May 23, 2024


Health know-how

Gym owners still adjusting to shift in fitness industry created by the pandemic

CLEVELAND — The first of the year is usually when many gyms and fitness centers record a spike in new memberships. Oftentimes New Year’s resolutions involve more exercise or people looking to drop a few pounds. But, that surge of people rushing to the gym to get fit isn’t happening in 2021.

Instead, gym owners are dealing with lower attendance rates because of the pandemic. COVID-19 cases nationwide are keeping people at home and managing their physical fitness there.

“It’s been so stressful for people and it’s really wearing people down,” said Linda McVey, the executive director of health initiatives, at the YMCA of Greater Cleveland.

McVey said the YMCA had fewer new memberships in January, a time when the club typically runs a special for new sign-ups. And while attendance rates are also lower, McVey said the YMCA is making it a point to reach out to members who cannot come into the facilities.

“We have regular phone contact with our older adult members who don’t feel comfortable coming in,” McVey said. “Our staff members actually call them just to check in to see how they are we send cards and we send notes. We offer virtual platforms for them just to interact, you know, coffee time where we can just get on the computer and talk with each other.”

In addition, the YMCA just launched a new initiative called “RESET Challenge.” The six-week challenge is free for Y members and community members. To register text the word “RESET” to 833-320-1759. Individuals who join the challenge will have access to free virtual, on-demand and in-person exercise content.

“We know that we can make people healthier and stronger spiritually and mentally by working in a positive regard. And so that’s our call and get reset. We all got are going to hit that reset button together,” McVey said.

McVey said while the program will offer virtual workouts, they are beginning to notice barriers being created by the virtual settings.

“There’s that personal interaction that people are missing. And although we’re trying to add that in many different ways to the virtual environment, it’s not the same,” she said.

Nick White, the owner of Tremont Athletic Club, agrees.

“A lot of our personal training is now virtual but we aren’t doing virtual classes anymore,” he said.

White said his gym is seeing 20% less traffic compared to one year ago. Part of that is because Americans have invested money into home fitness equipment.

According to NPD retail data, health and fitness equipment revenue more than doubled, to $2.3 billion, from March to October last year.

However, White doesn’t believe this trend is going to last. “There’s going to be a lot of home gym equipment just sitting around… It’s unsustainable for it to keep growing like this,” he said.

White said though 2020 was the hardest year as a business owner – he’s focusing on keeping his employees healthy and safe as well as his gym members.

“Nothing’s been destroyed. We’re going to come out of this and we have all of our core team members stay on board,” White said. “We felt like we were better off focusing on improving the facility, for building up infrastructure and really concentrating on what we were the best at in Cleveland and that was, you know, in-person — our facilities are classes our instructors.”

Though numbers aren’t where he’d like them to be – there’s no use in pouring over number and data sheets.

“There’s no real value in comparing data during this time and before this time, you’re not going to get any sort of correlation that will help you. You kind of have to start. It’s like opening the gym up new again,” White said.