Tribeca Fitness Trainer Lee McConnell, how Covid changed my profession
Posted by Wei Min Tan on July 2, 2020
Tribeca fitness trainer Lee McConnell of Church Street Boxing Gym focuses on high intensity boot camp style workouts. I have been working out for the past 30 years and have attended every type of class at gyms including Equinox and New York Sports Club. Lee’s is the most intense HIIT style training of all.
While HIIT gives you rest periods in between, Lee’s style is HIIT without the rest. We do this for one hour, every weekday morning at 7am (pre-pandemic). Now we do it online via Zoom on a limited schedule. The following is an interview with Lee on how COVID-19 has affected his profession.
Tell us about yourself
I grew up in Newark, NJ and attended Berkeley College for both my Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees. As a trainer, I am certified by the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM).
Prior to fitness, I was an accountant for 12 years. While I’ve always trained people as it’s my passion, I transitioned into being a full-time fitness trainer in 2016. Pushing clients to breaking point and seeing their improvement is a lot more fulfilling than running spreadsheets.
Describe your training style?
I am a high intensity trainer. HIIT style workouts but without the rest component. Example: Pyramid of push ups going from 10 to 1. Then going back up from 1 to 10. This totally burns out the shoulders. While high intensity is extremely effective with fitness goals, it is important to gauge clients’ responses with every exercise to avoid injury.
How has COVID-19 changed your role as a fitness trainer?
Since the lockdown in March 2020, we have been doing everything virtually, via Zoom, Facetime or IG Live.
A big part of my role is delivering energy and transferring that energy to push clients further. With in-person training (pre-pandemic), I could better evaluate how far to push and better read feedback from clients. With the music blasting in the background and me being able to walk by and around each client, I could manage the workouts better. I could read their responses and evaluate how much further to push more effectively.
Initially, with online training, it was harder to deliver the same level of energy and read body language feedback. This is because I am looking at a screen and it was a new experience. Over the months, I have dramatically developed the skill of transferring energy through the screen. With two-way video, I see that clients still react to me, albeit through a screen! I have also become a lot more aware in terms of reading body language feedback through video.
Which is your preferred technology?
Zoom and Facetime are preferred because I get to see my clients. IG Live does not provide that two-way viewing so it’s like me working out by myself and looking into the camera.
Has your income been affected?
Yes, income has decreased between 30 to 40 percent as result of COVID. The lockdown took away my ability to do mitt work training which many of my clients want.
What positives came out of this?
I came to understand the power of technology, eg Zoom and Facetime. Technology allowed me to keep driving clients despite being in different locations. People can still meet their fitness goals. I’ve also gained a few international clients.
Before the lockdown, I consistently posted Instagram stories and feeds. These were viewed by people in different cities. During a trip to L.A., I was working out at a local gym there and people came up to me to ask if I was Leemss on Instagram! That was my first realization of the far reaching effects of technology.
Technology is allowing us new ways of doing things. Fitness training is one way. During the lock down people from as far away as India joined my Instagram Live classes. Now I have a client living in the United Kingdom who I train via Zoom. The fitness industry is changing. I am adapting.
Lee McConnell can be reached at: