EAST NORTHPORT, NY — Since the coronavirus pandemic shuttered Long Island gyms in March, owners of independent and boutique gyms were left scrambling for ways to keep business going and stay busy. Edwin Rivera owns New York Fitness and Boxing (NYFB) in East Northport and he saw the forced closure as a chance to address a question his daughter Alexia, who has Down’s Syndrome, asked him two years ago: “Two years ago she wanted to know why there were no classes for people like her.”
The question stuck with Rivera and when COVID-19 hit he had time to come up with an answer. He developed a new online class held over Zoom for those with disabilities and special needs called The BoxFitness Experience.
NYFB opened in 2014 and trains clients with boxing-inspired workouts. The gym offers group classes, private training and self defense instruction. Like many small gyms across Long Island the COVID-19 crisis has been a major struggle for the gym.
“While we understand the Covid-19 concerns, many private fitness studios like mine will not survive this pandemic. In fact, many have already closed and plan to file for Chapter 11. This of course has negatively affected our ability to pay our trainers and our overhead expenses. Worst of all, our customers are left alone to try and train themselves at home with little to no guidance or direction. With no physical outlet, many are now dealing with weight gain, depression and other mental illnesses.”
Those with special needs are especially hard hit by the interruption to their structured routines, Rivera says.
“Camps and schools closed, forcing parents to come up with creative ways to keep their children engaged. If left unchecked, some children will turn to unhealthy stemming behaviors.”
The Zoom classes help the students interact socially, make new friends, give them an outlet to burn energy and improve their fitness, Rivera told Patch.
“When they complete the class together you can visibly see the sense of accomplishment in their eyes. Some are excited to try something new, others have their reservations, but regardless of the disposition we find a way to win them over and keeping them asking for more.”
Boxing fitness routines are important cardiovascular training for those with special needs, who can often have lower than normal metabolisms. And the benefits are also mental, Rivera points out: “Boxing requires focus and discipline and when done right helps build confidence and self-esteem. It’s a terrific stress reliever and is often used to channel aggression in the right direction, especially for those who deal with behavioral issues.”
This article originally appeared on the Northport Patch