I HUNG ONTO online workout classes as long as possible. When my gym stopped offering them, I grumbled. My gym had lots of safety protocols, so I felt secure going in person. Still, after months of doing everything at my house — sleep, eat, work, exercise, repeat — going to the gym felt inconvenient. I had to put on shoes, after working out barefoot at home. I had to leave early enough to drive, instead of sliding into an online class one minute before it started. I got home later, which delayed dinner in the evening.

How Seattle-area gyms (and gym members) have kept their movement communities together during the pandemic — and why that matters so much

It all sounds silly, and yet it felt arduous. The pandemic had ingrained the habit of never leaving my house, except to walk my dog.

But once I made it to the gym and was around people I had seen only online — or not at all — I felt energized. Workouts were more intense. I loved talking to my gym buddies about how amazing it was to have a full array of dumbbells, kettlebells and barbells again.

Once I got back into the routine, I loved it.

But I wasn’t the only person who resisted the return. When yoga studios where I used to teach reopened their doors, many students didn’t come back in person. I saw friends give up gym memberships for their Peloton bikes. I watched people work out in newly created home gyms.

I grew curious about the cost of doing it solo. I wondered about the connection people get from the movement communities that keep us mentally and physically healthy, how the studios stayed connected to their communities and fought to keep their doors open through constant change, and how it affected our collective mental health.

I no longer bemoan the effort it takes to go to the gym. It’s worth it to see my friends, to move my body and to feel part of something bigger than myself again.