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.  

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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 :)

Jessica is the owner of Downtown Strength & Conditioning in Miami where she coaches. Jessica originally hails from New York City where she spent the majority of her life before moving to South Florida. She has a background in training others, leading group fitness classes and currently practices both CrossFit and Weightlifting since the early 2000’s. Jessica has been playing team sports and participated in various athletics throughout her life.

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