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Wellness in the Time of COVID-19

“I really encourage people to take care of themselves,” said Kim Maedke-Shumway, a massage therapist and owner of The Spa at Sacred Grounds in Ephraim. 

It’s good advice at any time, but especially during the COVID-19 outbreak because data suggest that the disease is much more deadly for people with underlying medical conditions such as heart disease and diabetes. However, because hers is a “nonessential business” under Gov. Tony Evers’ Safer at Home order, Maedke-Shumway and other wellness and fitness professionals haven’t been able to provide their services in person since March 25.

Some, including Jan Mills, a teacher and owner of the Door County Yoga studio, have taken their services online. Mills teaches two classes a week using Zoom, and although she admits that learning to use the new platform was an adjustment, students have logged on. Twenty participated in her most recent class.

“There’s been a good response,” she said. “Better than I expected.”

Others, including The Pearl of Door County, Junction Center Yoga and the Door County YMCA, are also offering some classes online. 

For Ashley Lusk, a personal trainer and owner of Homebody Personal Training, working online with her clients isn’t always an option.

“Many of my elderly clients I am not able to work with because, one, they don’t know how to use or don’t have the resources to use Skype or FaceTime, or, two, some of them are so hands-on that I wouldn’t be able to do my work online.”

For those who can’t connect through a video platform, she writes out personalized workouts that they can do without equipment. She’s also posting workouts on her Facebook page. 

Even for professionals who can offer services online, the coronavirus outbreak is creating serious financial repercussions. 

“It’s devastating,” Mills said. Her two online classes a week are a far cry from the typical 12 to 15 the studio offers, and she’s offering them for free and, in most cases, taking just donation-based payment.

“Everybody’s in a financially stressful situation. I didn’t want to pass that burden on.”

Lusk agreed, noting that many of her working-age clients are themselves in “nonessential businesses” that are closed now, and they’re uncertain about what the summer tourism season will mean for their own livelihoods.

“A lot of people are being conservative with their money, and unfortunately, I think fitness can be one of the first things to drop to the wayside.”

Any such drop can set off a ripple effect throughout the economy. Bay-Lake Regional Planning Commission provides data to help communities with comprehensive planning, economic development and more. It looked at the economic impact of two broad health-related categories: fitness and recreational sports centers, and “other personal-care services,” a category that includes massage businesses, saunas, tanning salons and more. According to the commission’s data, those two industries contributed $1.4 million to the county’s gross regional product in 2019.

Lusk has applied for an SBA loan. Mills said that because her landlord was able to get some relief from the bank, he’s giving her a break on her rent for May. 

Although exercise professionals can sometimes provide their services online, there’s no going virtual for Maedke-Shumway’s massage-therapy business. 

In the meantime, she’s forwarded her business phone to her personal line so that she can take gift-card orders and schedule appointments for the future. Maedke-Shumway said she hopes she’ll be able to open by mid-June, but like others, she’s living with the uncertainty that the virus has created for her business. She said it’s scary, but she’s positive business will be back. 

“I’ve talked to a few people who canceled and then rebooked for midsummer, and they’re very excited about being back and giving us their business because they love the spa. That keeps me encouraged.”

As Mills plans for summer, she said she’ll likely move from her usual one Saturday class in the park to holding all of her yoga classes in the park so students can spread out more. She also plans to continue hosting classes online, even when she’s allowed to reopen her studio.

Mills framed this forced slowing down as a rare opportunity for people to reprioritize and “really deliberately decide how you’re going to live your life now.” She said she hopes that one of the positive things that comes from this crisis is that people realize what is truly essential to them.

“The things that really bring us joy are really simple and nonmaterial: our community, our relationships and our health.” 

Until this outbreak is behind us, Lusk offered some advice: “Just move every day. Get outside. Find an activity that you enjoy, and just do something that makes you feel good. I don’t think now is the time to take up a hard-core workout regimen. I think being nice to our bodies and doing something that brings enjoyment to our lives is most important right now.”

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