Fitness Trainers Shift to Online and Outdoor Classes to Teach Clients during Pandemic

Stella Cai
8 Million Stories
Published in
2 min readSep 27, 2020


Before the pandemic, personal trainer Doug Chironno was often overbooked for classes. When gyms closed in New York City in March, Chironno lost 90 percent of his private clients along with his group fitness classes. But, since March, he has pivoted to online and outdoor classes.

According to the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association, there are over 2000 health and fitness gyms in New York, visited by over 4 million residents. In March, gyms and fitness centers closed to the public, leaving over 5000 trainers in the city scrambling to maintain their livelihoods. In the past six months of quarantine, fitness coaches in New York have switched to a mix of virtual and outdoor fitness classes to preserve their clientele.

“It was a big change,” said Chironno, who had to immediately pivot to online and outdoor classes when gyms closed.

Doug Chironno coaches an outdoor fitness class in Chelsea Park in September 2020. Chironno lost 90% of his clientele at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic. (Photo: Stella Cai)

Chironno said that he has picked up new clients from online referrals and from people watching him train outdoors. Before the pandemic, his niche was the Upper West Side and Midtown areas of Manhattan. Now, his clients come from different states and countries.

“Planet earth is now my gym and it is always open,” said Chironno.

Before March, Chironno only had two to three online clients a year, and would receive requests for virtual training once a month. Now, he gets two to three requests everyday from clients living in the Netherlands, Atlanta, California, and elsewhere.

Sara Carr, assistant head coach at Crossfit NYC, has also shifted to online and outdoor classes with her clients. Before March, Carr was doing 20–25 hours of in-person training per week with private clients. When the pandemic hit, Carr lost two clients and began providing virtual sessions. She currently runs 10 hours of virtual sessions and 10 hours of in person, one-on-one sessions.

When gyms closed, Carr also began running outdoor classes in Chelsea Park. She caps her classes at ten people to maintain social distance, and has maintained a group of regulars for the past six months.

Sara Carr (center) demonstrates a sequence of workouts using kettlebells in Chelsea Park. Carr purchased the kettlebells to add weight training to her outdoor workouts. (Photo: Stella Cai)

“I plan on continuing outdoor classes for as long as people keep attending them,” said Carr.