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As we learn to adapt to a new way of living, a personal trainer from Geelong gives us an insight in to how people are staying physically active during the Coronavirus epidemic.

 Challenge demands creativity.

There are only a handful of activities deemed by state governments to be ‘essential’ to everyday living right now – and the need to exercise is one of them.

That means it’s pretty important that people like Ben Dodds find a way to deliver their service to those they help stay physically active.

“Online personal training isn’t new, by any means. But for me, it’s been a pretty big change,” said Ben, a 32-year-old personal trainer, and Active Geelong’s latest EVERYBODY, EVERY DAY HERO.

Up until now, Ben operated his business, ‘Dodds Fitness’, from his base in Highton, helping individuals or small groups break a sweat through face-to-face sessions.

He also took larger groups for multi-week ‘Fit Camps’, using facilities at the South Barwon Football Club.

Now, it all looks much different.

Ben has turned to ‘Zoom’, Facebook or other applications to connect with his clients online, in real time, from their homes.

“Some people use their backyards, or their garage, wherever they can – and they just have me on the screen in front of them,” Ben said.

“I have given away a lot of my gear to clients to keep in their homes,” he said.

Crucially, having clients book in specific times for sessions (rather than watch pre-recorded demonstrations) and having Ben watching and speaking to them in real time, provides the accountability and motivation people thrive on to keep active.

“I like to be able to control their technique and intensity, or answer any questions they might have. You can’t do that by just writing a program.”

Ben has also managed to keep his Fit Camp going for those who have set themselves the goal to increase their physical activity levels and achieve the associated health benefits.

Ben continues to wake up at 6am every morning to perform a live stream for his Fit Camp clients to tune in to.

“But we also make it flexible,” he said.

“Once the stream is over, the video stays up for people to do at a time that’s more convenient for them,” he said.

Ben is happy to report that people have embraced the challenge with him.

“I’ve actually been surprised with how well it’s gone so far,” he said.

“We’ve still got that sense of community and positive vibes going.”

Ben bases his business around good relationships, and he has found that the strong connections people make through fitness are becoming more important than ever.

“Using our groups through social media, it’s keeping everyone connected – which is so important given the situation we’re all in. That sense of community is helping everyone spur each other on to keep it up in this tough time.”

Indeed, challenge can also create opportunities – and Ben’s new way of working has actually brought new faces to his business.

“We had a few people who have got their partners or friends involved who might have otherwise not being able to join in because of work or family commitments,” he said.

In fact, Ben estimates he’s probably ‘the busiest I’ve been at the moment”

“Writing new programs and coming up with different workouts. It’s definitely got my brain ticking as to what is possible.”

That’s great to hear for us at Active Geelong because, as Ben points out, the opposite could so easily be true.

“Most people know that staying active in normal circumstances is important for physical and mental health. But with the situation now, it’s just so crucial,” he said.

“If you have to stay at home all the time, it’s so easy to fall into bad habits – sleeping in, going to bed late, eating junk food or not structuring your meal times. You can fall into a bit of a slump.”

For anyone who might be finding themselves in that slump or heading towards it, Ben has some sound advice.

“The first thing is to find a form of exercise that you enjoy – one that you feel confident you will stick to,” he said.

“It could just be yoga or walking, or it could be something higher intensity – if you have access to some weights, or anything with plyometrics or circuits.

“Find someone to follow on social media – a lot of fitness experts are being very generous with the workouts they are releasing at the moment. 

“And, secondly, try to couple that with some kind of social connection, as best you can.

“Try to encourage a friend to do the same so you can share the experience and talk to each other about it.”

Best of all, Ben says it can be done for free and in your own home.

“I’ve spoken to a lot of people who were hunting in every shop for fitness gear and couldn’t buy it and I just said to them: ‘you don’t need it’,” he said.

“There are plenty of ways to keep fit – it’s just thinking outside the box of what you can do at home.

“The key is to make sure you actually set a time to exercise for that day and use that time to pay attention to yourself.”