When Gov. Jay Inslee ordered all nonessential businesses to shut in March to try and stem the spread of the coronavirus, personal trainers, gyms and fitness-studio owners found themselves scrambling to figure out how to continue providing services to their clients.

Many Seattle-area fitness professionals turned to social-media outlets such as Instagram, Facebook and YouTube to continue offering free workouts to their communities. Since then, social-media workouts and homemade equipment, in some cases, have become part of people’s daily lives during the stay-home order.

“When it was obvious that we would all be stuck at home for a while, I committed to putting out a new workout on a daily basis,” said Kaisa Keranen, personal trainer and owner of KaisaFit. “In times of need, I think it’s important to do what we can to help out those around us and I wanted to give people direction and encouragement when it came to taking care of themselves at home.”

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Social-media workouts allow trainers to interact with people from all over the world, something that just isn’t possible in the gym. Instructors say that receiving messages and comments after someone has completed the workout brings joy and keeps them motivated to keep posting.

Andrew Hirsch, customer experience officer of Urban Yoga Spa downtown, believes in the power of harnessing connectivity via group activities, even if it has to be done virtually. An aerospace buff, Hirsh turned to advice from astronauts, who endure long periods of time alone in a contained environment. For instance, Hirsch read about how, to feel connected with people back home, an astronaut might hop on the space station’s treadmill at the same time a friend might be running a 5K on Earth.

“They recommend doing group activities at the same time as their friends and loved ones are doing on Earth,” Hirsch said.

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Working out from home when you’re used to a gym filled with weights and other equipment calls for creativity.

Some local gyms have allowed clients to borrow equipment for the duration of the stay-home order, while others have seen their clients use a number of common household items as inventive substitutes for workout equipment. The list includes laundry-detergent jugs, weighted backpacks, soup cans and wine and liquor bottles. Yoga studios have suggested books or mugs to use as balance props and towels or belts for use as straps.

Keranen posts workout videos to her Facebook and Instagram pages regularly using objects that range from suitcases filled with books or clothes, Dutch ovens, tennis shoes, to even toilet paper.

Other suitable household items include:

  • Bags of beans
  • Flour, rice or sugar sacks
  • Water bottles of varying sizes — to increase weight, use pebbles or sand instead of water
  • Rope (for TRX-style workouts)
  • Paint cans
  • Buckets — fill with water, sand, rocks or even cement
  • Cast-iron skillet

David Jofre, founder of boxing gym Axtion Club in Belltown, said one of his clients taped together rolls of quarters to make the 3-pound dumbbells required for class. “I found it genius, and the best part is that they were cheaper than buying [them]!”

For the more ambitious, there are options for making your own weights at home. As with anything else, use your discretion, be careful and be mindful of your fitness level and abilities. It’s always a good idea to check with your physician before embarking on any new fitness routines. Also, when in doubt, err on the side of lighter weights that you are confident you’ll be able to safely use while maintaining good form.

Homemade sandbags

Toss gallon-sized zip-top freezer bags filled with sand into a duffle bag. Add as many as you like to adjust the weight to your preference.

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You can hoist the bag over your shoulders for step-ups, stair climbs, squats and lunges.

Quarter hand weights

One Axtion Club client turned rolls of quarters into 3-pound dumbbells. (Courtesy of Kaitlyn Bush)
One Axtion Club client turned rolls of quarters into 3-pound dumbbells. (Courtesy of Kaitlyn Bush)

If you have rolls of quarters, you can give them another life as dumbbells. Take 12 rolls of quarters and rubber band them together in pairs. Four pairs will act as the ends of the dumbbells, while the other two pairs will serve as the center grip.

Use duct tape to fasten them together to shape the weight.

DIY water-jug kettlebell

This kettlebell hack is easy peasy. Simply fill a one-gallon milk or water jug with sand, cap it off and use like you would a kettlebell.


Here’s a sampling of Seattle-area trainers and gyms that post workouts throughout the week on their social-media platforms:

KaisaFit, Seattle

@KaisaFit (Instagram) and facebook.com/kaisafit (Facebook). Daily workouts hosted on Instagram Live. Kaisa also sells affordable workout programs that can be performed at home, without the need for special equipment.

Urban Yoga Spa, Downtown

@urbanyogaspa (Instagram) and Urban Yoga Spa (YouTube). Check on Instagram for Instagram Live classes; see also livestreaming, donation-based schedule.

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Industrious, Lynnwood, South Lake Union

@workhardlivefit (Instagram) and Crossfit Industrious (YouTube). Daily WOD (workout of the day) on Instagram TV.

Rival Fitness Seattle, Capitol Hill

@rivalfitness (Instagram). Workouts posted to Instagram feed and hosted on Instagram Live.

NW Fitness Project, Fremont

@nwfitnessproject (Instagram). Instagram Live workouts on Saturdays and Sundays, plus short workouts posted on the Instagram feed.