Gyms get creative in effort to serve clients, stay afloat financially | TheUnion.com
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Gyms get creative in effort to serve clients, stay afloat financially

South Yuba Club’s parking lot off Berryhill Drive, usually full of cars, sits mostly empty due to COVID-19 closures.
Elias Funez/efunez@theunion.com

Weekly emails with detailed workout routines, sessions via Zoom, subscriptions to fitness apps, daily posts on social media, live streaming and YouTube tutorials. It’s not ideal, but local gym owners are determined to stay connected to their clients during the COVID-19 pandemic.

With their brick-and-mortar establishments closed to the public during the state’s shelter-in-place mandate, local gyms and training facilities are finding a variety of ways to serve their members.

“This is unprecedented and unparalleled,” said Mike Carville, co-owner of South Yuba Club in Grass Valley. “It’s a very stressful time, so anything we can do to alleviate the stress and get people moving again and happy again is our goal. We’re taking it day by day.”

Carville said South Yuba Club, which first opened in 1999, has been reaching out to its clients via email to keep them informed about the gym’s status and of several ways they can continue to stay physically and mentally fit during these stressful times.

In addition to a 60-day free trial of the MOSSA MOVE app — which provides multiple programs including cardio, strength, dance, Yoga-inspired and indoor cycling — South Yuba Club members will have access to select Tai Chi videos from Homer Nottingham.

At Grass Valley Crossfit, facility owner Brandon Bergeron posts three workouts everyday to social media accounts — one for his clients with Crossfit equipment at home; another that just requires a dumbbell, a pull-up bar and jump rope; and a third that can be done with just body weight. He also makes and posts YouTube tutorials.

“I think exercise is so important right now,” said Bergeron, “especially because we tend to eat more when we’re at home more. People need to keep burning those calories.”

Susan Evans, owner of CrossFit Gold Rush, is also posting daily workouts for her clients on social media.

“It really is important for them to keep moving,” said Evans. “To go from being really active to not having that anymore really takes its toll on your mind and body. It’s super important that everybody keep moving in some way.”

For Gold Country Kuk Sool Won, a Nevada City martial arts facility, classes via Zoom have been the method to continue its teachings.

Limitless Fitness owners Matt Reiswig and Courtney Parker have been reaching out to their clientele via email and offering weekly workout routines that can be done from home with little or no equipment.

“If we can do anything to help them find any kind of normalcy and connection to their gym, to their wellness, that’s our biggest goal right now,” said Parker.

Life Force Academy, a local Yoga studio, was already technologically equipped to transition to online teachings.

“Fortunately for us, in addition to our local classes, we have a strong online presence and we’ve had that for years,” said owner Jai Dev. “Even well before the shelter in place, we switched everything over to online. So for our local community, what we did was started live streaming my local classes.”

Local trainer Michael Sorenson has also taken to the internet to offer his services. Sorenson, who can be contacted at http://www.empoweringlifecoaching.com, is doing evaluations via Skype and instructs clients how to meet their exercise goals with just the stuff they have around the house.

“In reality, it doesn’t take that much to get a good workout, if you know the exercises and know how to use the equipment,” Sorenson said.

Financial fitness

While each facility is developing its own strategy for connecting with their members, they are doing the same when it comes to staying afloat as a business.

“Gyms tend not to carry a ton of cash,” said Carville. “So, it’s really hard to weather periods with no membership revenue coming in. That’s our business model. We’re kind of feeling our way along one day at a time.”

South Yuba Club planned to credit the time the gym was closed back to its members, Carville said, but with the shelter-in-place order likely to continue longer than initially expected, his club is working to stop payments until they reopen.

“We could probably survive for three months, but we’d be tapped out,” he said. “We would have burnt through everything at that point, which is really sad because we had a lot of upgrades and exciting things planned for the club and we spent a tremendous amount of money over the last year.”

Other gyms have followed the same approach and stopped charging monthly fees. Others plan to credit members’ monthly charges for the future or offer specialty gym classes for free once reopened.

Gym owners in general have been overwhelmed by the generosity and understanding of their patrons, many of whom told them to continue charging them monthly dues despite the facility closures.

“Most of our people wanted to stay on,” said Bergeron, who called every one of his nearly 100 clients and asked them individually how they would like to proceed. “It was heart warming. It was an overwhelming amount of support that I did not expect. For people to want to continue to get charged even though they are not getting the service is kind of mind blowing.”

Some gyms were more prepared than others for a situation like this.

“It’s going to hurt, and I know it’s going to hurt everywhere, but I’ve been fortunate to have some really good mentors in my life and I had a three month emergency fund,” said Curtis Pracht, owner of Ironworks Gym in Grass Valley. “We’re fine, and I’m going through all the grant stuff that was approved by the new stimulus. While it sucks to have to get into an emergency fund, that’s what it’s there for.”

Healthy body,

healthy mind

While each gym is figuring out its own approach to connecting with its members navigating the pandemic financially, they all agree it’s important for people to continue exercising for both their physical and mental health.

“It’s imperative,” said Reiswig. “The biggest thing during this time is to maintain a routine.”

Pracht noted, “Fitness is an anti-depressant and we have a situation where everyone is being told to stay inside. Exercise is at least as important and probably more so right now.”

In addition to encouraging exercise as a way to stay mentally fit, South Yuba Club has created a “Hang In There” group on Facebook for its members to stay connected with each other.

“It’s just a way to create social connection among the membership,” said Carville. “A lot of us are quarantined in our homes and it’s a way to create a dialogue and connect people to just share and communicate and bring each other’s spirits up.”

Making improvements

Many owners said they are using this time to make upgrades around their gyms, do spring cleaning and plan for their reopening.

“Most of my focus has been making sure the facility stays as up to date as it can be,” said Pracht. “I’ve been in here doing a massive spring cleaning, which would have happened anyway. I’ve got some construction projects that I’m taking care of because I’m a contractor also. Doing them inside the building, so when people come back they see progress in the gym.”

Carville said South Yuba Club was able to keep on its maintenance staff and has been hard at work making improvements around the facility.

“We’re grateful for all of our members and our team,” he said. “We are doing everything we can to make this process work and not be painful. Hopefully, if this thing doesn’t go beyond three months, we will be ready to open with a fresh, clean club. We just look forward to getting back to normal with our activities and our businesses.”

To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email wford@theunion.com.


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