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Curbside becomes studio for Upper Valley trainers and clients eager to exercise

  • Eleusa Livermore, of Charlestown, N.H., and a dozen other students work out with Fit Body Boot Camp instructors in the PowerHouse Mall parking lot in West Lebanon, N.H., on March 31, 2020. Another 22 did the same via streaming on Facebook and Zoom. Livermore is a regular at the Fit Body location in Rockingham, Vt., and wanted to take advantage of the new social distancing routine. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Instructor Lisa Dumont, of Rockingham, Vt., demonstrates an exercise for students during a Fit Body Boot Camp workout in the PowerHouse Mall parking lot in West Lebanon, N.H., on March 31, 2020. Dumont, who owns the business and another in Rockingham, said the response to the social-distancing workout in West Lebanon has been positive and she hopes to do the same soon at her other location. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Jason Lambert, of Enfield, N.H., laughs after a difficult Fit Body Boot Camp exercise held in the parking lot of the PowerHouse Mall in West Lebanon, N.H., on March 31, 2020. Lambert, who has been furloughed from his job at Dartmouth College until May 27, has been working out at Fit Body since they opened in February. "This has been great," he said of the new social-distancing routine. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Fit Body Boot Camp instructors, from left, Patti Friedman, of Lebanon, N.H., Lisa Dumont, of Rockingham, Vt., and Ronna Gendron, of Claremont, N.H., wrap up their outdoor fitness class with a cheer for students in the parking lot at the PowerHouse Mall in West Lebanon, N.H., and those participating online on March 31, 2020. The class is open to the public. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 4/1/2020 8:58:13 PM
Modified: 4/1/2020 8:58:04 PM

WEST LEBANON — Dee Snider is shouting away over Patti Friedman’s shoulder. He wants to rock. Truth be told, however, the Twisted Sister frontman was never accompanied by a thumping beat in his band’s 1980s heyday.

Friedman has the volume on her speakers up to maximum, which she discovers later when she tries to raise it higher. That’s going to make it tough for her to not go fully hoarse as she leads her 13-person group through a 30-minute, multi-stage workout.

The sky is the ceiling. The walls don’t exist. The floor is macadam. And Friedman’s Fit Family Strong outdoor fitness class is about the only one of its kind going in the Upper Valley right now.

With gyms shuttered and social distancing necessary to kick the coronavirus to the gutter, Friedman and Fit Body Boot Camp owner Lisa Dumont are giving exercise a curbside delivery option. If a fitness class is held outdoors, high-fives are pantomimed, there are no weights or implements to touch and the Powerhouse Mall parking lot’s lines provide the distancing guides, why not get folks together and moving?

“I know we’re working with the virus going on here, people are isolated, they’re being told to stay at home,” Dumont said on Tuesday afternoon as the speakers transitioned into a high-paced rendition of Queen’s Another One Bites the Dust. “We’ve figured out a way to keep everybody socially distanced and abide by the rules and get them outside. Definitely, even in this ‘Stay Home, Stay Safe’ (time), they said you need to get outside and exercise.”

Gymnasiums, community centers and fitness clubs didn’t make the essential-businesses cut when New Hampshire and Vermont issued stay-at-home guidelines last month to combat coronavirus spread. N.H. Gov. Chris Sununu’s emergency order of March 23 called for “temporarily prohibiting scheduled gatherings of 10 or more attendees.”

However, Sununu’s ensuing order three days later outlining necessary businesses and services noted the importance of people going outside and getting exercise as the first of 11 exceptions. “Leaving home for outdoor recreation provided that appropriate social distancing protocols are observed” was the second.

Dumont and Friedman believe that leaves room for them to both obey state directives and still host outdoor classes. They started last week, offering two opportunities on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons and one on Saturday morning.

“The biggest thing from reaching out to people right now is community and connection,” said Friedman, who’s taught fitness classes since graduating from college nearly 40 years ago. “We have people that have come into these boot camps; they don’t know each other, or didn’t prior to it, and now they’re introducing their families, they’re texting, they’re Facebooking. They are so connected and accountable to each other.”

The Powerhouse is all but closed for the time being, but its owners got behind the idea of holding outdoor FBBC classes in its parking lot when proposed, Friedman added.

“Our (California-based) CEO two weeks ago asked us to close our doors,” said Dumont, who has owned another FBBC studio in Westminster, Vt., for 10 years and who opened her West Lebanon operation in mid-January. “We did that, and we are doing a lot of streaming right now. We had this crazy idea to get people outside. We all need that personal touch. Even though we have computers and we’re on Zoom and Facebook Live, it’s not the same as seeing one another.”

The parking lot supplies the distancing narrative. Each spot is 8 feet by 9 feet — exceeding suggested person-to-person separation — and the folks who joined Friedman’s 4:30 p.m. class on Tuesday had at least one open space between them as a further buffer. (Another 22 participated via online streaming links.)

Boot camps encompass multiple exercises done in quick succession over the length of a class. Friedman’s clients performed three sets each of 10 different body-weight movements in 25-second increments, with 10-second breathers before the next set began.

April Mason did most of her reps with a smile on her face.

“It gets to be hard,” said Mason, of White River Junction, a postal carrier with nearly 900 customers along Lebanon’s Wolf Road and Mount Support Road. “With this group, we always gave each other high-fives and stuff like that, so you have to learn to step back a little bit. Having these parking spots are a good reminder to us to kind of keep our distance. We stay in our own little square.”

Dumont hasn’t been immune to the business consequences of the virus. Closing her studios meant letting part-time instructors go. Both she and full-timer Friedman led Tuesday’s classes with Ronna Gendron, a furloughed coach who helped “out of the kindness of her heart,” Friedman said.

When a jogger came upon the class in mid-routine, Friedman exchanged a thumbs-up with him. A cyclist briefly stopped to watch before pedaling away. A mall worker observed from a loading dock 100 yards in the distance while taking a cigarette break. All the while, Friedman’s voice ricocheted over the music and off a closed jewelry store, the neighboring block plant, the post office on the other side of the river.

After 30 minutes followed by a short stretch, Friedman sent her charges around the lot on one-lap jog — reminding them to maintain 6 feet of separation and accompanied by Europe’s The Final Countdown — before giving her vocal chords a break. Until the next class.

“Everybody knows we’re not using equipment or anything, so they’re not touching anything,” Dumont said. “We’re doing virtual high-fives, virtual hugs, virtual love taps. Yeah, I think we’ve abided by the rules.”

Greg Fennell can be reached at gfennell@vnews.com or 603-727-3226.




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