Local gyms and fitness studios are facing a challenge that they’ve never faced before: serving the community during a public health crisis.
Gyms throughout the country are closing their doors or modifying their gym schedules to help stop the spread of coronavirus, including gyms in Lee County.
Pure Barre Auburn is one of several gyms in the area that have decided to shut their doors despite wanting to continue to serve the community.
“Our community’s health and wellness is the most important thing to me,” Ashley Caldwell, owner of Pure Barre Auburn, said. “I didn’t get into this business just to make a bunch of money. I got into this business because I was passionate about it and I was passionate about the community. And I just realized I was not doing our studio a service by keeping my doors open.”
Closing the doors wasn’t the first step for Caldwell; actually, it was a worst-case scenario.
“We took put precautions in place at the beginning of all this when it started a few weeks ago,” she said. “We added additional sanitation steps between the equipment and the studio and our staff.”
However, for Caldwell, those efforts only put off what she felt was the inevitable.
“I think there was kind of this (pre)conceived notion of like if we clean and we sanitize and we do all this we’re going to be able to keep our doors open,” she said. “But that was all just a false sense of hope.”
Keeping it clean
Across town, Backbone CrossFit had its doors open as of last Friday in an effort to help its community stay fit.
“At the moment, considering the style of facility we are, everyone’s super stoked about still coming in,” Mike Jones, owner of Backbone CrossFit, said. “No one has actually voiced any reservations because of how detailed we are on cleaning.”
Jones and his staff have instituted a more rigorous cleaning and sanitation process in order to keep his community safe and gym clean.
“We already are a very clean facility,” he said. “We’ve doubled those efforts now cleaning after every class, making sure we’re using disinfectant in even more places than is considered needed.”
Backbone CrossFit members are required to wash their hands before and after working out and wipe down all the equipment as soon as they finish using it. The gym also has capped classes at six people and has each member conduct their workout six feet away from another person.
Jones, however, continues to watch CDC recommendations and will do what he has to do based upon those.
“We are going to keep our members in mind though, when we feel like the risks outweigh the benefits we will absolutely do what we have to do,” Jones said. “We will close the doors if we need to.”
One of the main challenges gyms are facing is keeping their members motivated even when classes may be different or the gym space is closed.
Caldwell decided to live stream Pure Barre classes on a community Facebook page in order to keep her members motivated and engaged with each other even though the studio doors are closed.
“Really it’s been amazing,” she said. “Just the last 48 hours, how supportive our community has been and how thrilled they are to have an option that’s personal.
“We wanted a space where our clients could log on and take class and see faces and names that they know and still hold each other accountable.”
Caldwell also started an “at-home” challenge for her members in order to help keep them moving.
Motivation hasn’t been so much of an issue for Jones, rather, communicating changes to members has proven more difficult.
“We more have an issue trying to let people know that we’ve spread classes out, you need to make sure not to come in we’ve capped classes so classes aren’t too busy,” he said. “So it’s really a trying to keep people focused on adhering to the protocols versus being motivated to come in.”
Both Caldwell and Jones have thought about what the coronavirus outbreak may do to their businesses financially in the coming months.
“I think most small business owners probably are like me and they’re sitting there crunching numbers,” said Caldwell. “It’s very stressful when you know that your doors aren’t open and you don’t have a steady revenue stream.”
Jones knows the impact of the virus could be devastating; however, he and his team are working to find ways to continue to serve even if the gym’s doors close.
“Right now we’ve got all of our staff just working on options that will allow us to keep members engaged even if they’re at home or we’re not able to open the doors for whatever reason,” he said.
Jones’ gym already offers online personal training, a tool that may be more widely used now due to the virus.
Despite not knowing what the future may bring, both gym owners agree that staying fit during this stressful time is important.
“I know it was brightened my mood personally just knowing that we’re all in the boat together,” Caldwell said about working out. “We’re all still at home working out and sweating and struggling but choosing to take the 50 minutes of time for yourself still I think is so important.
“We can’t just drop off self-health because we’re all quarantined.”