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Berkshire Fitness staff members, from left, Nicole Armbrust, Robin Dufour and Amanda Bayliss.

Berkshire Fitness Expanding Presence on World Wide Web

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires Staff
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A screenshot of an early version of the BeFit Home web site that is under development.
 

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The Berkshire Fitness Co. was well positioned to continue serving its clients in a period when folks are holed up in their homes.

Now, it wants to take its message of holistic, individualized fitness to a global audience.
 
"Right now, I think it is an incredible time to get people's attention in terms of what we can do to take good care of ourselves," said physical therapist Robin Dufour, one of the founders of the company, known as BeFit.
 
While its physical home is on Water Street in Williamstown, "BeFit Home," the online presence it is developing, will expand the company's reach.
 
"We're going to share videos to inspire and revolutionize your whole health," Dufour said recently. "That's our grand vision, and it's coming together quickly."
 
Dufour said she and her collaborators both locally and internationally have been "working furiously" with their web developers to get the new site up and running. The some classes are being offered online this week.
 
"Right now we have 12 or 13 providers in Canada and the states," Dufour said. "We have a short list of another 110 people. Those are colleagues of ours in places all over the world — Moscow, Australia, Japan, all over Europe, South America. They're everywhere. They work with anything from regular people to professional athletes and everyone in between.
 
"I think diversity is one of the greatest things about putting together something like this."
 
Dufour likened Befit Home to a Netflix for fitness where users will have access to a curated collection of videos to help them maintain their bodies.
 
"The types of things that we do with people are not something that you have to go to the gym for," she said. "You don't even have to change your clothes or put on special shoes.
 
"What we've found over the years for people having aches and pains and discomfort is to sprinkle these little [movements] throughout the day. Look at how you're treating your body and connect that to how your body is treating you. We're trying to help people create new habits. That's what we find works for people."
 
She said she and her collaborators on BeFit Home are working out the details of how the new service will be funded — either by subscription fees or sponsorship.
 
Ultimately, the new site will allow users to follow links from one videos of one targeted exercise to other, related videos and make one-on-one connections with the fitness professionals generating the content.
 
"If you like what Donna said about this topic, then the next series you might want to say is what Steven in California said and what Chris up in Canada said and tie everything together," Dufour said. "It will all be tagged so we can provide more guidance.
 
"And also you'll be able to contact this person for more of what they offer. We're trying to make sure everybody is building more creative ways to help people, whether that's just starting with being able to say, ‘Let's do a 30-minute video consultation,' to anything else that might work."
 
In the meantime, BeFit continues to do what works for its local clients, even if they can't do so face-to-face.
 
"We do a lot of virtual sessions with people anyway," Dufour said. "We've done that for a while. For anything from consulting, second opinions on injuries and what they might be missing from their health care providers who they're seeing, helping them with training programs. We use a lot of video to support our in-person clients and our virtual clients. We have an app we've been using for years."
 
Dufour said she and her colleagues at BeFit have been focusing on virtual connections with their clients for five years because everyone had the phones in their pockets already, and it was a natural way to enhance their experience with the center.
 
"The days of drawing stick figures and photocopying sheets describing the exercises are over," she said. "Why not use the technology people have and are comfortable using already?"
 
She estimated about 20 percent of BeFit's clients are doing interactive, one-on-one virtual sessions. That includes some who work with physical therapist Nicole Armbrust, an Arizona transplant who has been able to keep her former client base while living and working in Williamstown and many who visit the Water Street studio in the summer and stay connected when they return to their full-time residences.
 
"We are starting to use the app with groups," she said. "We can create groups right now so people feel more connected with each other. We can create teams within the app and see comments from other people.
 
"But what we've used it mostly for is a communications app for us. That percentage of [clients] is about 95 percent."
 
And as the stay-at-home advisories keep area residents from participating in their regular day-to-day activities, BeFit is doing its part to help its neighbors stay fit.
 
"Starting this week, you can sign up for a $10 for a live, virtual class," Dufour said. "We're going to do that through Zoom. We've tried small groups through Zoom, but we're going to see how this works. You're never going to find something that suits everyone, but we're committed to finding the things that are valuable to the most people."
 
BeFit also is generating a series of workouts for Williamstown's community access television station, WilliNet, and on its own website, befitcompany.com, the company has created a free "five-day challenge" that gives users access to selected programs from the WilliNet series.
 
And as it creates the new BeFit Home platform, it is not forgetting about its real-world clients. In fact, the experience serving local clients informs the new website.
 
"Since we've been connecting with people for so long on video, we've been testing how real you can be in that environment," Dufour said. "The more real we are, it's like we're together, so it doesn't stay all heavy.
 
"We've just been blessed with the most amazing clients here. One thing we're trying to do in this new world is get creative and find all the ways we can serve our people, our communities."

Tags: exercise,   health & wellness,   

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Williamstown to Try Outdoor Dining on Spring Street Again Saturday

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires Staff
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Despite the vagaries of Mother Nature and the voices of those who raised concerns about the plan, the town plans to temporarily close Spring Street to vehicles the next two Saturday evenings to allow outdoor dining.
 
The initiative to help downtown restaurants that do not otherwise have outdoor space to set up tables was first tried on June 27.
 
Although the weather did not entirely cooperate that night, people who did have a chance to take advantage of the opportunity reacted positively on social media.
 
Organizers also got positive reactions, according to Jane Patton, the chair of the town's Select Board and vice president of the Williamstown Chamber of Commerce.
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