if you finished in 45 mins you have a 15-min break -- and you just keep doing it over and over again. But it's the last man standing. It's unlimited. People go to 200 miles if they wanted.”

Twa planned to broadcast his run through Zoom along with many others, as that’s how the live event goal was to be measured. His wife and children will be his “pit crew,” as he calls them. 

“This event is free but there's encouragement to donate to a charity. I chose to donate to (organizer) David Proctor's charity Out Run Rare (for people suffering from rare diseases),” Twa said.

Cameron Twa runs on his treadmill at home in preparation for the Quarantine Backyard Ultra run on Saturday. photo courtesy of Alice Twa