When the Covid-19 pandemic forced the closure of Derby City Council’s sports facilities, Derby City Council’s Derby Active team quickly adapted, transforming their service into Derby Active at Home.

Now the online fitness programme is going from strength to strength, attracting thousands of views since its launch less than three months ago. Originally set up for Derby Active members at no cost, the service is also welcoming many non-members.

A regular timetable of live classes on Facebook is complemented by articles on the Derby Active at Home web page with weekly recipes, training programmes, running advice, and tips for physical and mental wellbeing. Videos are streamed live, but can be watched again afterwards. Virtual cycling sessions, health and fitness tips, gymnastics coaching videos and Learn to Swim activities have all gone online.

More than 1,100 people have now signed up to the Derby Active Group Exercise Facebook group, which has transformed from a small group of just 100 members before lockdown into Derby Active At Home’s portal for streaming live fitness classes. The class group has created an ‘online community’ where everyone is welcome to join, chat and get active together.

The Derby Active team are now turning their attention to planning for the re-opening of sports and leisure facilities in a safe way, ready for when the Government gives the go-ahead.

Councillor Robin Wood, Derby City Council’s Cabinet Member for Culture and Leisure, said:

“Usually, if you were setting up a new service from scratch it would take months to plan. The Covid-19 pandemic did not allow for that luxury, but the Derby Active team’s response has been amazingly positive. They have had to learn a lot of new skills very quickly to continue doing what they do best – putting the wellbeing of their members at the heart of everything they do. I am sure new members who have joined them online are looking forward to seeing this for themselves when our leisure centres are able to open and we can all enjoy them again.”

For the fitness instructors, learning about live video streaming, and adapting their classes to make them suitable for members to do at home has been challenging but rewarding. Lou Newton, based at Derby Arena, is the Studio Coordinator who has worked with the Health and Wellbeing Advisors to provide the online programme. She said:

“One of the big adaptations I’ve made is due to lack of space, but this can be easily overcome by offering options such as jogging on the spot rather than forwards and backwards. I’ve learnt just to give as many options, adaptations and progressions as possible to make sure everyone has a class that is tailored to their level.

“I can’t wait to get back to the Arena and deliver classes to members where I will be able to see their reactions, whether that’s a smile or a grimace. I’ve learnt a lot about teaching classes while streaming; and it has been a very beneficial journey and one I think we will be able to utilise going forwards.”

While the velodrome track has been closed at Derby Arena, the cycling team have been offering online sessions through a variety of platforms. A cycling training programme via TrainingPeaks has been made available to customers free of charge. The arena’s online Zwift workout is attracting more than 40 participants for each session, and hundreds of cyclists are taking part in weekly Zwift race nights and training sessions.

Customers can also access Zoom workouts twice a week, with 10 to 15 cyclists at each session. Three online Question and Answer sessions have attracted 1,642 views, and the Arena is regularly sharing content from British Cycling and associated coaches and clubs.

Head Track Coach Phil Kilpatrick said:

“Our next stage will be to look at the possibility of holding some recreational outdoor activities, following British Cycling advice, as the easing of restrictions allows.”

Gymnastics coaches have provided video online sessions suitable for all levels, from Springtots to Advanced. The team are sending out regular newsletters to members, providing gymnastic activity packs and are busy planning guidance for how their gymnasts can prepare for when coaching sessions start again.

Assistant Manager of Sport Development, Lauren Talbot said:

“We’ve had to change some of the skills our gymnasts would be practising with us, to make sure they stay safe while they’re at home.

“We’ve tried to provide sessions suitable for all our gymnasts and we’re ready to answer any questions our members have and help them continue their gymnastics. We’ve had some great feedback from customers, including one who said the videos were a great way to keep her daughter active, and her siblings had enjoyed joining in with her.”

Although swimming lessons can’t happen online, the Learn to Swim team have been busy updating their training ready for when they return. Activities for children to do at home, reminding them how to stay safe around open water, have been made available through monthly newsletters and a dedicated web page for Learn to Swim. The team have not stopped planning for the future, recruiting new instructors who have completed the theory part of their training, ready to achieve their practical training when the pools re-open.

Customer reaction to Derby Active At Home has been very positive, with one member commenting:

“Nothing beats being in the class for the trainer motivation but impressed with Derby Active for trying to cover things as best as possible. The trainers at Derby Active are all brilliant, I look forward to returning as soon as Government deem it safe. It makes me appreciate what we had even more. You should expect a tidal wave of returners and new members.”

Another member gave feedback that the online classes had really helped her through this time, and that they had been well organised and planned. She was thankful for the detailed explanations provided by the instructors and thought it makes the classes very easy to follow.

To get involved with Derby Active at Home, go to the dedicated webpage and find the Derby Active Exercise Group on Facebook.