NEW YORK — The fitness industry has really seen a rapid series of changes because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
A lot of working out and training has gone virtual, with gyms and studios shuttered. Moreover, re-opening dates for training facilities are more uncertain than a lot of other businesses because of social distancing concerns.
Personal trainer Danielle Harrison said she was honestly a little surprised she’s been been able to maintain about 80% of her clients so far. She credits those she trains wanting to maintain a sense of normalcy in their lives, and also her own ability to adapt to training via FaceTime and her social media presence.
However, Harrison, like many other fitness professionals, is not sure what the future holds. She is especially concerns about gyms and workout class settings.
“It’s going to be a while before my clients are comfortable,” she said. “You get down and dirty and are sweating and perspiring. So that’s where the challenge lies with gyms. So where do you take your clients to use the same dumbbells and squat racks. You’re going to have to get creative.”
That is what Tammeca Rochester owner of Harlem Cycle has been trying to do.
Realizing businesses like hers will be some of the last to reopen, Rochester has been scrambling to survive. She is renting out her studio bicycles, offering online classes, and even dabbling in healthy cooking tutorials.
“We’re not opening to teach just one person at a time,” she said. “It has to be when our clients are comfortable, and when we think it’s safe. So we’ve created a COVID relief fund partnering with three different fitness studios in Harlem.”
Even still, it is unclear if a good portion of the workout community will come back to gyms when this is all over. There has been an explosion of online home workouts through services like like Peloton. People are also just generally getting more used to working out on their own.
“I think you can look at Amazon as an indication of the future,” said Allen Adamson, NYU Stern School of Business. “They were selling books online and book sellers didn’t taken the seriously… People looked at Peloton as a niche and it’s going to become far more mainstream preeminently after this event.”
Arguably, the best hope for gyms and fitness studios to combat the wave of change is the human desire for in person connection. University of New Haven Economist and kickboxing instructor Jan Jones is holding out hope.
“People in New York City stuck in apartments are really limited in what they can do for their health,” she said. “I think in the fall, we’ll see a surge of people returning to gyms.”