Fitness Goes Online, Outdoors

Fitness Goes Online, Outdoors

ERIC WHEELER cheers on Taylor Walle and her husband, Matthew Loar, as they do squats during Wheeler’s E’s Fitness Bootcamp on Monday of last week at the youth center in Buena Vista. This was Wheeler’s last indoor fitness class held before Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s order for only outdoor classes to take place, starting last Wednesday. (Jonathan Schwab photo)

Fitness Goes Online, Outdoors

TAYLOR WALLE and Matthew Loar do some light jogging to warm up while instructor Eric Wheeler watches. (Jonathan Schwab photo)

Local Residents Find Ways To Stay In Shape During Pandemic

With gyms closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, local fitness instructors have gone online to continue to lead their members in group fitness classes.

After Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s order to close all non-essential businesses, including gyms and fitness centers, starting last Wednesday, local residents have looked to other means to stay in shape.

People continue to walk, run and bike outside, with several doing virtual running races on the Chessie Trail and elsewhere, in place of races that were canceled.

Fitness classes can also be conducted outside, as long as the number of participants (including the instructor) does not exceed 10, with participants standing at least six feet apart. One example is Eric Wheeler’s E’s Fitness Boot Camp. Before the governor’s order, Wheeler led four of his class members in a boot camp indoors on Monday evening of last week at the youth center on Chestnut Avenue in Buena Vista.

Wheeler, 49, is in his 24th year of teaching fitness classes. He said he’s made sure to abide by the restrictions, noting that he wants everyone to stay safe and healthy while maintaining their level of fitness. “In the meantime, we’re lucky we can still gather outside,” he said. The outdoor classes usually gather in the grass by the youth center.

He was scheduled to begin teaching in a makeshift studio at his home, using the Zoom app to communicate with his class members, on Monday.

A 1988 Parry McCluer High School graduate, Wheeler went to Liberty University and earned a bachelor’s degree in exercise science in 1992.

One of his students in last Monday’s boot camp, which lasted an hour at the youth center, was Jan Dale, who taught Wheeler at PMHS.

Dale, 62, taught math at PMHS for 35 years. She’s been retired for about four years and has made health a priority.

“When I taught, I spent all of my time married to that job, and I was working incredibly long hours, so I didn’t get any activity,” Dale said. “I was terribly out of shape. Since I retired, I decided that I was going to take care of myself.”

Dale started by walking and running and joined Snap Fitness in Buena Vista. When she was walking along Camden Field, Dale saw Wheeler leading private fitness lessons. Eventually, she decided to go to one of his classes.

Last Monday’s boot camp consisted of various exercises, including jogging, squats, legwork, pushups and strength training with weights. Wheeler gave instructions and encouraged the class participants while uptempo music played. When not participating in

When not participating in Wheeler’s classes, Dale said she has been able to get outside on her own for exercise by walking her dog.

Another participant in last Monday’s boot camp was Karen Donald, 52, a receiver at Food Lion in Lexington. Donald, who grew up in Bristol, said the class “motivates her to do this.” Donald, who has been participating in Wheeler’s classes for a few years, also exercises on her own but added that it’s more fun with a group. She said it’s great to have an instructor she feels comfortable with.

Donald noted that everybody in the class is being very cautious due to the pandemic. “We don’t want anybody to be sick,” she said.

The other two participants in the boot camp were Taylor Walle, 34, and her husband, Matthew Loar, 35.

Walle, an English professor on sabbatical at Washington and Lee University, has been coming to Wheeler’s boot camp since August. “It’s amazing,” she said. “It has made such a big difference in my life. It’s so great. I do exercise on my own, but Eric is such a great instructor, and also the energy of the group is really great. I just love it so much. It also really helps to have an instructor who’s so knowledgeable and so supportive.”

Concerning the pandemic, Walle said, “I think Matthew and I have been weighing whether or not we should keep leaving the house, but since this group is so small, we were thinking it’s OK to come. I’ve also been running, which is, of course, easier because you can just be alone, especially in Lexington because there’s not that many people around.”

Loar, the director of fellowships at W&L, said he doesn’t like running, which is why he loves these classes. “They’re terrific,” Loar said. He started going to fLEX Fitness Studio in Lexington last June and took classes from Wheeler and two other coaches. While he enjoyed the classes at fLEX, Loar said he especially likes getting the opportunity to take the classes outside in Buena Vista.

For more information on E’s Fitness Boot Camp, go to his Facebook page at https://

In addition to Wheeler, several local fitness centers are offering online classes.

The Rockbridge Area YMCA, which closed due to the coronavirus on March 18, is offering “Y at Home” online classes and Les Mills on-demand classes. For details, visit Starting this month, the Y will offer emergency childcare to health care employees and first responders. fLEX Fitness Studio and Center of Gravity Yoga and Pilates in Lexington both closed their doors, effective last Wednesday after the governor’s order, and are offering online classes. The schedule for classes fLEX Fitness is available at www.flexlexva. com, while Center of Gravity’s schedule is available at its Facebook page. Prior to Wednesday, both studios were allowing classes with 10 or fewer people.

Snap Fitness in Buena Vista could not be reached for comment.

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