Q&A: Athens fitness instructor discusses transition to virtual instruction | Arts & Culture

Just days after closing Pūrvelo’s doors, studio manager Maxine Clifford sat in her empty studio lobby, taking in the unfamiliar absence of the loud pop music and motivating words coming from inside the spin room.

On March 15, Clifford announced the cycling studio will temporarily close until further notice. After weighing the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic, Clifford and her team decided the closure was necessary to protect the health and well being of the Pūrvelo client base.

In the meantime, Clifford has provided ways for her clients to stay active via Instagram. She has been posting arm workouts every weekday inspired by the weighted routines performed in Pūrvelo’s standard, rhythmic spin classes.

The Red & Black spoke with Clifford to get her take on Pūrvelo’s temporary transition from in-person to virtual instruction. She also shared her advice on remaining active and staying positive while social distancing.

The Red & Black: How difficult was it for you and your team to make the decision to temporarily close?

Maxine Clifford: The days leading up to our decision to temporarily shut down were very hard because I was under the impression for a long time that we weren’t going to have to actually shut down. It wasn’t until Sunday, the 15th when tons of other large corporations announced they were shutting their doors that I realized we were inevitably going to have to close. Leading up to that, I thought the effects of the coronavirus were going to be worse in some parts of the country than in others.

Our Charlottesville location had been weighing the decision to close for several days before it had even gotten on my radar that it was a possibility for our studio. I actually had gone to bed and had woken up briefly to make sure my alarms were set. When I woke up I had gotten a message from Kristin, our founder and CEO, saying all four Pūrvelo studios would be closing the next day. So I had essentially gone from being asleep, to going right to work to announce the closure on our Instagram page and to email all of our clients to let them know. The days after that were super weird because I was very unsure of what we were going to do moving forward.

R&B: What has the reaction been among the pūr community since you announced that you would be closing?

Clifford: Everyone is definitely missing the studio. There’s nothing quite like cycling, and there’s no place quite like Pūrvelo. The cycle workout is a huge part of it, for sure, but I think the connections and the environment created at the studio are what people are missing the most. So everyone is just sort of leaning on each other right now to try and figure out how we can still stay connected and stay moving.

R&B: While posting your arm track of day workouts on Pūrvelo’s Instagram, what are some challenges you’ve discovered when transitioning from teaching workouts in-person to virtually?

Clifford: I prefer in-person instruction any day because it’s very non-scripted. When I teach, I like to feel out the energy of the individuals in front of me and connect with them. When I’m taking pre-recorded videos, I don’t have that audience to give me any sort of indicator of how they’re feeling. It’s just me and a camera alone in the studio. It’s definitely a very different experience, but I think it’s challenging me to grow as an instructor and to be able to still find that connection with my riders through the camera.

R&B: For many of Pūrvelo’s avid riders, what other workout alternatives would you suggest for them to practice while group fitness classes are not available?

Clifford: Everyone’s fitness preferences are so personal. A lot of us who cycle really enjoy the cardio intensive part of it, and the most similar form of exercise that I can recommend is just running and walking. However, I would advise our riders to go for runs without the expectation of starting their run, jogging at one pace and not stopping until they’re finished. At Pūrvelo, our workouts have various levels of intensity. There are fast parts when we’re sprinting, and there are slower parts when we hit the heavy hills. What I like to do when I go for runs is start off at a warm-up pace and then pick it up and go a little harder for a minute or two. Then if my body’s feeling like it wants to slow down, I will walk for a bit.

What I say in our classes is that even with the structure that we provide, there is no perfect way that it’s supposed to look. This same thing goes for when we’re exercising outside of the studio. Cultivate that intuitive skill to really be able to listen to your body and move in a way that feels good for you.

R&B: Why do you think it is important for people to maintain their daily movement and exercise routines during this time?

Clifford: It is so important [to stay active], especially for those of us who are used to cycling multiple times a week or just moving in some capacity almost every single day. Not only is it good for your immune system, but it’s also good for your mental health. During this period, our mental health is going to be tested in a lot of ways, as our entire world has basically been turned upside down by this pandemic. And so I think exercise is going to be one of the most important things to prioritize in order to find the best way to be happy in this new life of ours.

One thing I recommend is getting your workout done in the first half of the day. After I exercise, I release so many endorphins and feel my whole mood shift. The earlier in the day that I can give that to myself, the longer I’m setting myself up to enjoy those positive feelings.

R&B: As an instructor and studio manager, how are you utilizing this period of time when the studio is closed?

Clifford: I’ve spent a lot of time hyper-organizing the studio and redoing some of the different systems that our team has in place. For example this week I have been editing our Pūrvelo instructor training manual. We’re taking this time to streamline all the behind-the-scenes tasks so that when we do reopen and when we eventually open more studios, we will have all the tools in place to make every opening from here on out go more and more smoothly.

I also have been managing our Instagram, which is kind of fun because that is something that I usually don’t have time to do when the studio is open. I have an intern who typically does everything with our Instagram, but given the circumstances, she’s taking a little more of a backseat. Social media is really our only channel right now to connect with our community.

R&B: Is there anything in the works for Pūrvelo that you are able to share that could get riders excited for your re-opening?

Clifford: Our online retail store is set to launch this week, and there’s tons of new workout sets that are going to be released. As far as when the studio reopens, I can definitely promise there will be a ton of themed rides. Our team has been super bummed because we had several themed rides scheduled for March and April. So we definitely will be rescheduling all of those. Our whole team is incredibly excited to get back into the studio, whether it’s to teach classes, hang out in the lobby or work desk shifts. I can promise that the environment we’re going to have when we open the doors back up is going to be really, really special.

R&B: Speaking to members of the Pūrvelo family, what would you tell your staff and riders during this time to keep their spirits lifted and to encourage positivity?

Clifford: I would say implement movement every day, listen to your body and connect with each other. I am definitely missing my daily conversations with all of our clients and team members, and so I want them to know that I’m here. If anyone wants to chat, I’m always around. Any way that we can stay moving and stay positive during this time can be done way easier with support from our community rather than on our own. Looking ahead, we’re hoping the Pūrvelo family only continues to grow, and when the studio reopens, it’s going to be better than ever.

The Red & Black has edited the interview for length and clarity.


Leave a Comment