By Kev Kurdoghlian
Signal Staff Writer
For the past 18 months, conversations about health have been dominated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
And the pandemic has had a significant impact on health, including how people think about staying healthy through fitness.
Ben De La Torre, owner of Face Your Fears Athletics, remembers when he couldn’t find any available fitness equipment for sale during the pandemic.
“Home fitness saw a big surge,” he said. “There was a lot of people exiting the commercial space and just coming into building their own home gym.”
The owner of the Valencia fitness studio told The Sunday Signal that home gyms gave people the freedom to install the equipment they wanted and do the exercises they wanted to do.
Many, including a growing number of people who are now working from home, he said, have turned to YouTube to guide their home workouts.
“YouTube has been a real valuable resource for a lot of people doing home fitness,” he said, noting that his studio has posted all of the videos it created during the pandemic to YouTube.
Pandemic-related restrictions forced De La Torre to close his doors for nearly six months. In response, he developed a video library to send workout routines to his clients. That new offering, he said, supports a potentially broader move in his industry toward online training.
“Anytime they go on vacation, (I’ll say) … ‘Hey, take a set of dumbbells with you or find the hotel gym,’ or something like that. You can pull these up on YouTube and just run through one of them. You don’t have to think about it, it’s already kind of set and done,” he said of conversations with his clients who aren’t able to attend in-person workouts.
Outdoor workouts were also a part of changing fitness landscape as restrictions loosened to allow people to return to in-person workouts.
“It’s been a lot of just adapting to the situation,” he said.
Those recent adaptations have been prefaced by years of transformation. De La Torre said the fitness world has trended toward to smaller studios instead “big box gyms.”
“I think people are just looking for a little more personable approach and for some expertise too,” he said, noting a smaller environment allows for a training that tailored to each person.
Functional fitness also appears to be a winner over the last decade of fitness, or working out for everyday life, according to De La Torre.
“Not everybody wants to be a bodybuilder. They just want to be able to move better and use their body properly,” he said. “And kind of train to be able to do a bunch of stuff.”
Hiking and recreational sports are a couple of examples of the type of stuff where functional fitness, or strength training, would help.
“Heck, I’ve had people that come in and they’re just like, ‘I want to be able to keep up with my kids now,’” he said.
Pilates, yoga and hot yoga are also rising in fitness.
“There’s a lot of stuff in fitness that is very cyclical,” said De La Torre.
Russell Dean Gage, fitness director at Henry Mayo Fitness and Health, agreed.
“The fancy bells and whistles come and go. There was the whole aerobic phase and step aerobics,” he said. “And then there’s the time where everyone’s like, ‘Kettlebells are the future.’”
That pattern makes the future unpredictable, which, he said, makes things interesting.
“There’s a good majority of fitness professionals, and even just fitness enthusiasts, that believe that the fitness industry is going to be moving towards at-home technology,” Gage said, noting technology like wearable tech, high-tech mirrors and stationary bikes with workouts directly streamed to an attached screen.
Gage said this trend has only been exacerbated by the pandemic, which he said has led many fitness professionals also thinking the industry may head in the opposite direction.
“People are lacking and craving human contact, human Interaction (and) real relationships and it is going to swing the fitness industry even more so towards in person, group community interaction,” he said of an alternative trend.
Mental health has become a larger consideration in physical health, too.
“There’s a lot of mental health issues that will inhibit an individual to be able to just get up and do stuff,” he said. “On the other side, I know that there’s those who when you’re not doing the physical health…that it begins to affect your mental state.”
Gage has also noticed a trend toward functional fitness and strength training. He pointed to the salaries of strength coaches in collegiate sports.
“In early 2000s, strength and conditioning coaches, some of them had to sleep in their cars, or just live at the weight room they worked at,” he said.
Today, the strength coach for the football team at one major university, he said, makes a little over $800,000 a year.
“There’s been this huge understanding of, ‘Hey, our athletes need to be bigger, stronger, faster but also if they’re not playing, the school loses money,’” he said. “So, we’re going to pay our strength coaches, what they deserve to keep our athletes healthy.”
That recognition comes, in part, from advancements in sports science, said Gage. And moving forward, that focus on strength and conditioning is likely to increase.
“We need to look at the demands of the sport and we need to look at what that entails,” he said. “So, you look at the demand of the sport and say what is it that they need and let’s prepare them for that.”
Face Your Fears Athletics is located at 28061 Smyth Dr, Valencia, CA 91355. They can be reached at (661) 282-7750 or fyfathletics.com. Henry Mayo Fitness and Health is located at
24525 Town Center Drive Valencia, CA 91355. They can be reached at (661) 200-2348 or henrymayofitness.org.