PORTLAND—Jennifer Smithers of Portland, Oregon, used to belong to a gym, in pre-pandemic times. But, like millions of women in this country, she left the workforce due to COVID. She was unable to keep up with the essential deadlines at her job working as an art director for a novelty sock company while nursing her infant and facilitating online school for her kindergartner.
“It all became too much,” Smithers says via a Zoom phone interview, explaining why she canceled her Equinox membership. Her living room behind her is strewn with toys, books, a Peloton, a weight bench, a Pilates reformer, a couch, a TV, an ergonomic desk currently being used as a drying rack for cloth diapers, and various bands and weights. Pilates balls of several sizes litter the carpet and her infant is currently pinned under a yoga block.
“As much as I would have loved to keep the gym membership, it was pointless to keep throwing money away on something I wasn’t using. Even with the extra cleaning and safety precautions, I wouldn’t go because it’s just not worth it without the eucalyptus towels or the Juice Press.”
So, what’s a mother to do? Fortunately, in the age of COVID, many exercise companies have pivoted to include online subscriptions.
“I started with a Barre membership,” Smithers says, showing us her makeshift ballet barre, the back of the baby’s crib, “because it requires very little gear.” All she needs for a workout is several resistance bands, a special branded ball, a barre, and some light hand weights, which she purchased on Amazon when demand for home fitness equipment was at an all-time high.
Smithers didn’t stop at the barre, though. “Then, a friend convinced me to hop on the Peloton bandwagon. Okay, so maybe we’re not actually friends, but I follow her on Instagram.”
“I love it. So inspiring. It cost more than our mortgage for the bike and that first month, but then it’s just the monthly fee, so it’s worth it for all the workout access as long as I do at least 30 classes per month. And I can watch recorded classes and do them when I’m up early with the baby.” So far, Jennifer has taken three classes, but she remains optimistic the Peloton will soon pay for itself.
From there, however, the obsession spiraled, perhaps out of control. Smithers is now paying for 15 different at-home workout subscriptions ranging from Pilates to Jazzercise. Tomorrow, she’s signed up for one virtual HIIT class, a yoga Zoom, and a Zoomba (that’s Zoom Zumba), all of which she plans to attend with her camera and mic off, in case she needs to dip out partway through—whether it be because one of her children starts crying or because her muscles do.
“You know what they say—the best workout is the one you enjoy doing,” she explains. “So I’m gonna keep trying to find it.”
Smithers says she doesn’t ever see herself returning to Equinox because it “just isn’t worth the money.”
“It’s hard to justify the expense now that I can do everything right here in my living room,” she says.
“Better to spend money on things I really can’t get anywhere else, instead of throwing money at convenience,” she adds, while using her most recent HelloFresh shipment as a plyo box.
Image: Logan Weaver / Unsplash