'It makes my day' - Pilates teacher on helping vulnerable clients in Covid
- Credit: Danielle Booden
When the UK was forced into lockdown in March, everything changed and this was no different for gyms and fitness teachers.
Helen Pybus, 54, of Oulton Broad, Lowestoft, has been teaching Pilates and helping to improve the physical and mental wellbeing of people in the community for 20 years in Lowestoft and Southwold.
When lockdown came, not only did she acknowledge the toll it would have personally, she realised that for many of the vulnerable people who used her services as a vital release from the stresses of life, that she had to do something to help.
The much loved Pilates teachers says she was 'horrified' when lockdown was announced and described herself as a 'technophobe' at the time.
Fast forward nine months and Mrs Pybus has become runner up in Female Fitness instructor of the Year with the prestigious Fit Pro Awards UK and has presented Pilates masterclasses online all over the world.
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Talking about her initial reaction to being placed in lockdown, Mrs Pybus said: "I think the best word that I could use is 'horrified'.
"I expected in my own mind that it was coming, but when it was announced the reality of that scared the life out of me because I knew at that point I would have to take my business online.
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"I am an absolute technophobe and the thought of not knowing even when to start was so scary."
Once lockdown was announced, Mrs Pybus had no choice but to take the initiative and sit down for two to three weeks for 16 hours a day with three devices self-teaching how to set up her teaching online.
Being longlisted at first for the Fit Pro Award UK came as a huge surprise for Mrs Pybus.
She said: "I had absolutely no idea that I had been nominated until I got contacted by the Fit Pro Awards and they said I had been longlisted to 19 for the Female Fitness Instructor of the Year category.
"At first I thought it was a hoax but then I recognised another name of a fellow presenter so I contacted her and she confirmed it was true."
Mrs Pybus was then shortlisted into the final seven and then came second.
Describing the moment she found out, Mrs Pybus said: "I was absolutely shocked, truly shocked, that at the grand young age of 54 and the only Pilates teacher in this category amongst a pedigree of phenomenal teachers to come second, it was an absolute honour.
"My clients were absolutely elated, my fellow presenter colleagues were elated and had the most amazing support through the Fit Pro Awards."
Mrs Pybus is back teaching some classes face to face but says the Covid pandemic has changed the way she operates.
She has a platform now set up on her website that allows vulnerable clients to pick a Pilates class with a private password which allows Mrs Pybus to continue teaching 52 weeks a year.
She said: "Many of my clients are in the vulnerable category and want to stay online.
"No matter what Covid throws at me and my clients, my clients can access Pilates seven days a week either in a community class or online with a password.
"It's not just the physical exercise that I give to them, it is the mental aspect that I give to them as well.
"Seeing a familiar face on their phone or tablet, somebody who is going to brighten up their day and make them smile is what makes my day because many of them haven't left their house for nine months.
"It's been quite the journey and one I am truly proud of not only for what I have given for my classes but for my personal achievements that I didn't think I was capable of doing."
Many of Mrs Pybus' clients and colleagues have fallen on hard times because of the pandemic and she offers them classes free of charge if they are struggling.
Mrs Pybus is offering a one week free trial to new members who would like to join her Pilates class and try it out for the first time at the beginning of January.