Health gains from screen time? You bet! SilverSneakers LIVE instructor Wendy Cotham shares the best reasons to bring your workouts home.
SilverSneakers LIVE instructor Wendy Cotham discovered the joy of group fitness in 1998 when she was in college.
“I fell in love with it as soon as I walked into the studio,” she recalls. “I thought, ‘This is what I was born to do!’”
Her first experience training older adults came in 2000 when she began teaching water aerobics at her local YMCA in Greenville, South Carolina — where she still teaches today.
Cotham began teaching SilverSnneakers LIVE virtual classes in 2020 and says she’s “all in!” In any given week, she’s leading everything from the perennial favorites SilverSneakers Classic and SilverSneakers Circuit, to some of the newer offerings, like Yoga Pilates Fusion and Line Dancing.
In many ways, leading online classes poses more of a challenge for instructors, she says. But it’s one she happily meets head-on.
Without the advantage of being in the same room, for example, Cotham does a lot of prep work to find the best way to clearly describe individual exercises and modifications.
“I’ve had to ask myself, if someone was blind, how would I coach them to do the Pilates leg series? How should it feel to them?” she explains. “I bring that level of detail and coaching to every online class.”
Like all SilverSneakers instructors, she performs suggested modifications on-screen for viewers. She also shares valuable tips so members at home can check their form and do self-assessments of their progress.
Along the way, Cotham’s discovered some unexpected benefits to online fitness classes. Here are some of her most fascinating insights.
Get and stay fit with SilverSneakers! Classes and events are happening daily at participating gyms, online through SilverSneakers LIVE, and at community centers near you. Activate your free online account to get started.
1. Online Classes Can Be More Intimate Than In-Person Ones
“It’s a lot more engaging than people would think or that I thought at first,” Cotham says. “When I teach a class in person, sometimes I don’t get to say everybody’s name at the beginning of class. In virtual, everyone’s saying, ‘Good morning,’ so I’m getting to speak to them individually.”
There’s also a 10-minute period of chat time before and after class, which contributes to a feeling of community. It’s a luxury she doesn’t always have in the rushed world of in-person fitness.
“In many ways, you form more of a connection when you meet virtually,” she says.
2. Intimidation Falls by the Wayside
People also tend to be less intimidated, if at all, by virtual classes versus in-person ones, Cotham says. “It’s easier to try new things at home. Plus, people can start where they are.”
Nobody can see you on-screen, she explains, so there’s no fear of judgment. You can take things at your own pace without worry. Beginners can start out with a few 15-minute express classes, for example, and work up to longer, more advanced sessions.
“We have everything from Yoga Flow, which is advanced, to a beginner-friendly 15-minute Seated Strength class,” she says.
Work out with Wendy Cotham!A few of the classes she leads include Cardio Mix, Cardio & Strength (Express), Line Dancing, Seated Strength (Express), SilverSneakers Circuit, SilverSneakers Classic, and Yoga Pilates Fusion. View the SilverSneakers LIVE schedule and RSVP here.
3. It’s Easy to Add Variety
If variety is the spice of life, SilverSneakers LIVE classes can definitely spice things up.
“When I was starting out in the fitness world, it was really about, ‘How hard can I go? How fast can I go?’ And now with SilverSneakers LIVE, it’s more about holistic wellness components,” Cotham says.
The message Cotham shares with her students is to worry less about “going hard every single workout” and to simply focus on adding movement to your daily life, in whatever form you choose.
“One day you might feel like doing yoga, the next day you do strength training, and the next day you take a walk,” Cotham says.
Virtual training makes this kind of variety more accessible, she explains, especially with the wide range of offerings through SilverSneakers LIVE.
“Once members try new things, they are continuing to mix it up,” she says.
Not eligible for SilverSneakers?You can still get 200+ free SilverSneakers On-Demand videos and stay in touch with us bycreating your online account.
4. Everyone Benefits
Like all SilverSneakers instructors, Cotham stresses functionality during her LIVE classes. She realized that certain fitness movements mimic those required to do daily activities. And she hears first-hand about the positive benefits members experience during those pre- and post-class chats.
“I’ve had people say, ‘It’s so much easier to get out of bed in the morning’” after taking an online class regularly, she says.
“I think we’ve just been ingrained for so long to do things like stationary lunges that we don’t actually do in daily life,” she continues. “For me, it’s more about, ‘What can we do that we are going to do on a daily basis?’”
Cotham recalls one member who started out doing 15-minute Seated Strength classes. “She did that for a month and built up her strength, and now she is able to stand and do SilverSneakers Classic for about 30 minutes before she has to sit.”
And members aren’t the only ones who benefit. “As an instructor, I’ve really improved my balance and my brain,” Cotham says.
The virtual format not only forced her to develop a more descriptive coaching method, but it has also stretched her thinking, especially when it comes to choreography.
“With Line Dancing, for example, it’s a lot of brain training. If we do a four-corner dance and I’ll be facing all four walls, I have to really use my brain to teach—because my left is your right, and so on.”
Some benefits of online fitness training happen right away, and others may take a week or two, or more.
“Just keep going and take things at your own speed. Regardless of your pace,” Cotham says. “We all get better together.”