Working out from home

Sarah Simpson

Mar. 1, 2022

Arbutus Magazine

Cowichan's favourite trainer adapts; offers remote classes

“Have a great weekend everybody! Finish that last set and don’t forget to take a few extra minutes to stretch. And drink lots of water! And get outside and move your body this weekend! I’ll see you on Monday!” she rushes to say before the Zoom call cuts her off at the 40-minute mark.


Charles Darwin once said “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.” There’s a reason that two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, at least one trainer in the Cowichan Valley is still able to maintain her significant workload albeit with an online twist.


Monni Savory is both strong and intelligent, but most of all, she is willing to adapt to change. For more than a decade Savory was a fan favourite at the Cowichan Aquatic Centre, with her drop-in spin classes often featuring wait lists and her bootcamps highly sought after.


The mother of two also did personal training on the side for those lucky enough to nab an elusive spot in her packed schedule. Savory’s daily life, like many others’, was turned upside down in March of 2020 when quite literally, the world shutdown due to the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic. Savory quickly found herself unable to meet with her personal training clients and what’s more, her employer: the Cowichan Aquatic Centre, was forced to close indefinitely.


She’d be embarrassed to admit it but her clients were missing her while the world shut down. She wouldn’t be embarrassed to note, though, that she was missing her clients as well. She also knew they were missing their workouts. There was just one thing to do: adapt or die trying — and she had to be quick about it. In the first half of 2020 alone, the pandemic lockdowns resulted in a nearly 50 per cent increase in the worldwide download of health and fitness apps according to Sensor Tower.


If she didn’t get in the game quickly, no doubt Savory would have lost her clients to one app or another. She knew the Cowichan Aquatic Centre wasn’t going to offer online options, so she decided to jump in with both feet and do it herself. Well, not entirely alone as Savory did enlist some help setting up her website — help that came as a result of the community she’d formed at the gym. Word spread she was doing Zoom workouts for cheap and before she knew it, her former regulars from the gym began to log in. And then more familiar faces, and then their friends tuned in as well.


After a while, even strangers were signing up. It wasn’t exactly the same feel as the gym but it was the same welcoming community supporting one another, and supporting their trainer as well. Because of that support, and despite her technological discomfort, Savory was well on her way to thriving through her new digital platform.


"The one thing I felt I can offer that other online fitness programs maybe can’t is that it still feels like we have a small community,” Savory said. “I’m still accessible to people with questions or worries. I’m evolving the business as people’s needs change. There’s no big corporation behind it. It’s still very personal and caters to individuals and their specific needs.” (And, at $28 a month, it was still within reach for those on tight budgets.)


When October 2020 came around, the doors to many gyms, including her former workplace reopened, albeit with some conditions. Savory was still seeing increasing numbers join her online, however, as organized fitness classes at the local gym didn’t start up again until January of 2021.


As Cowichan’s public gym expanded its options and many returned to the Aquatic Centre for their exercise, Savory was still able to retain her clients, and even welcome new ones.


“Going to the gym is great for the community and the social aspects and many people miss that about going online, but the benefits of working out at home outweigh that gym camaraderie for a lot of people,” Savory explained. “I think there’s room in this market for both though,” she added. "Not having to leave the house to get your workout in saves so much time. With limited class sizes at the gym, regular attendance can’t be guaranteed. That’s not a problem online. Some people really need that consistency.”


Savory said parents with small children often find it easier than dealing with childcare and those that work from home know they can fit in one of her 40-minute sessions on their lunch break, or child’s nap time, and can still shower and make it back to their desk or children within the hour. Would-be gym-goers short on confidence also tend to prefer that Savory’s workouts can be done in the privacy of their homes, with minimal equipment, modifications for those who want lower impact or intensity, and with their own video camera turned off if they choose.


“It just seems to be the ideal solution for a lot of people,” she said. Savory has set her online schedule up to offer three live workouts each week: at 9 a.m. on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Knowing that isn’t a feasible time for a lot of working people, the monthly fee also entitles members to her ever-growing catalogue of past workouts so participants can choose a workout video and complete it on demand, whether that be 6 a.m. or before bed. “I’m finding a lot of people really enjoy the versatility of the archives,” she said. “The majority of members actually join just for access to those pre-recorded sessions because they can fit them into their schedules. That’s one thing moving online has given me that I feel is helpful for my clients — the ability for them to work out with me when it suits them and not according to a fixed schedule. I know a lot of people appreciate that.”


With more than 300 workouts and counting in her catalogue to choose from, she’s confident the variety is there to keep even the most dedicated athletes challenged. What’s more, she’s also considering expanding her on-demand classes to include both spin and TRX. The lockdowns and resulting small gym closures — both temporary and permanent — have inspired athletes to invest in their home gym equipment, which no doubt drives them to Savory’s online business, but it’s the community they find once they’re there, the quality of the workouts, the relatively inexpensive prices, and the personal interactions with Savory herself that’s going to ultimately keep them.


And while you can’t beat the convenience of working out at home, Savory knows humans are by nature social and often want to visit a physical location as well.


She knows in order to not become obsolete; she does need to offer both. Savory offers limited space outdoor classes starting around May and running through the summer to give her athletes the best of both worlds, and like at the gym, there’s often a wait list but the difference is people still know they can work out with her anytime online from the comfort of their own living room or garage. Savory can be contacted via Instagram or Facebook @MonniSavoryFitness or through her website at monnisavoryfitness.com


Read the magazine article here