On March 16, soon after I read that all non-essential businesses were ordered to close, Cait Giacino’s was the first voice I heard.
The Director of Personal Training at Base in Jersey City went live on Instagram, offering a message of reassurance to the gym’s members, and really, everyone who aspires to a healthy lifestyle. While I knew it would be a while before I’d see the inside of a gym, her words struck a chord. She wasn’t going to let social distancing get in the way of staying active and you know what, I wasn’t either.
Giacino, who can see Base from her window, quit her full-time job in the fashion industry to pursue her passion: a career in fitness. From the moment she graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology, she knew she was out of place. It wasn’t until a few years later that she worked up the nerve to change career paths. As luck would have it, the Hunterdon County-native landed right here in Jersey City, as a PT manager and instructor.
Everywhere in the world we’re having to rethink our fitness habits. I sat down with Giacino (virtually) to learn more about her and how the team at Base is handling our current circumstances.
MS: Give me a quick background. How did you start with Base?
CG: I did not think I was going to be a personal trainer or group fitness instructor. I always loved sports and when I got to FIT, I wasn’t on teams anymore. It was a moment of, “Now what?” I’ve always moved my body; I’ve always had a coach or someone telling me to move. FIT actually had a great group fitness program. I got heavily involved, and that’s when I really started to love moving again.
I wasn’t loving the fashion industry—the hours, the grind. It just wasn’t for me. I started to teach group fitness classes and got my certification online. I was teaching at FIT when I sent my resume to Base. They gave me the opportunity to teach a PiYo class once per week and I did that for about two years before I found the courage to leave my full-time job in fashion. I got my personal training certification and I joined the Base team in 2017 as a personal trainer. Six months in, my manager decided to pursue another career opportunity. I was then asked if I’d be willing to help manage the team and was promoted to Director of Personal Training. It feels like it was meant to be.
MS: What drew you to this community of people?
CG: Initially, the atmosphere of Base drew me in. It’s very different than your typical gym—sleek, bright, open, inviting. It catches your eye. I was looking at their website before I applied and I was impressed by the variety of group fitness classes they had, I knew it was a place that was welcoming to everyone—no matter what fitness level. It’s a place that is here for you. Once I got in there and met the people, they became my second family. And that was immediate. I have so much love for my coworkers.
MS: The great thing is that the members feel this way too. It really is like one big family. What was it like for you when you heard gyms had to close? How did you take that news but also spin that around and transition to virtual classes?
CG: The feeling was one of shock and disbelief. It was happening around the world but everyone’s mentality was, “That can’t happen here in the U.S., can it?” Then suddenly we had to shut our doors. It was emotional for everybody. We were scared. That feeling lasted for about 24 hours before our management team came together. We knew everyone needed us and that we had to keep pushing out content, even if it’s not face-to-face anymore. We still need to help people move and feel good. Physical health impacts your mental health so much. That first week we dove right in. From there, we created our current schedule and we’ve received some really good feedback so far.
MS: I think that says something about the fitness community and even just Jersey City as a whole. Businesses everywhere had to close their doors but locally so many have shown so much resilience and creativity to keep things going.
CG: We’re go-getters in the fitness industry. Ask my friends and family, the one thing I’m terrible at is sitting around. So my mind immediately starts thinking, how do I connect with people? That’s what our jobs are about. Every Base employee has so much human contact. We’re seeing hundreds of faces all day long. Even now working virtually, just knowing that people are with me, brings me joy. Any group fitness instructor or personal trainer will tell you the same thing. It’s about belonging to a community and being apart of something greater.
I like that you bring up other Jersey City businesses too. Base has always valued supporting our community—different restaurants, shops, etc. A lot of small business owners are members of Base. We all help and support each other. I think it’s motivating to see people who aren’t necessarily in our industry do the amazing things they’re doing. How can we spread the word about them? How can they do the same for us? That’s what I love about Jersey City. It’s a big town but it always feels like such a small, close-knit community. Everybody is in this together.
MS: It really does feel that way. I think seeing your colleagues and neighbors stand up and show resiliency keeps us all motivated. As a trainer, I’m sure you’re energized and motivated a lot of the time. But how do you maintain your motivation when you’re curating your online classes with all that’s going on in the world right now?
CG: I won’t lie, it ebbs and flows for me. I definitely don’t wake up every morning feeling like “I’m going to totally crush it today.” But you know what, I can typically crawl out of a low mood because I’ve just changed my daily habits. One thing I’ve always needed in my life is routine. I try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. I schedule my workouts and when I am reaching out to clients. Writing it down and making a checklist has helped immensely. You have to create new habits.
MS: And you often hear a lot of trainers talking about “creating a new normal” for yourself—which is a concept I really love. Like you said, better habits. What would you say to people who have had to break out of those good habits they’ve created in life prior to the epidemic? How can they adjust to things right now?
CG: My biggest tip is always this: Write it down. I’m a believer in putting pen to paper. If you’re physically writing—not typing—in my mind it’s 100 times more likely to happen. Make a calendar or schedule. At Base, we post a schedule every week so that members know what’s coming. It doesn’t have to be about planning for the next month. This is a really good opportunity for people to not think so long term. Now we need to think short term. What I mean is think day-to-day or week-to-week. If you start using that mindset, things become a lot less scary. If you’re thinking “How the heck am I going to stay home for another month or couple of months?” You need to refocus and take it by the day. Shelve those big scary timelines—they’re going to be too much. I’m looking at this as a good exercise to break things down.
It’s also a good time to get a little uncomfortable and try something you weren’t trying before. Get better at it. People think this bodyweight stuff isn’t that challenging but I was talking to my brother the other day and he said something like, “Why are bodyweight squats harder than barbell squats?” It made me laugh so hard. It’s different! it’s cardiovascular and high rep. It’s a good way to change up your routine. That’s how I’m looking at it for myself. I was doing the same thing for a few weeks and got thrown into this, but it’s an opportunity to look at how I move my body. There’s so much we can do at home.
MS: Do you and the team have a set schedule you’re following now?
CG: Base now has a set schedule that the personal trainers, group fitness instructors and myself are all part of. We’ve posted it to our Instagram and Facebook pages and we’ll continue to help spread the word on our personal stories. I’ve also been doing some independent Zoom classes and I’m offering people the recordings of the classes if they can’t make it.
MS: What equipment, if any, are you using these days?
CG: I’ve been working with a company called CFX. They launched a product in November, it’s a really cool take on resistance band training. It’s all hands-free. You can attach the CFX to your wrist or to your feet. It’s all about moving from your core first and is great for all fitness levels. It has endless possibilities and it’s been fun to get creative with all the ways it can elevate my workouts.
I’ve been using mini loop bands in a lot of my classes. You can get those cheap on Amazon for $10 to $15. I usually have all my clients get a set. Sliders are good, too, but you can use anything from paper towels to paper plates (depending on if you have wood floor or carpet). I work with people who don’t have the equipment and people who do. All of my classes pretty much can be done with or without. I’m about to do my first upper body class and I was actually planning on using wine bottles because I don’t have dumbbells. You have to get creative. Use water jugs, laundry detergent—whatever you have. You can pick up weight if you want to and need to.
MS: The wine bottles do make for a good visual!
Cait’s Home Equipment Picks:
CFX stands for Core First Exercise. It is a hands-free resistance training tool with wraps that can be attached to your wrists, feet or ankles. CFX is offering free Facebook live classes through their CFX LIVE! FB group. All classes can be done with and without the CFX. Following a purchase, shoppers gain access to workouts and videos. It’s one of the best ways to strength train at home. CFX is made in the U.S. and ships quickly.
CFX Home Trainer – Comes with 1 level of resistance (medium).
CFX Elite Trainer – Comes with three levels of resistance (light, medium and heavy).
Use code: CFX20GIACINO when purchasing for 20 percent off.
Contact Base’s Kara Hermes via Instagram @karah74 to purchase.