There’s no question that exercise is one of the most nourishing activities you can do for your body, and an important part of that nourishment is sharing it with others. At Bellingham Training & Tennis Club, fitness and community go hand in hand.
But what happens when a pandemic shuts down the world and forces communities to reimagine the way they live and work together? Bellingham Training & Tennis instructors Kristyn Bitner and Elizabeth Sheinkopf teach fitness classes at each bookend of the day — Sheinkopf in the early morning and Bitner in the midday to evening hours. They’ve seen a shift since the pandemic and recently sat down with WhatcomTalk to spread the word and encourage folks to revisit their workout schedules and keep their self-care a top priority.
“I’ve been here for a year and a half, and have been personal training for eight years,” says Bitner. “At Bellingham Training & Tennis, I do one-on-one personal training and teach exercise, strength training, and cycle classes.” Sheinkopf has been at the Training center for 15 years and instructs small group training classes in all formats including TRX, strength training, and cycle classes. A complete list of classes and descriptions can be found here.
Bellingham Training & Tennis Club is not strictly for tennis players, offering many classes that can augment multiple disciplines. “Originally, it was just a tennis club and Robin and Doug have turned the training arm of it into a more general fitness, balance, and agility program,” Sheinkopf says. “It also really supports the tennis players who are members.”
Sheinkopf is the training center’s go-to early morning instructor, a role she thrives in.
“I’ve always been a morning person,” she says. “The reason I started to exercise in the early morning is because I had little tiny kids and my day was pretty packed. I would sneak out of the house with my shoes in my hand before they woke up.”
At the club, Sheinkopf teaches class at 5:45 a.m. four days a week, not including her hosting of other group classes. “I teach cycle on Tuesday and Thursday, and then I teach performance on Monday and Friday,” says Sheinkopf. “I teach classes at 7 a.m. and 8:30 a.m., as well as a couple of other cycle classes at 10:45 and 8:45 and 9:30 — all in the morning.”
When the world is still quiet and waking, those peaceful hours are some of the best times to get in a productive workout, freeing up the rest of your day and setting a positive, energizing tone.
“The great thing about early in the morning is there’s really nothing else going on,” Sheinkopf says. “You don’t have a lot of conflicts at five in the morning. As the day goes on, it’s really easy to let other things be the priority.”
On the flip side of the coin, there are plenty of benefits to working out at the end of your day, as well. “I’m the one who leans toward evening,” says Bitner. “As much as habits and trends have changed post-COVID — because there’s a lot more people working from home — we’ve seen a shift from super-packed classes in the p.m. time to it dwindling a little bit nowadays.”
Bitner teaches performance in strength training classes on Mondays and Wednesdays at 5:30 p.m., as well as body conditioning and cycle classes. “The best thing about an evening class is the fact you can decompress and de-stress in a healthy way if you’ve had a stressful day at work,” Bitner says. “Or if you have kids, you can take an hour for yourself as a form of self-care. Sometimes we throw medicine balls around and you can take out all your stress on the ball and get aggression out. Then you go home, you’re more relaxed, and you don’t take as much of the stress of your day home with you.”
The Merits of Group Exercise
As the world continues to peek bravely out from under the pandemic rock, exercising as a group is once again gaining popularity. “I think that it is incredibly motivating to be with a group, and I think there’s a lot of positives about it,” says Sheinkopf. “Bellingham Training & Tennis has an incredibly familial feel — people really look out for each other. If people feel like someone hasn’t been in class for a while, they feel like they should check in on them. There’s a lot of that kind of support happening.”
For those nervous about keeping germs away, the club’s environment is small and limited, and they keep the equipment and facilities sparkling clean.
“As someone who’s worked at small business gyms and also corporate gyms, this is a much different environment, because at those places you really are just a number as an instructor — it doesn’t matter what state your body is in,” Bitner says. “At a club like this, they allow you to be a human being. When things happen, we try and help each other and there’s a lot more community you can build. You can be yourself, which people appreciate.”
The community at Bellingham Training & Tennis Club has made the club a wonderful place for everyone to workout, including folks who have exercised together there for years and are close friends. “I’ve worked in clubs where you have a class full of 50 people,” says Sheinkopf. “People show up, and then they leave — they don’t talk and there’s no accountability or community. Here, I’ve seen people age and they’re just really good friends as the years go by. They love their classes partly because that’s where their friends are.”
Bitner’s philosophy for exercise perfectly encapsulates the positive and effective attitude Bellingham Training & Tennis Club is encouraging the community to try with the flexibility of morning and evening classes.
“The main component of your exercise should be 80% of something you enjoy doing,” Bitner says. “Your body doesn’t reject exercise if it is less than an hour. Finding something that you love, with people you enjoy, and doing that is what would most benefit you in the end.”
Find a complete list of BTTC classes and descriptions here.