I Went to an Outdoor Workout Class During COVID-19—Here’s What It Was Really Like


After five months of working out at home, I’m burnt out. So much so, that the thought of spending another morning doing burpees alone in my kitchen makes me feel straight-up depressed. I miss my usual studios and the routine that they’ve always given me, but more than anything, I miss not being lonely during my workouts. So when the team from The Ness invited me to attend one of their free outdoor sculpt classes at Hero Beach Club in Montauk, New York, I leapt (or, more specifically, drove four hours in horrific traffic) at the chance to try it out.

Since gyms and boutique fitness studios are still pretty risky given the current state of the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S., many brands have begun to bring their offerings outside. According to a recent ClassPass survey of 300 partners, 31 percent plan to experiment with outdoor classes, which is great news considering pros agree that working out outside is a much safer option than doing it indoors. “It’s better to exercise outdoors than indoors because you’re not in an enclosed space and there’s less worry about wiping down surfaces and equipment,” Adolfo Garcia-Sastre, PhD, microbiologist and co-director of the Global Health and Emerging Pathogens Institute at Mount Sinai previously told Well+Good.

But “safer” doesn’t necessarily mean “totally safe”—we are still living in an international health crisis, after all, so it’s important to continue to take proper precautions. Classes should take place in low populated areas (i.e. an empty park), and you should keep at least six feet of distance from other attendees. Though it may be uncomfortable, keeping your mask on throughout the workout is probably a good idea, since you’ll be breathing hard and will be more likely to both spurt out or inhale respiratory droplets.

On the morning of my outdoor sculpt class, I was checked into the event by a woman wearing a mask, and directed to a towel that was laid out six feet apart (in all directions) from other attendees. The teacher, Collette Dong, was on a mat of her own way in front of us, but it was still easy to see her demonstrations and hear the music and move cues. She led us through 45 minutes of equipment-free sculpt, and my glutes were on fire by the end of the first song. I loved the fact that there was no equipment, since it meant that I didn’t have to touch any weights that someone else may have infected, and that the towels (unlike mats) could be thoroughly washed in a washing machine between classes. Since it was a low-impact class, I opted to remove my mask knowing that I wouldn’t be breathing as hard as I would in a cardio class and that everyone around me was safely distanced from where I was doing my moves.

“Now more than ever, people are craving forms of self-care and community… and we want to create an environment for people to move their bodies and feel safe at the same time,” says Dria Murphy, co-founder of The Ness. “This [experience] allows us to socially distance without losing that sense of community.”

As an attendee, I feel confident that the class lived up to that mission. After the workout, everyone grabbed a complimentary Vitamin C shot and went off in their own directions—there was none of the usual hanging around and chatting that you usually get in a locker room. When it was all over, I felt really, really safe. More than that, though, it reminded me why I’ve always loved working out in a group. The energy in the air was palpable, and it was a lot easier to stay motivated when I knew there were 20 other people who were feeling the burn of our third set of jump lunges just as intensely as I was. Plus, we got to be outside in the glorious (albeit 90+ degrees) weather, which was a treat in itself.

Even so, outdoor workout classes are still few and far between outside of major metros and the Hamptons (though here’s hoping that changes), and can be more expensive than your usual studio session. Plus, there are still health concerns to account for, particularly if you’re in a higher risk population for COVID and its complications. So for me, it’s going to continue to be an “every once in a while” type of thing, which means those kitchen floor burpees aren’t going anywhere.

Outdoor workout classes to try:

Barre3: Barre classes available via ClassPass at locations across the country.

Barry’s: $50 per bootcamp class at the Southampton studio.

CityRow$20 per rowing class in Plainview, NY and Westlake, CA.

ConBody: Available via ClassPass in New York City.

Fhitting Room: $38 per HIIT class in New York City.

Jane.DoAvailable via ClassPass in Jersey City.

Mile High Run Club: $17 per run class in New York City.

Prime Cycle: Cycling classes available via ClassPass in Hoboken, NJ.

Pure Bliss Yoga: Donation-based yoga class in Fort Lee, NJ.

Sabertooth Fitness: $10 per bootcamp class in Santa Monica, CA.

SoulCycle: $50 per spin class at the Watermill, Mntauk, and Southampton studios.

SLT: $60 per “microformer” class at East Hampton indoor tennis.

The Ness: Free at Hero Beach Club in Montauk (sign up online to reserve your spot).

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