Just because members are back doesn’t necessarily mean they’re ready to dive back into HIIT at previous levels.
“As a rule, the vast majority of our members have gained body fat and lost overall fitness since returning from quarantine,” notes Chris Salisbury, chief success officer at Catalyst Fitness, which operates seven clubs in the Buffalo, N.Y. area. “The ‘COVID-19’ hangover is a very real thing and has resulted in stress, lack of routine, no access to exercise equipment, hunkering down at home, and accessibility to snacks all day, every day.”
Among the positives for Catalyst is that pre-pandemic demand for HIIT remains high among its members; it’s fitLAB proprietary HIIT classes continue to be among the chain’s most popular offerings.
But, Salisbury adds, modifications had to take place before members could begin exercising at previous levels, the most critical of which was addressing conditioning.
“Being ‘in shape’ is not the same as being fit or being conditioned,” he says. “In shape relates to simply looking good in your clothes. Having fitness or conditioning is about your body being able to take on high levels of strain repeatedly over an extended period of time and remaining able to perform at a high level. It takes time to get there.”
To help members adjust to these conditioning needs, Catalyst made some key programming changes.
“By now, we’re all aware that even if you’re fit, wearing a mask while exercising will get you winded more easily. As a result, our training team now coaches to a ‘masked-up’ perceived exertion chart,” relates Salisbury. “In addition, increasing rest periods and decreasing interval intensity has been key. We have reduced the intensity, time, and frequency of zone 4 intervals and regressed the exercises programmed in an effort to decrease the demand of the movement. It is not uncommon now for a circuit to include some mobility work to allow members to catch their breath while still remaining active.”
Through these changes, Catalyst has found that it takes members about four to six weeks to adapt to mask-related breathing restrictions and bring their conditioning back up.
And “the modifications described above have been successful in providing the challenging, fun, and sweaty experience that our members desire,” he adds.
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