Jack Holleman is running through the streets of his hometown of Richmond, giving the few pedestrians he sees a wide berth as a light rain falls. Running along with him on the video-conferencing app Zoom are about 20 people who have participated in the boot-camp fitness classes he's been offering at various East Bay YMCAs since 1999.
The former Marine, UC Berkeley football player and director of athletics at the Oakland Y, eggs his participants on, through a succession of uphill and downhill jogs punctuated by burpees, bulldogs, planks and dips. "Running backwards uphill … feels good … I always say burpees anytime anywhere … if you see stairs or a hill, take them … woooo yeah …. 30 seconds more, you can do anything for 30 seconds … bus driver's got a mask on, makes sense … yeah, sun's coming out, enjoying it yeah."
Meanwhile, also shown on the Zoom grid, is his young co-instructor who is moving gazelle-like through the residential streets near Oakland's Piedmont Avenue. An executive at a company that uses tech tools to help kids learn to read, Juliana Germak is giving Holleman the sort of playful teasing that participants in their Y classes have come to expect. When she mock-complains over the length of time he's having them do jumping jacks, he's having none of it: "We used to do them for as long as it took our drill sergeant to have a cup of coffee."
Coordinating the tech side of the class from her home office in Albany is Kym Sterner, another of Holleman's longtime co-instructors. She comments on aspects of Germak's form as Germak demonstrates exercises for the other participants, all of them sweating away in their own parts of the Bay Area, some showing their workouts on camera, others not. Sterner alerts the tech-challenged Holleman when he's inadvertently muted himself. When Germak's phone dies, Sterner gets a class participant who's been running near Germak to film her as she does push-ups in a puddle. "Look at her plank," Sterner coos. Sterner knows a good plank when she sees one, having recently won a Bay Area-wide competition for fitness fanatics.
When the shelter-in-place order came in a couple of weeks ago, Sterner led the effort to get some guided workouts online for the close-knit group that does boot camp through the East Bay YMCAs. Sterner studied engineering at Stanford, but the technology was new to her, the learning curve as steep as some of the hills the participants in Holleman's class run up. "Working on it helped to alleviate my anxiety in this time," Sterner says. There are still kinks — they haven't yet found a way to share the music that helps pump up participants at the IRL classes, and some say they're missing Holleman's old-school playlists.
Sterner, in addition to offering online versions of the boot camp-style classes that she, Holleman and Germak run, has set up a portal through which instructors can, via Zoom, put their housebound students through their paces. Branded as Sweat in Place, these online offerings include pilates, Zumba, yoga (for kids and adults), Qi Gong and UrbanKick, as well as assorted cardio and core-training workouts. "Some of the classes, like ours, are free," Sterner says. "But some instructors have lost their income overnight so they're charging. But for all the classes, for people in financial hardship, there's no charge."
I join a virtual class that Sterner and Germak co-teach, one that goes at apathetic glutes, the dreaded "dead butt," as Sterner calls it. There's a nice mix of ages in the class, split about evenly between genders, the workout outfits embodying the Y's come-as-you-are ethos. I set up a mat in our relatively spacious kitchen, and mimic the on-screen action, feeling proud that I'm keeping up. But not proud enough to turn on my camera — which is just as well, as it turns out. Germak's dog lies next to her as she gets on one knee, extends a leg elegantly behind her, puts a hand on her hip and begins to move her extended leg in circles — whoops, I tip over, my face planted in a bowl of our cat's food.
On the screen, longtime boot camp regular Daniel Vasquez is doing better. The executive director of a nonprofit supporting boys and young men of color, Brothers on the Rise, and a former emcee of Concord's Pride festival, Vasquez moved to Oakland from Napa six years ago. "I didn't know anyone in Oakland, and people told me, as they do, to join the Y — and I found this great group."
The "bootcampers," as they call themselves, don't just sweat together, they gather for post-workout drinks and coffee and a big annual holiday party at Holleman's house. They sometimes even travel together — twice to Mexico in recent years, working out throughout the trip. There have been marriages among its members, kids born, and, during this freighted time, former regulars have logged in to their online workouts. "We've had people from London, Brooklyn, Ecuador working out with us again," Sterner says. Her co-instructor Germak numbers off a few more: "Arizona, Philadelphia, Wisconsin, Minnesota."
When the shelter-in-place orders came out, Vasquez worried a little about losing his hard-earned form, but he worried more about not seeing his people — his tribe. "When they closed the Ys, so many of us were in mourning for the loss of the boot camp community," says Vasquez, who's become the group's unofficial social convenor. At a virtual dinner, attended by more than 100 regulars, they shared their hopes and fears for this time. "There were tears."
Near the end of our interview, Sterner says, simply: "I don't know how to live without the joy this gives me."
Alec Scott is an Oakland freelance writer. Email [email protected]
When the shelter-in-place order came down mid-March, these suddenly shuttered gyms and yoga studios, housebound personal trainers and fitness bootcamp leaders swiftly went virtual. These offerings range from hardcore workouts to guided meditations, from gentle movement classes, particularly suited to sequestered seniors, to the active play that might – one hopes, one prays – tire out the kids.
Sweat in Place, a consortium of fitness instructors, offers pilates, Zumba, yoga (for kids and adults), Qi Gong and UrbanKick, as well as assorted cardio and core-training workouts. Some free, some for a fee. For the workout calendar, go to bit.ly/2QKv48k
Camp Funderblast has run IRL summer camps at sites throughout the Bay Area for years, and rose to this occasion by getting staff to lead children (via Zoom) in such activities as hopscotch, laundry-hamper basketball and Qi Gong. https://www.funderblast.com/online.html
Julie’s Garage Gym is the Lake Merritt-based studio of personal trainer Julie Sinner, whose chosen to gather videos of her classes on YouTube. www.youtube.com/channel/UCHgUzEUauGjeQS1OqgC_ziQ
Omni Fight Club is the brainchild of Dennis Dumas Jr., who, after the closure of his two East Bay clubs, decided to lead free online workouts, with aid of Zoom and Facebook Live, from his garage. “No equipment is required, we just use body weight.” https://www.facebook.com/ofcliv
Planet Granite , a national chain with a lot of Bay Area outlets, is offering a range of online workout sessions, including yoga, core training, calisthenics and high-intensity interval training. Its Western region manager, Nick Gerrard, says: “Within 24 hours of us closing, we started offering classes online, trying to be a part of the routines people develop to get through this time.” https://info.planetgranite.com/live-stream
Sausalito Fitness Club is Joubert Caston’s congenial gym, within eyesight of Sausalito’s houseboat community. During the shutdown, Caston is offering two weekly workouts, via Zoom, Monday and Wednesday evenings. “They’re free, but you know, donations are going to be welcome.All of us in this industry – the gyms, the instructors – we’re all going to be struggling.” https://sausalitofitnessclub.com/
Soulstice Mind + Body Spa will continue to offer yoga and meditation, via Facebook Live, by instructors who work out of the Santa Rosa and Sausalito branches, among them, Camden Hock, a specialist in greeting the new day. http://www.soulsticemindbodyspa.com/livestream
Urban Fitness Oakland has, for 13 years, offered tailored, tech-augmented workouts of high intensity to its clients. The online full-body workouts are led by one instructor, with another giving feedback to participants. “We’re all dealing with the same thing right now,” founder Noah Kinner says. “The crisis provides a massive opportunity to connect people, and we’re doing that.” https://www.urbanfitnessoakland.com
Within , the San Francisco-based meditation studio, offers reasonably priced classes for beginners and those who’ve already made a meditation practice part of their lives. https://www.withinmeditation.com/classes
YMCA of Silicon Valley has posted online classes to help homebound seniors stay active, including tai chi and a set of strength-building exercises. https://www.ymcasv.org/virtual-resource-center/virtual-workouts#aoa
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