Author

Jessica Bergman

Jessica Bergman

Jessica hails from New York City where she spent the majority of her life until moving to South Florida. She currently resides in Miami and has been able to take advantage of the outdoors where she’s able to do many of the activities she enjoys. Jessica has been playing team sports and participated in various athletics throughout her life. She has a background in training others, leading group fitness classes and currently practices both Crossfit and Weightlifting primarily since early the early 2000’s. Jessica coaches at Downtown Strength & Conditioning in Miami and leads many of community activities. She loves being a part of the DTSCMIA family and the CrossFit and USAW the community as a whole!

Downtown Strength and Conditioning
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Op-Ed: Where Do We Go From Here? Looking Forward in the World of a Gym Owner

It's been roughly four months since we reopened the doors of Downtown Strength and Conditioning; almost equal to the amount of time our doors were shuttered by the local government as part of its COVID-19 response.

To say its been a wild ride would be an understatement. The closure for many studios meant adapting our business models during lengthy shutdowns, finding new ways to deliver training to our clients, and navigating a reopening or even a permanent closure.  

Now with most of our local fitness studios back open it begs the question where do we go from here?

We survived … right?

It would seem that the work has just begun. With our studios closed for months on end we had to rebuild membership bases, recover financially, and learn to operate our gyms in this new world.

They say the only thing constant is change. If we learned one thing through the whirlwind that COVID-19 took many of our fitness businesses through, its that nothing is the same as it was.

Those gyms who “made it” through the last few months since March have their work cut out for them. Many who survived closure now need to survive a world where the gym experience is different i.e. wearing a mask during a training session, rising operating costs, and a population who in some cases are afraid to return to a physical gym.  

RELATED Op-Ed: Confessions of a Miami Studio Owner During COVID-19

What’s different? What’s the same? What now?

We reopened our gym along with a slew of new protocols implemented. We have found that many of these protocols will work long term and are here to stay. Nothing in our post-lockdown COVID-19 world is the same as it was, and a one-size fits all approach no longer works. We see examples of this daily in our gym.

When we reopened, we added more class times, bringing our daily weekday schedule to roughly 14 classes including open gym time. More classes gave us the opportunity to keep classes small, and seemingly safer. We imposed tighter class capacities limits and more equipment along with this, no sharing allowed.

What small classes also did was end up giving clients a more personalized and high touch experience; a benefit that members ended up really liking so smaller more frequent classes are here to stay!

Like many gyms we implemented more extensive deep cleaning measures, another “benefit” to this post COVID-19 world. Although at a greater expense for many of our businesses to add to already high operating expenditures, cleaner gyms had us wondering if gyms should’ve always been doing things like Chemical Fogging or use of wipes on anything and everything all the time. This was yet another area of procedures that were modified, improved upon and here to stay.

Adapt or Die …

Our first few weeks and months we’ve learned to adapt almost daily. We had to constantly have our pulse on the business and what was working or not. Local government changed rules a few times as well which also meant we had to change along with them.

We tried different workout formats to limit movement around the gym for example, removed the infamous chalk bowl we so often see at Crossfit and Olympic lifting facilities, and stopped climbing our ropes, to name a few small changes.

We realized we had to be so agile, and so reactive to the changing climate and member needs all in an effort to help them ALL feel safe, if we wanted to keep on surviving.

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Safe? What does that mean exactly?

Feeling “safe” these days is relative. It seems what is deemed safe is ever changing and varies based on the individual and that’s OK.

In a group training environment finding a way to customize the safety aspect can be viewed as challenge. If we can customize workouts to individuals, we realized we could serve the needs of our community by being aware of each member’s individual needs in this capacity too.

Today in October, over six months since the initial closure we are providing our service in many different (and new) ways. In the gym we have a robust class schedule, we have some classes during off hours for those who want to be in groups of 1-3 people, we have open gym time each day for those who want to be alone, and larger group classes for those members who want the “old normal”.

For those members who aren’t ready just yet to step back into their favorite gym we offer online virtual class options four days a week, member equipment rental, and home programming options.

For all our members we offer flexible membership options with ability to stop, start and pause via our online portal for ease of use in this time of uncertainty and always. These are just a few ways we’ve worked to meet the needs of many at the same time.

Onward and Upward ...

We’re still here and we’re looking ahead. We survived and look forward to continuing to learn and grow through this “adventure.”

Although the world seems to be changing around us daily, our goal has stayed the same and our commitment to our community has never wavered. Our member experience, offering best of breed coaching and killer workouts all while being smart and safe remains our top priority.

No matter how or where you’re finding your fitness these days we realize, like our booty shorts, one size does not fit all in our COVID-19 world and that’s OK! We look forward to seeing you for a workout soon … and don’t forget your mask :)

Now with most of our South Florida fitness studios, gyms, and fitness centers back open, it begs the question, "where do we go from here?"

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Downtown Strength and Conditioning

A Silver Lining in Fitness: A Miami Gym Owner’s Journey Through COVID-19

On March 18th Downtown Strength and Conditioning had to temporarily close its doors. Like many other fitness facilities, we quickly scrambled to figure out how we would approach this unprecedented time not just in the world but now in our gym and fitness community.

On the eve of our closure, our coaching staff met at the gym. I gathered our team of trainers and we brainstormed. We shared ideas on how we could keep our community fit, engaged, and positive through this pandemic. I knew the time to react would be of the essence, we had to have a plan for our members to keep them training with us; but how?

A few short hours later we had filmed several hours of content and launched a YouTube channel. Just like that, we had begun to navigate the world of online content without even realizing it. We shared our new channel with our members and I went to sleep, not sure what tomorrow would bring or the next day or the next. It was scary. When I woke up our channel had over 100 subscribers. Whoa, maybe this online thing could work.

In the coming days, I began to evaluate how we could reach our community moving forward. Would we be closed for weeks or months? We weren’t sure, so I looked at various platforms to deliver classes and content. It was at that moment that I realized we didn’t need to figure out how to “adapt” because we already were! The Pivot was inevitable if we planned to survive this.

The Pivot….

In the coming days, we would begin to launch a full IGTV/IG Live program jam-packed with multiple daily live classes filled with our normal Crossfit + HIIT Bootcamp programming as well as weekly Yoga and Mobility. We realized that we could reach people at home, not just our members but people from all over the world. Our coaching team rose to the occasion and came together to lead classes online.

This “online thing” was working. We had new followers and exposure and started to say, what other content could we offer? How could we keep it going, growing and branch out to other areas that matter to the fitness community. People were home, how could DTSC enrich their at quarantine experience?

We began to offer healthy cooking demos, IG Live Q&A’s with industry experts, and collaboration workouts with vendors and partners; suddenly in a time of isolation we felt more connected than ever to other people! We had become a brick and mortar gym who had found itself delivering a complete schedule full of content.

Outside Our Four Walls…

Somewhere through the many days of burpees in my living room, and jumping lunges on my balcony, it hit me. I realized the closure that once had our team in a panic, had turned out to have a silver lining after all. We were thriving in this online environment although it wasn’t anything we ever thought about or even knew would be to do. We learned how to coach to remote athletes of every level, we learned about how to be better trainers, deliver cues, and “coach” people who weren’t physically next to us.

In the online world, we had the chance to workout with friends who had moved out of Miami, “workout” next to our family in other countries, deliver content that could be done anywhere with little to no equipment, and so much more. We had broken beyond our four walls and exposed Downtown Strength and Conditioning to an entire global fitness community online! We were excited; I was excited!

Opportunity, Potential New Clients and Exposure, Cool Right? So Now What?

After the first few weeks of delivering and perfecting our online platform, we were in a rhythm. We saw members and “strangers” alike taking a class. We had people tuning in for workouts and additional content. This was great, but as the days became weeks and soon months we had to continue to evolve to ensure we would have a gym to come back to when the time came. The efforts to keep our members engaged wasn’t over, in fact, it had just begun.

Like many facilities, we had lent out equipment from our physical space to ensure our membership base had some help to train at home. We began to offer additional services complimentary as a value add, our in house nutrition coach offered nutrition counseling; which was especially valuable during this time at home.

We began to offer custom programming and remote 1-1 coaching with our trainers. Each of our trainers became responsible for a subgroup of members to give them weekly challenges, check-ins, and hold each other accountable. Each week I sent a weekly email update to our members filled with thoughts, updates, content, schedule, highlights, and more. I looked around and realized our members and team were more engaged than ever, another silver lining; we were getting in shape and eating better during quarantine!

The “Community”…

Community is a relative term in the world of fitness. We make our “community." This pandemic taught us a lot, including that our community is bigger than our gyms, or style of training. Here in Miami with so many amazing gyms, training methodologies and programming we tend to keep to ourselves as it relates to our “type” of gym, training style and company we keep. That was all different now.

The pandemic unified us. Suddenly gyms who were “competitors” aligned, people who never tried Yoga took an online class, coaches, training and gym owners who had never spoken became fast friends. Personally I used this as an opportunity to be a mentor and a mentee alike. My gym owner peers and trainers taught me to be a better owner and trainer and vice versa. Another silver lining emerged, Unity among our diverse fitness community both near and far was apparent.

As many of us as owners and coaches begin to prepare our studios and gyms for a day when we can all train “together” again, I am reminded that we were never really apart. We emerge from this pandemic and mandated closure with new knowledge, new approaches to our training and programming, and how we connect with one another. Through adversity there is growth, and many silver linings to even the most difficult of circumstances; we just have to look for it. On that note, we will meet you at the Bar(bell) soon!

Jessica Bergman, owner of Downtown Strength and Conditioning in Miami, shares the story of her gym's journey through COVID-19.