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Gyms transfer lessons exterior to make up for the misplaced revenue from the pandemic

A BronCore Fitness Bootcamp in the Boston Commons.

Bron Volney

Jacob Gise opened a Body Fit Training franchise in Santa Monica, California in November. By March, the flagship of the US studio of the global chain had just become profitable.

Gise had traveled to Australia, where body fit training started to learn the ropes. He was thrilled that the investment of time and resources is gradually paying off. The site cost around $ 42,000 a month to rent, trainers and equipment.

Then the coronavirus hit and most training facilities in the United States were forced to close. Gise switched to online courses, but it wasn't enough – he only raised $ 8,000 a month, less than a sixth of what he got in March.

"I climbed this huge mountain, traveled to different countries and did all of these things to bring it here," said Gise. "Just when it started to become profitable and many franchisees were interested, everything was shut down."

The fitness industry has enjoyed great success as a state, trying to curb the spread of Covid-19, which has forced the closure of inpatient facilities. According to the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association, there were approximately 62.4 million health club members in the U.S. in 2019. According to Ibis World, the industry was recently valued at $ 34 billion.

The market is shrinking rapidly. Classpass, an online marketplace that connects studios and users, said 95% of its earnings dried up in April due to the virus, and 53% of its employees were fired or given leave. Flywheel, a bike studio, and Solidcore, a Pilates studio, fired almost all of the employees because of the pandemic. Gold & # 39; s gyms and 24 Hour Fitness filed for bankruptcy.

The gym owners take to the streets to support their troubled businesses. Conducting outdoor classes is one of the latest studios that have received reopening approval in many states, an alternative to less profitable online offerings.

Work it outdoors

Every evening at 7 p.m., a group of eight participants hike to the roof of the Firehouse Fitness Studio in Philadelphia. Up there, the group participates in what studio owner Dana Auriemma calls the "greatest hits" combination of the classes that she usually offers.

"We're bringing together some of the best steps customers will take in our mat-based sculpture classes," she said.

A firehouse gym class on the roof.

Dana Auriemma

According to Auriemma, the class, which is mostly mixed sculpting with a hint of cardio, uses fewer props than normal, but it was important to include some items so customers could train with more than their body weight – which they were limited to At home. They chose props that are easy to carry on the roof and can be easily disinfected.

She also worked with the landlord to ensure social distance and limit the capacity to accommodate people over 6 feet. Even socially distant personal training, according to Auriemma, helps gyms like hers to diversify their sources of income during the pandemic.

Gise also noted the financial value of an outdoor class as the California and Santa Monica restrictions would allow him to teach an indoor class with only 18 people, compared to 40 before the pandemic.

He is now teaching outdoors with the approval of the city of Santa Monica and has shown increased interest. He brings hygienic props for the training. A woman came into a class after not doing group training or touching weight in four months. Then she bought a year-round membership.

The outdoor trend is also boosting some fitness classes that have been taught outdoors for a long time.

Bron Volney, who runs "12-foot boot camps" on Bron Core Fitness at the Boston Commons, says he has seen new faces in his outdoor workouts lately and he hopes his growing customer base will continue after the pandemic .

But he also made changes to ensure that public health guidelines are followed at all times.

New members receive an SMS in front of the class telling them where their place is and that no one will be closer than 12 feet, said Volney. He said he avoided using materials to ensure that social distancing was preserved.

At the end of each boot camp, Volney distributes his "liquid gold": a splash of hand disinfectant.

"We just want to make sure that people get there and never feel in danger," said Volney. "You will have a room that will basically be your security zone."

New partnerships are formed

Lauren Owen leads a socially distant Zumba class in the Shores Nutrition parking lot.

Courtesy of Shores Nutrition

Lauren Owen was expecting to teach Zumba in a dance studio in St. Clair Shores, Michigan, but on Governor Gretchen Whitmer's orders, the practice options are not yet open. She still wanted to lead classes, but felt zoom fatigue with her students.

Fortunately, Owen stumbled upon a request from the Shores Nutrition owner to look for fitness instructors to teach in the parking lot. Shores Nutrition specializes in low-calorie teas and protein shakes, which are often taken before and after training. So Owen and the store made an agreement: The class costs $ 20 with tea and shake from the store. Shores Nutrition will receive $ 12 and Owen will receive $ 8.

"There is not as much camaraderie about zoom as there is personally," said Owen. "When I saw … I was able to teach a class outside, I jumped on it because I was so excited to teach in person again because I know it's just so much better."

Owen had to realign their classes to work outside in the heat by changing the songs and adding more breaks. But Owen said the social and financial opportunities that resulted from being able to teach in person again were worth the changes and extra time.

In addition to new partnerships and agreements, gyms can also find help in other locations. Fundraising sites have been opened for training facilities across the country to keep them afloat.

Andy Weighill, CEO of the Central Coast YMCA in Salinas, California, said the Y had received grants from community foundations that enabled him to maintain outdoor exercise classes and other services such as camp and food delivery programs.

Auriemma intends to expand Firehouse's outdoor classes, so its next addition – a daytime class – will be in an outside area of ​​a wine bar that's open later in the day. This partnership is a silver lining to the pandemic, she said, as companies now have a working relationship that could develop into packages in the future.

"It's easy to get a little overwhelmed by all the limitations and unknowns," said Auriemma. "To keep going, just think of all the opportunities that exist and all the new doors that might open up to us in the future."

Customers react positively

Putting a group together has side effects. Auriemma noticed many smiles visible through the masks.

"For clients in a studio, the lack of this studio meeting means a huge loss of a social aspect of their lives and all emotional and mental benefits for exercise," said Auriemma. "The fact that outdoor gives us a way to bring this back to people is fantastic for their health."

Bron supported the importance of normalcy, saying that his offerings had brought in new income from people who usually went to gyms but longed for some form of outside work. Owen said attending her outdoor classes overshadowed what she saw in her zoom classes.

The participants pose before the body fit training.

Jacob Gise

These owners and trainers know that the industry is in turmoil and will not return to normal for the foreseeable future. Even if the gyms reopened nationwide, more than half of the Americans interviewed by RunRepeat had no intention of returning. In some states, the gyms have had to reopen since the closure in March.

But Gise shared a feeling with other owners: the ability to serve their customers and help them achieve their goals is rewarding. There is no doubt that it is financially difficult with his operating costs hanging over his head, he said, but the ability to help people achieve their goals keeps him going.

"I have hardly slept in the past four months, to be honest, just because I am concerned about the pay of my employees, I am concerned that I should try to get this rental money and even take care of everyone "said Gise said. "There are many challenges, but at the end of the day it is absolutely worth it because we help people and their energy is the only thing that gets me through."

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