Do you workout at a gym or studio? Have you “gone back” since COVID-19 hit? If not, do you miss it … the people, the community? And how exactly has that “community” at your gym been impacted by COVID-19?
As we ask ourselves these questions, begin to think about the gym and studio owners in Detroit and in cities around the world, and how the last two years have impacted them, their communities, their livelihoods.
Because at the heart of every gym or studio owner exists an innate desire to help people – help the community – get and stay healthy and fit. And this shared mission has been severely suppressed over the last two years, with owners having faced challenges such as shuttering, smaller class sizes due to spacing and safety and overall lower attendance with people staying – and working out – at home.
“The past two years have been a true challenge,” said Amina Daniels, Owner of Live Cycle Delight and LCD Hot in the West Village.
Each year of the pandemic presented new obstacles. There is such an irony in having to close our business for six months – a wellness oasis and community staple – at a time when health and wellness was of the utmost importance, and our community needed us most. It was incredibly challenging to not be there for my community in need.
The effects of this on Detroit gym owners have been colossal, and they run deep.
As with most restaurants, bars, and small businesses, when COVID-19 hit gyms there were and have been huge ramifications to every piece of the business. But when Detroit gym owners are asked what their number one priority has been, the overarching answer is keeping their community intact and healthy.
“When people think about the essential elements in running a successful gym, the classes or equipment or space may come to mind first. But far and away the most important thing to me is our community. In fact, it is the fundamental principle we are built on at F45,” says Natalie Erskine, Owner of F45 in Midtown, and three others in metro Detroit.
Today, this holds true more than ever. It’s the energy and motivation people find in working out among friends – the camaraderie – this sense of community – that will ultimately bring people back to the gym versus sitting on the Peleton they bought in April of 2020. That is the hope.
Because COVID-19 hit the fitness industry hard. The total commercial gym industry revenue was estimated to be $54,2 billion in 2021, down from $96.7 billion in 2019. Per a report from IHRSA (International Health and Racquet Sportsclub Association), 17% of fitness facilities have permanently closed, and over 1 million industry employees have lost their jobs. The industry lost nearly $14 billion from March 2020 through August 2020 alone.
Many people turned to home workouts during COVID-19. During the height of the pandemic in 2020, Peleton stock soared to 350%. Albeit it crashed for other reasons subsequently. Ebay data found that between March and April that same year, online sales of fitness equipment increased up to 20 times in some categories compared to the same timeframe in 2019, with dumbbell sales alone seeing a 1980% increase.
People also tuned in to online workouts, a trend that seems to be here to stay. In a recent survey done by Mind Body 53% of exercisers have adopted a hybrid routine, including in-person workouts at a studio or gym and virtual workouts from home – a phenomenon with broad implications for the sector.
There is no doubt, COVID-19 has changed some things forever.
COVID has made us dig deep and get more creative than we ever imagined to be able to continue serving our community, says Daniels. But we are making our way through it – together.
Four months ago, Planet Fitness CEO reported membership to be 97% recaptured back to where it was pre-Covid,”
Key findings reveal that boutique gym attendance and class bookings bounced back to around 91% of pre COVID levels toward the end of 2020.
“I know it’s the sense of community that is bringing people through our doors and striving – as Detroiters do – to get back up and lift each other up,” said Stacy Kessel, Co-Owner of Core City Fitness.
“We are all coming back together. As a studio owner, the support and patience our community has shown over the last 24 months have been overwhelming, so we’ve been doubling down to continue to ensure all of their needs are met and exceeded as more and more head back into our classes. We have also been welcoming several new members who are tapping into their health as a priority,” Daniels adds.
This, with the recent news that Peleton saw another 20% stock crash, slashed 28,000 jobs, and gained new CEO Barry McCarthy who according to Oppenheimer Analysts will likely sell, is certainly indicative of a shift.
HEALTH IS THE NEW WEALTH
Author Napoleon Hill says, “Every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it the seed of an equal or greater benefit.”
Detroit gym owners do, in fact, site several valuable benefits sprung from COVID.
Health is the new wealth – consumers are holding it at a much higher value, and acting on it.
People are definitely realizing that their fitness is about more than fitting into their jeans, it’s about being healthy and able to fight off and/or avoid illness.
Adding to that sentiment, Castro shared “My members have moved beyond just trying to be superfit and being able to do a hundred burpees, to being very mindful of their mental health, and realizing that they need movement, and connectivity with other people to be fully healthy. These mind shifts will serve us all well going forward.”
At a time when 4 in 10 adults report symptoms of depression and anxiety, seeking movement, fitness, and overall health is paramount.
COMMUNITY CONTINUES TO WIN
“We saw our community bond more than ever during COVID,” said Kessel. “When people went remote for work they were spending long hours at a computer, with no face-to-face interaction, and our space continues to give that to that,” says Kessel.
Erskine echoes this, “Now if someone doesn’t come to class for a few days, a member or coach will reach out to make sure they are ok. There is a heightened sense of looking out for one another.”
Castro sites another silver lining, saying “COVID prompted us to build a really great outdoor space using shipping containers that will always be part of our footprint going forward. In the future, we hope to use one of the shipping containers for a community space such as a library.”
Facilities across the board also began offering virtual workouts via apps, streaming, zoom, and other platforms, providing larger reach, new revenue streams, and continued community engagement.
THE LIGHT GETS BRIGHTER
Opportunities in Detroit for health and fitness are becoming more and more abundant. New bike lanes are going in, fitness programming is more accessible, running and cycling events are more present than ever before. In fact, Back Alley Bikes held their annual Bike the Blizzard event in February this year with a higher turnout than ever before.
People need gyms. Every neighborhood should have a coffee shop, a gym, a place to connect to others and feel welcome. A place to cultivate health and wellness among a like-minded community, shares Castro.
Erskine notes “On March 16, 2020, the lights in gyms went out – literally. But the lights are back on and getting brighter and more vibrant. People have a strong desire to come back to other people. People are committing to their health like never before. And people need to get out of their homes and among the energy. For these reasons, it’s probably the best time to be a gym owner.”
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