Gyms that survived the pandemic are steadily getting back into shape

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NEW YORK (AP) — One day in January, a former patron of Fuel Training Studios in Newburyport, Massachusetts, stopped by for a “Shred” class. She hadn’t set foot in the gym before the pandemic.

A customer told owners Julie Bocatt and Jeanne Carter that he used to exercise alone in the basement of his home, but gradually became unmotivated, sometimes exercising in his pajamas without breaking a sweat.

“I’m here because I was bored with what I was doing,” Bocat quoted her. We hear similar comments from our customers.

During the “dark ages” of the 2020 and 2021 pandemics, Bocat and Carter moved equipment outdoors and held classes in parking lots and greenhouses they built for the winter. He also held classes online, but even then his attendance plummeted by 70%. They weren’t sure if the business would survive.

They weren’t alone. Gyms and fitness studios have been among the hardest-hit businesses in the pandemic due to lockdowns and restrictions on the number of people who can attend classes and workouts. Unlike bars, restaurants and live venues, health clubs have had no industry-specific federal assistance. 25% of are completely closed.

Having survived the worst, Jim is starting to see signs of stability. His data, which tracks retail foot traffic, shows that fitness studio foot traffic in January is down about 3% so far from 2019, but compared to 2021, he’s down. has increased by 40%.

At Fuel Training, the greenhouse is gone, as is the Parking Lot Spin class. increase. Gym-goers say they miss the sense of community that gyms can provide.

“I am confident that if we can sustain our community during its darkest times, it will only rise from there,” said Bocat.

Many gyms and fitness studios have had to quickly diversify their offerings to attract customers during the pandemic. Some say these changes work very well and are permanent.

Guy Codio, who owns NYC Personal Training Gym in New York City, had to increase his trainers from nine to four and switch to online training sessions during the pandemic. In 2021, he moved into another space with lower rent and began renting out the space to others in the health and wellness industry, including physical therapists and massage his therapists.

“During COVID, everyone was worried, so we just have to downgrade a little bit,” he said. “To be successful, we had to change the model. We have come to the point where we can go one step further.”

Now he’s back to six trainers, but plans to keep his new business model of renting out space to hedge his bets in case another downturn hits.

In his new space, Codio limits floors to 10 or 12 people so customers can feel more comfortable regarding COVID. But most customers he sees have “covid-19” and aren’t as worried about getting sick as they used to be, he says.

“If people are feeling unsafe, there are measures we take. We either have masks or wear masks during times when there are less people,” he said.

For Jessica Benhaim of Lumos Yoga & Barre in Philadelphia, several pandemic changes have led to a business boom. Not only has she returned to pre-pandemic attendance levels, but she recently opened a second location.

Benheim said demand will return to normal in the summer of 2022. She raised the price of drop-in classes from $5 to $25 to offset rising costs for her employees’ wages and cleaning supplies, but she says that hasn’t deterred customers.

Benheim believes two changes in the pandemic have helped restore demand. That is outdoor classes and class size restrictions. Out of necessity, she started teaching outdoor classes at a nearby community garden during the pandemic from April through October, and she has no plans to stop it now.

“People love being outside, especially in the hot summer when it’s so nice outside in the spring,” she said.

Classes are still limited to 12 people, up from 18 before the pandemic. She’s offsetting the decline by offering more classes at her two studios.

“I think just having a few extra inches between the mats just gives everyone a little bit more space. People really appreciate that.”

When the pandemic first hit, Vincent Miceli, owner of Body Blueprint Gym in Pelham, New York, expected 30% of his clients would never return. he underestimated.

Miceli believes that about 30% of his members left Pelham, a bedroom community near New York City, to move elsewhere. Another 30% of him changed his habits and stopped exercising altogether.

Now that home workouts have lost their luster, we are seeing moderate growth of around 5% month over month, similar to pre-pandemic levels. He’s down about 35% per client since February 2020. Most of our new customers have never exercised before.

“This gives us a whole new kind of lifeblood for our business,” he said. Personal training is booming, up 60%. We also focus on a small number of classes more tailored to our current clients, including a strength and conditioning class called “Strength in Numbers” for women 40+.

He says people’s concern about being healthy is overshadowed by their fear of getting sick at the gym.

“I think the seriousness of unhealthy people getting sick over the last few years is pushing people who aren’t in fitness to pay more attention,” he said.

Miseri’s business has recovered and is ready to open other stores.

“I don’t think in-person fitness will ever go away,” he said.


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