By Hannah Holliday
In March, the coronavirus may have closed down gyms, fitness centers and exercise studios. However, it did not stop people from moving.
Stationed in her kitchen in Niles, Daysha Amster is still teaching Zumba and WERQ exercise classes. While the space looks different than her usual setting at the Niles-Buchanan YMCA, Amster is not letting the gym closures stop her from doing what she loves.
“The first thing I did was think of was my students and class,” Daysha says of when she received news of the state’s mandate to close down all fitness facilities. “It’s the best job I’ve ever had. I love that we connect through something healthy and positive. I was concerned and didn’t know how we would stay connected.”
Daysha, who has been teaching classes at the YMCA location for two years, initially tried to teach her classes through Facebook Live but has since transitioned to Zoom Video Communications due to copyright issues with music. Through Zoom, she is offering free classes to the community and what she calls her “fit fam.”
Having been a dancer all her life, Daysha explains how a lot of money goes into becoming a fitness instructor, including paying about $300 to $500 on certifications. To continue to stay certified, instructors must pay fees and subscription dues.
In addition to her Zoom classes, Daysha created a Facebook page, “My Group Fitness Niles, Michigan,” which accumulated a 200-person following in 24 hours. The followers include people who regularly attend her Friday and Saturday classes at the YMCA and community members. In the group, Daysha has also encouraged other fitness instructors to post their virtual classes.
In addition to being WERQ and Zumba certified, Daysha is also certified in PiYo, yoga and group fitness and works as a librarian in the media center at Brandywine High School.
Daysha encourages anyone of any fitness level to participate in the Zoom classes.
“In Zoom, you don’t have to have the camera on you,” she says. “The people who come to my class are all different ages and different body types. You don’t have to match my body. You do the moves for your body and what is safe and effective for you.”
The goal of the virtual classes is to allow people to let go and have fun during what can be an uncertain time, she says.
Daysha plans to continue offering the virtual classes until gyms can safely open back up.
“Teaching is my Friday night and my happy hour,” she says. “I’m always dancing anyway, so I would rather be doing it with people. I’ve lived in Indy, Kalamazoo, Seattle, and I’ve made some friends along the way. It’s very cool that I can do this virtually and reach a broader crowd.”
Daysha’s plan for virtual fitness is not unique. Across the country, virtual fitness has seen a boom, with many across the Michiana region getting in on the action.
In Sister Lakes, a Facebook community dedicated to cardio drumming also went virtual.
Tonya Melton, who started the Sister Lakes Cardio Drumming Facebook page in 2015, is researching ways the community can still get their cardio drumming fix during the pandemic.
“Of course, you can do other workouts, but cardio drumming is more than just a workout. It’s a community,” Tonya says. “We are trying to stay connected through social media, hold each other accountable, and lift each other up. It truly is a family.”
Despite their workouts being canceled due to the mandate, Tonya says the group’s attitude has been to keep moving.
“Get out and get some fresh air,” she says. “Go for a walk or a run, and clear your mind. If you have internet, there are plenty of exercises to follow there. FaceTime with a friend and workout together.”
Although face to face fitness interactions are canceled, the communal aspect of fitness remains alive among local communities.
“We have built a really strong bond and were already so tightly connected,” Tonya says of the cardio drumming community. “With everything that is happening, it has just really confirmed how much we rely on each other to get through life.”
From the comfort of her home in Niles, Daysha echoes Tonya’s sentiments.
“As long as people want to dance with me, I will be here,” she says.
Photography by Emily Sobecki