MANHATTAN BEACH, Calif. — Talk about starting 2021 on the right foot. Barely 11 hours after the clock struck midnight, Sarah Fontenot arrived at Club Pilates in Manhattan Beach ready for class.

This is the first year the location has offered classes on the morning of January 1, and nearly every machine was booked.

What You Need To Know

  • Club Pilates in Manhattan Beach now offers limited-capacity outdoor classes amid the pandemic

  • Classes at the studio were completely booked on New Year's Day

  • Group fitness will hopefully see a post-pandemic resurgence due to the communal setting's appeal

For Fontenot, this isn’t a new year’s resolution made and quickly abandoned. This is a welcome return.

“I think health and fitness is essential to feeling strong,” she said. “That’s what matters the most: How do you feel inside of your body.”

When studios and gyms shut down at the start of the pandemic, Fontenot, who had been attending pilates classes for a year, took a break from working out and felt it.

"First three months, I wasn’t doing anything," she said. "And then I noticed my body started to change, and I was like 'Whoa, OK Sarah!'"

She started working out to YouTube videos — no equipment, just body weight — and said it was effective but, just before the turn of the calendar, joined Club Pilates. Happy as she is to be back on the machine after an eight-month hiatus, what Fontenot missed most was the comradery.

"It’s nice to talk to each other, just the energy of being around people," she said. "It makes a big difference.”

Paul Bocage from Club Pilates explained that it’s that attitude that will likely save the fitness industry, which has had a pretty tough year. While some gyms have taken a huge financial hit, his studio was able to move into the parking lot a few months ago, rolling the reformers in and out every day — a two-person job that takes about a half an hour.

While their outdoor classes are gaining strength, they're still limited and operating below their usual levels.

“At our normal capacity, we’re able to have 12 students and reformers inside the studio,” said Bocage. “We are limited to just nine students and nine reformers outside.”

That also limits the amount of revenue they can make, but he’s optimistic. This January may not bring the surge gyms usually see at the beginning of the year, and people who have found ways to exercise at home or outside on their own may be reluctant to pay for a membership again, but Bocage thinks that post-pandemic, group fitness will see a resurgence due to the communal setting.

“I think that will be the big one,” he said. “Get back in shape, always important, but really look to find communities, connect with teachers, connect with other students.”

Fontenot hopes people will give those new year’s resolutions a chance. People automatically want to be Olympians, she explained, when really they need to start small. For those of us who have put on a few pandemic pounds from baking bread and binge watching, her advice is to make a goal to exercise for five minutes a day and grow from there.

“That’s one of my favorite scriptures: Don’t despise small beginnings,” she said. “Go for it! You got this! New year! Let’s get it!”

A little motivation to get moving, as we all resolve to have a healthy new year.