The Covid-19 pandemic has been the worst of times for many businesses. But for Norwalk’s Brian Buturla Studios, which focuses on personal and yoga training, the increased reliance on virtual communications during the pandemic created something of an unexpected surprise for its owner.
“I’ve been very blessed,” said Buturla. “A lot of people are home — people aren’t going to play tennis, they’re not bowling, they’re not going to work — and they can meet at any time. So, they press the button and they get the trainer or they get the yoga teacher or they get a meditation session. We have a captive audience — I have had one of the best years ever.”
Buturla said the virtual environment has helped him reconnect with “some old friends who trained here for 10 or 20 years. Their situation just changed, so now I’m able to reconnect and feel like I’m in heaven.”
Buturla’s virtual realm experience is the latest in a career that included working as a trainer for World Gym in Trumbull and becoming the live-in trainer for a well-heeled family in Westport consisting of a father, mother and two young boys.
“That was great for a while until the kids saw me going to work with my shirt off in my convertible while they were at the bus stop, and they told their mom they wanted to be a trainer,” he recalled. “So, my rent tripled, and here I am living out of somebody’s basement. Once my rent was the same as a mortgage, I was able to purchase a nice piece of property invite everybody in to my home and this became my home studio.”
Last fall, Buturla achieved advanced certification as a corrective exercise specialist from the National Academy of Sports Medicine, which he dubbed “the gold standard of personal training.” Before certification, Buturla said he was often viewed as sort of a magician to help alleviate or erase ailments, but the new certification will enable him to help clients reduce injury risks, recover from injuries with greater speed and better identify movement compensations to help them achieve wellness goals faster.
“Everybody’s body needs to be maintained, like a car,” he said. “People get a different level of service when they contact someone like me, corrective exercise specialist.”
During the pandemic period, Buturla has seen a rising number of inquiries from desk jockeys who spend too much time working in front of their computers, resulting in a “tech neck” ache. He recommended an exercise to address this digitally induced dilemma.
“Simply by retracting the chin, lengthening the back of the cervical spine, getting the collarbones long, straightening the vertebra in the middle rib cage, taking a good breath into the belly, pretending there’s a string, everything you can do standing for good posture you can do sitting and taking into account these breaks,” he said. “If you have a little handle under the chair you’re sitting on, grab that with one hand and then do the opposite stretch for your neck and take a two second timeout. Isn’t that nice?”
Circling back to his newfound activity in virtual classes, Buturla admitted he did not think this medium would be right for him.
“Honestly, we didn’t think virtual personal training would take off,” he said. “But if I had you right there, we have even more attention than putting you in a room with a lot of distractions. I’ve got your attention, and that’s what works for people,”
Buturla currently has about a dozen regular weekly clients and a number of “floaters” who pop in once or twice a month for sessions. His studio staff consists of himself and his wife, Colleen, whom he credits for helping to “clean up after sessions and do all the financial things and appointment settings and rescheduling, so I could stay in the creative end of it. She manages the business and the marketing and social media side of things and helps me with video and photography and everything else that the studio needs. I am so blessed.”
Looking ahead into 2021, Buturla is planning to set up a virtual database where he can store videos of exercise treatments designed to address specific health and wellness needs.
“That means if we don’t have a chance to hook up at a certain hour or day or time, there’s going to be a video shot of every single exercise I think that you need,” he said.
“We would can do a video library through YouTube or the National Academy of Sports Medicine app and say, “Hey, this is your homework — you want to make sure you do these 10 exercises and take care of business on your own and get to me live virtually whenever you can. We’re really polishing the service taking care of the people we already have.”