Fitness instructor’s virtual workout classes catching on

Beatrice J. Doty

Michelle Damis has transformed what she does, from the gym workout space to the Zoom classroom. It’s working, and gaining participants.

PORTLAND, Ore. — The pandemic has been a life changer for fitness instructor and trainer Michelle Damis. Instead of teaching fitness in front of people at gyms like the Multnomah Athletic Club or 24-Hour Fitness in Portland, Damis has been leading live virtual classes from her home in St. Helens. We first talked to her about it last year, in May. Participation has grown since then.

“I think on my email list of participants there’s over 200, and we now have quite a few people from Palm Springs and San Francisco that participate, people from other countries,” Damis said.

Damis Zooms her way through a variety of classes each week. People like Debbie Lewis followed her from the gym to online.

“This is my routine, this is what we do now,” Lewis said. “It’s like I wouldn’t even know what to do if we didn’t do this, and I’m in a group that won’t get vaccinated right away so I’m with Michelle.”

RELATED: St. Helens fitness instructor takes to Zoom to lead live exercise classes

Damis thinks one of the reasons this works so well is because unlike workout videos on YouTube, her classes are live, interactive and creating community.

For Rita Schlansky, exercise has been important to her for more than 40 years. She said the virtual workouts are keeping her going. “I do it for health, I do it for peace of mind and in this time of the pandemic it helps me to maintain a schedule,” Schlansky said.

“Our group has been growing and staying really positive and really healthy and doing what we can,” Damis said.

RELATED: Doctors warn athletes, active people not to return to exercise too soon after COVID-19 infection

The fitness instructor does not charge a set rate for the classes, but many participants do offer tips or donations if they are financially able. If you are interested in the workout classes, email [email protected] for more information.

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