Flex and the City: Virtual Insanity

Michael Byrne, pictured just before the start of an ultramarathon. Courtesy photo

West Hartford resident Michael Byrne introduces his new column offering a community-oriented approach to wellness, ‘Flex and the City.’

By Michael Byrne

Neighbors and friends – let me first start off by stating that this column was meant to launch over a year ago.

This past year has turned everything on end with the majority of life feeling like it’s on permanent delay, including this column … until now (pretty dramatic entrance, am I right?).

At the core of this column is community, and I think that this year has taught us how vital a community is in our lives – how we desperately need it to thrive and in order to thrive it truly takes every resident’s participation.

Starting with our healthcare professionals working well beyond overtime, to the teachers adapting to virtual lesson plans, to grocers who enable us to shop for food and mountains of toilet paper, these are essential workers we’ve never needed more than we do right now. We really are in this together, more tightly knit than ever before.

We need to now learn the weight of this connectedness, to have pride in it, celebrate it.

This column is meant to be an avenue to do just that: celebrate our community. Focused on fitness, nutrition, and general wellness, “Flex and the City” is meant to explore, inform and create. This column will serve as a vehicle to channel our collective interest and questions related to health and wellness – ranging from nutrition strategies and knowledge on the many dietary paths in our society, to the different ways to remain active and fit, FC will share this exploration all in an effort to inform. It will inform with dual purpose – to answer the questions and share knowledge on the variety of wellness topics we explore and also to shine a light on the plethora of fitness/nutrition/wellness experts and small businesses in our community.

By exploring and informing, we will create deeper relationships in our community and learn a bit more about many of those who live, work and play here.

If you stop and think about it, their roles in life are quite simply, to help you get better … if that’s not something to celebrate, I’m not sure what is.

Like many industries, the fitness industry (locally, regionally, nationally) has all but ceased to function in light of the pandemic. Spaces typically packed with people in close proximity all while GETTING MAJOR GAINZ was not exactly the petri dish solution to stop the spread and eradicate COVID-19 so accordingly, the businesses were forced to close at times, and/or severely reduce the number of people physically in the gym – ultimately hurting so many small businesses from and fearing for their ability to weather the pandemic’s storm.

Knock me down nine times but I get up 10 (I think Cardi B said that). Many proprietors learned and deployed virtual training resources and technology platforms to not only keep businesses afloat but to also support all of us through combat-added stress as we struggle to make managing pandemic life a bit easier. These, along with many other strategies, enabled our health and wellness small businesses (along with other industries) to remain and help hold this component of our community intact.

I’d like to acknowledge the tremendously challenging times small business owners have endured over the last year but also celebrate the resiliency of these businesses and shine a light on the many positives that are still happening despite the unique challenges we presently face. Positive instances including but not limited to our fitness community:

  • A change in ownership and major energy injection at Cyclebar West Hartford, with congratulations to Cheryl Olschefski Rocco and Diana Olschefski Reimer!
  • Major shoutout to one of WeHa’s new editions – F45! Navigating a pandemic all while building out a brand new space, dealing with construction, promotion and more is so very impressive. Best of luck to Lauren and Rob Lansing!
  • Ignite Fitness for expanding to a second location in Avon! Keep going Kim Zengerle and team!
  • All the studios that rapidly embraced virtual training and on-demand classes including FWJ, BodyRoc, Knockout Fitness, and so many more.
  • And to all for adjusting class capacities, creating different layouts and formats, enforcing masks, and enhancing cleaning protocols to ensure that those that do come into the studio are as safe and comfortable as possible.

I’m certain there were likely many more positive happenings, and I would love to learn more to in turn celebrate you with our broader community through this platform. Know that it is not with intent that you were not mentioned – simply I did not know about it.

I’m optimistic that this platform will help to expand my reach and share all activities related to fitness and wellness to avoid this hypothetical scenario to play out. Please find my contact information at the bottom.

Through my own journey for fitness and wellness I’ve had the great fortune to meet many of these experts I refer to and many which I call friends. It seems that my interest in fitness becomes a frequent topic in conversations (because I really don’t shut up about it) with friends, and in this forum I’m able to explore, inform and create on a small scale.

One of such friends I’ve had the good fortune to connect with is Ronni Newton [editor of this publication]. Being a fellow person with their ear to the ground in our community, we quickly had a lot in common and through discussion and significant strong arming on my part (see what I did there) we thought a wellness-focused column had promise and I “sounded like I knew what I was talking about” slightly more than carnival ride attendants so it was to be so! The only words of encouragement from Ronni were “don’t screw this up” (kidding Ronni! :)) and the process began.

I sincerely hope you find this read worth your time, please share any thoughts, comments, criticism, and more directly to me, I want to make this a platform that truly is of value to you.  Also, if you have ideas on topics to explore or people to connect with, I would love to hear from you. Please feel free to email me at [email protected] and find out what I’m up to on Instagram (@_nodadbod.)

Check in with you soon and hope to see you (socially distanced of course) around town soon.  Thank you to all of our essential workers for all that you do.

Let’s get better together.


A version of this article also appeared in the March 2021 issue of West Hartford LIFE

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