Rolling With the Punches: Our Case Study

We’ve all been though tough times lately. Our industry has changed. As yet another stumbling block rears its head, I thought I’d share how we’ve been handling the challenges.

Point of reference: September 25th, 2015, my wife (a fitness pro and manager since 1995) and I (fitness pro and manager since 1980) moved to Easton, PA and opened a boutique fitness studio (Jiva Fitness) offering personal training and group fitness. All’s going well and our business gradually builds.

March, 16th, 2020, all gyms/clubs/studios are closed due to COVID-19 restrictions. Like everyone else, we had a moment of panic as we thought through, “What now?” Most were either moving to on-demand workouts for their clients or live streaming their workouts. We decided to go live streaming only (we believe in the supervision and interaction of being able see and assist our clients.) So, we immediately made the shift. We purchased some essential sound and video equipment, upgraded our internet, rented equipment to members that needed it to do their workouts from home, and began training and teaching live streaming workouts.

*The positive:

  • Some of our existing members and clients found that working out from home had a lot of benefits and continue to workout from home even though our studio is now open for in-person workouts.
  • Family and friends of our members and clients were able to join in from wherever they were in the world. (We had a couple of people from Europe join us.)
  • It’s a new market that we wouldn’t have discovered had we not jumped on it.

May 26th, 2020, my wife was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. (one year later, she’s actually doing okay and we’re hopeful.) So, she was unable to teach her classes and train her clients. How could we keep the number and quality of our class schedule without her? I was already teaching a lot and couldn’t take on all of her classes as well. I picked up a couple of her classes and we decided to have friends of ours teach the remainder of her classes via Zoom from their location in Maine.

*The positive:

  • We realized that we could hire teachers from anywhere to teach for us online. In fact, we had a friend teach Pilates to our members from her studio in France.
  • We could offer classes that may not be available in your area. i.e. maybe there are no good Tai Chi instructors in your area, but you might find one that could teach online for you.

June 29th, 2021, I will get my right hip replaced. Okay, now I’m going to be unable to teach for a while. I, to date, have been teaching all of the in person classes since we were allowed to open our doors again. So, we’ve had some classes that have been online only and some that were both online and in person. Some of our members waited until we reopened before they came back. They’ve worked hard and regained their fitness levels. We can’t go all online again. The downside of the live streaming from remote locations has been that nobody would be able to see the instructor in the studio. How can we handle this? Our next move is to make the online classes accessible to people in the studio. I know that there are companies that have classes on demand that clubs can integrate into there studio spaces, but that’s not what we want. We want to offer our members live classes. Long story short, we are going to project the live streaming classes onto the front of the studio.

* The positive:

  • This will allow our members that like, want, and/or need to come into the studio to get in their workouts, a way to continue.
  • While my wife and I won’t be able to physically do the workouts, we can still be in the room and offer support and corrections during the projected classes. This adds back in the more personal touch that people expect when coming in to the studio.
  • This also expands the audience of our previously online only classes.

Now, the point of all of this is to highlight that when challenges come up (and they always do), you need to realize that, more often than not, there is an opportunity that comes along with it. Look for those chances to rethink what you do and how you do it.

Best of luck with your challenges!

What’s Your Coronavirus Plan?

This week, Men’s Fitness came out with an article about how gyms are dealing with the coronavirus. (What Gyms and Fitness Centers Are Doing About Coronavirus) ┬áThis is definitely something we should all be considering, but first, let’s start with the facts.

covid19

  1. It’s spread person-to-person and surface-to-person. So, if someone coughs or sneezes within 6ft of you, the particles could land in your eyes, nose, or mouth or be could inhaled. You could also touch a surface that has the virus on it and then touch your mouth, nose, or eyes. (CDC)
  2. At the writing of this post, in the US there are 80 reported cases from 13 states and 9 deaths. There will be many more. (CDC)
  3. There is no vaccine to prevent it and no approved medical interventions to treat it. However, “most people in the United States will have little immediate risk of exposure to this virus.” and while the symptoms can range from mild to severe and even death, the most severe cases are in the elderly in those with compromised heart and respiratory systems. (CDC)
  4. For Prevention, the CDC recommends:
    1. “Avoid close contact with people who are sick.” No surprise here.
    2. “Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.” Harder than you may think. Start practicing.
    3. “Stay home when you are sick.” Now is not the time to brave through it. Think of those you could be infecting.
    4. “Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.” So, carry tissues.
    5. “Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.”
    6. “CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a face mask to protect themselves from COVID-19.” Here’s news. Reserve their use for medical professionals or if you are already sick.
    7. “Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.”

Back to what this means as fitness professionals, what should we expect and what should we be doing? Here’s my list of “at the gym or studio” guidelines.

  1. Post guidelines for members that include:
    1. Stay at home if you are sick.
    2. Cover your mouth with a tissue when you sneeze or cough.
    3. Disinfect any equipment that you touch.
    4. Wash or sanitize your hands frequently.
    5. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth
  2. Have staff disinfect frequently handled objects such as door handles, locker latches, etc.
  3. Provide plenty of disinfecting spray bottles and cloth or paper towels to wipe equipment with. Have these located all around the facility. If they are not convenient, they won’t be used.
  4. Have plenty of tissues around the facility.
  5. Have plenty of hand sanitizer around the facility.
  6. Have plenty of antibacterial soap and paper towels in the locker rooms and restrooms.

This will make your club as safe as it can be, but that may not be enough for some people. When it comes to risking sickness, people get afraid. Fear is a powerful emotion. It’s visceral and in spite of the low risk of contracting the virus at your facility, people will be avoiding heavily populated places, yours included. That becomes a whole other problem. Loss of income for you and, for the member, loss of training time and its benefits.

This would be a time to:

  1. Have members work with a personal trainer to create an “at home” workout program.
  2. Provide an online training program.
  3. Create a hybrid training program the combines the two options above.
  4. Stream classes for members use.

The coronavirus is a real issue that’s not going away soon. The best way to deal with it is by knowing the latest news from a reputable source (I’m sticking with the CDC as my main source), being proactive in managing your facility’s sanitizing measures, and by being proactive in handling your members fears and needs.

Stay healthy!