Denise Burgese is a big believer in staying fit.
The Williamstown resident is a PiYo fitness instructor at multiple South Jersey studios as well as an avid athlete who was training for the Cherry Blossom Run in Washington D.C. prior to the event’s cancellation due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Burgese also believes in staying safe during the pandemic. She has not ventured outside of her development of Willow Woods since March 16, saying her health outweighs all of her other needs.
“I’m not leaving my neighborhood,” Burgese said.
Even as her physical world has shrunk, Burgese has found a unique and safe way to continue teaching fitness. She and a few of her neighbors are periodically coming together for Curbside Cardio classes. These are 30-minute fitness classes where the participants work out more than six feet apart, abiding to the social distancing guidelines put out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
A self-described extrovert, Burgese found ways to continue exercising in her neighborhood when she began staying at home. She mapped out a course to continue running around the Willow Woods development and has put an emphasis on exercising while maintaining her distance from others.
“I’m just trying to be as creative as possible,” she said. “Then I thought, I miss seeing my neighbors.”
Using Facebook and text messages to connect with neighbors, Burgese organized the first Curbside Cardio class on the weekend of March 21.
“I thought I could do something basic,” Burgese said. “I wrote up a plan. I got music. We can do tricep dips on the curb. We can do burpees. We can run.”
Debbie Drucis was one of the neighbors who participated in the first Curbside Cardio with Burgese. Like Burgese, she had been quarantined at home for about a week and was looking for a way to reconnect with her neighbors.
“She reached out with the idea and I instantly loved it,” Drucis said. “We all need something. I go to the gym six days a week and I miss it.”
Burgese came up with exercises anyone can do outside, including burpees, pushups, stretching and jogging. But the most important part of the 30-minute class was finding a way for everyone to continue social distancing while still working out together. Prior to the class, Burgese went out to the cul-de-sac on her street and measured out a six-foot workout area for each person. An x was painted in the center of each area to keep participants lined up in the center of their box.
In addition to marking out spaces, Burgese also cleaned, using Lysol to disinfect the curb near where her neighbors would be working out.
“I’m showing physically what the safe distance is by the chalk marks,” Burgese said. “It’s out front. You can keep far away. You can spread out on the street.”
“I think that Denise went above and beyond with that, marking it out and bringing cleaning supplies,” Drucis commented.
Nearly one week after her first class, Burgese hosted a second Curbside Cardio on March 27 with five neighbors participating. Burgese believes the classes are a perfect solution during the pandemic, allowing people to participate in a workout class together while maintaining a greater distance than one would have while running or walking at a park.
Drucis loves participating in the classes and believes it’s a way of remaining social while also being safe.
“We’re all good friends here,” Drucis said. “We go to each other’s homes, our kids play at each other’s houses. We’re all connected already.”
“It’s a great way to bring us back together while still being safe,” Drucis added.
Burgese and her neighbors plan to continue the classes in April as long as the stay at home order remains in effect.
“I’m very energetic. I’m very cyclical, I like to move,” Burgese said of the impact the classes have had on her.
“I have to help others. I really like to see smiling faces. And I like to see people laughing. That’s what I get from it.”