When considering the impact of Covid19 on the fitness industry, the mind quickly invokes images of closed gyms, fitness studios and leisure centres. Under the shadow of what is now Irelands multi-million euro Irish fitness industry exists, a more minor, community-based movement consisting of various community fitness classes and activities.
Before the arrival of Covid19 on Irish shores in March 2020, thousands gathered in community centres and local schools across the country to participate in community fitness activities ranging from dance to yoga, and the list goes on, ad infinitum.
While such grassroots initiatives don’t turn the fitness industry’s financial cogs, the contribution to communities’ physical and mental well-being is unquestionable. Being based within communities, using community resources, and a lot of the time delivered by fellow community members provides a local connection not always available within the more consumer-driven, top-end fitness business.
The Importance of Community in Fitness was an article published recently on girlsgonstrong.com stating that “beyond fitness goals, community allows” people “to find a sense of belonging. It’s what can support us through some difficult moments — in or out of the gym.”
One such example of a community-based fitness class to feel the pandemic’s full head-on impact was Tallaght Bokwa Fitness, a dance fitness class run by my wife Caroline Sharpe, operating in the community of Tallaght Dublin 24 since 2016.
Based in the Jobstown Community Centre, the popular Bokwa classes, a dance fitness programme that originated in South Africa, attracted up to 40 participants weekly. In an interview with Caroline, who herself is a Tallaght native, she explains how the onset of the pandemic had an immediate and lasting effect on her classes.
Forced to accept that Covid19 would be around for some time, Caroline recognised the importance of staying connected with her Bokwa Ladies and adapted her classes to an online format.
I have all those ladies in class; I meet with them twice a week. We are kind of like a little fitness family. A lot of us, including myself, are not only in it for the health and fitness part of it, but its also for our mental health”.
Since moving her class online, Caroline has recreated that connectedness, that sense of community, while proving that be it a community centre or kitchen, online or in person, the essential aspect of community fitness is the human connection.