Working Out at Home Without Annoying Your Neighbors

Working Out at Home Without Annoying Your Neighbors

Working Out at Home Without Annoying Your Neighbors

Working Out at Home Without Annoying Your Neighbors

New Yorkers have found that working from home, even when home is a studio apartment, is mostly doable. Working out from home, though? That’s another matter.

While those in the suburbs and country often have backyards — or at least more spacious living rooms — to jump, kickbox and repetitively lunge in, since the coronavirus shut down the city’s gyms and fitness studios in March, apartment-bound New Yorkers have been struggling to stay fit indoors without knocking into their coffee tables or driving their downstairs neighbors crazy.

Christopher Ming Ryan, the co-owner of a video marketing agency, used to do cardio workouts a few times a week at the Planet Fitness near his Washington Heights co-op.

After it shut down, he started doing a 7-minute high-intensity workout at home instead. “I found a good one on YouTube,” said Mr. Ryan, 57. “There is some high knee running in place — the woman in the video looks like the girl in Flashdance doing ‘Maniac’ — also some lunges and jumping jacks.”

For several weeks, he was loving how the quick bout of exercise broke up his housebound afternoons. And then he bumped into his downstairs neighbor on the street.

“She asked if I was having work done near the bathroom,” said Mr. Ryan.

Even in normal times, noise complaints are commonplace in apartment buildings, but now, in addition to grievances over an energetic 4-year-old or loud TV, there are also full-grown adults doing jumping jacks and burpees.

“If you are doing higher impact workouts it is going to interfere with your downstairs neighbor,” said Josh Grimm, founder of the health and fitness brand FITNUT, who lives in Chelsea and has been doing remote sessions with clients these last few months. “I have clients who live in older buildings in the West Village and SoHo, and the apartments shake. For nine out of 10 of my clients, I’m doing low impact, body-weight resistance workouts.”

Tara Steppacher, a real estate agent with Douglas Elliman, recently asked the management of her Upper East Side rental building to intervene after a lengthy back and forth with her upstairs neighbor over exercise noise.

“It started in February, usually at 7 in the morning,” said Ms. Steppacher, “It sounded like she was running back and forth. It was very disruptive. I said, ‘I can hear you working out. Can I give you something to put under your mat?’ ”

The neighbor feigned surprise. “She said, ‘Oh, you can hear me stretching?’ ” said Ms. Steppacher. “I thought, ‘Stretching? So that’s what we’re calling it.’ ”

After the neighbor rebuffed her offer of a rug and it became clear that she wasn’t going to put down any of her own to dampen the noise, Ms. Steppacher insisted that management enforce the lease provision mandating that 80 percent of floors be covered by carpets.

“A lot of people don’t like to have their floors covered, but if you work out on hardwood, it’s going to make noise,” she said. “Put down a rug pad, a rug and mat on top of it. Your neighbors are probably home.”

Luis Paredes, the owner of the West New York branch of CKO Kickboxing, said that setting up at-home workouts for his clients has taken a lot of trial and error. “At first I was like, ‘Wow, doing this in the living room, the music is really going to be a factor,’ ” said Mr. Paredes, who gave neighbors in the North Bergen, N.J. luxury building where he lives a heads up that once or twice a day, he’d be bouncing up and down and screaming at a screen.

“I’m known as Lu the Motivator,” said Mr. Paredes. “It’s constant positive reinforcement, just being loud, a lot of leadership. I couldn’t take that away from my classes, especially now when people need the mental aspect as much as the physical.”

So far, he said he hasn’t had any complaints — just neighbors asking to join his workouts — but clients have told him they’ve needed to mute the screen or pop in headphones. He also added an exercise mat on top of his rug to cushion calisthenic elements and started cuing noise-sensitive modifications.

“I’ll say, ‘Do a jump squat, but if you’re injured or somewhere you can’t make a lot of noise, just do a squat.’ ”

Besides mats, pads and modifications, relatively simple gear can also help. After the fitness center and lap pool shut down at 50 West, a high-rise condo in Lower Manhattan, the building started offering online classes and distributing home fitness kits with glider booties, ab wheels and resistance bands — all to keep workouts quiet.

“So far we haven’t seen any complaints, which seems amazing,” said Seth Coston, the director of Residential Asset Management & Operations at Time Equities. He added that it might have helped that a lot of residents relocated to their summer homes. That, and the building is “a modern skyscraper with thick floor plates, not something built 80 years ago.”

Of course, even with soundproofing measures, some conflict is inevitable, especially given the anxious, often frustrated mood in the city right now.

Ann Marie Folan, a Douglas Elliman associate broker, has a young daughter and redid the floors in her Sutton Place co-op when she first moved in, adding the thickest rubber pad available under the hardwood.

“It’s soundproofed,” said Ms. Folan. But since she started doing high intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts on Zoom, her downstairs neighbor “has been banging with irritation.”

“I think it’s just the mood of New Yorkers right now,” she continued. “They’re in a grumpy, hostile state. I’ve noticed it when I go on walks in the park. I’ve been shouted at to move.”

But if anything, at-home workouts — and conflicts — are only likely to increase in the days and weeks to come, as people get more and more antsy just sitting around. After all, even the more sedentary among us usually log several miles a day on the sidewalks of the city. And subscription-based workout home systems like Peloton and Mirror were already increasing in popularity before coronavirus hit. The company says Mirror sales have more than doubled since the advent of COVID-19.

Fortunately, being confined to a small apartment week after week doesn’t always result in irritation. It can also, on occasion, lead to understanding.

“After 32 days in isolation, I noticed that my upstairs neighbor had started exercising,” said Maria G. Valdez, 30-year-old multimedia journalist who lives in a Midtown East studio. “He was dropping stuff on the floor, probably weights. I was like, ‘This is a little annoying.’ ”

“But then I realized this is probably how my downstairs neighbor feels about me,’ ” said Ms. Valdez, who has been doing hourlong Zumba classes in her apartment several times a week.

“I’ve been jumping a lot, stomping a lot, clapping a lot because I get excited when I’m dancing,” she said. Suddenly self-conscious, she called the doorman to see if there had been any complaints about her. There hadn’t been; she resolved to be understanding as well.

“Now, whenever I hear my upstairs neighbor working out, I try to be as patient as possible because I figure my downstairs neighbor is doing the same thing,” she said.


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