Heavy Lift: Gyms Adapt After Pandemic


There's no doubt the coronavirus pandemic has left public gyms in bad shape. Major chains like 24-Hour Fitness, Planet Fitness and SoulCycle were forced to close their locations for months, all while home fitness equipment sales soared. Peloton Interactive, while provides at-home exercise products and services, has seen huge growth during the pandemic as people drop gym memberships and shift their workouts to home.

While most public gyms are now reopened to some extent (Texas allowed gyms to reopen in May, while New York and New Jersey just did so this month), many are still struggling with new protocols like space limitations, enhanced sanitization, temperature checks, and touchless services. Those that survive and recover will have to adjust to these realities while enhancing their digital and virtual services.

One of those gyms forced to adapt in recent months is the Women's Health and Fitness Center in Houston, whose owner Felicia Lee-Sexton says has found success with a new, more time-regimented approach. "You get your hour (for your workout), you leave, we clean up, then ten minutes later the next crew comes in," she tells KTRH. "So I am literally training more people now than I was before, and I'm doing Zoom workouts with women as far away as Rochester, New York."

While Lee-Sexton is pleased with the expansion of her online workouts, she still believes all-virtual exercise is not a permanent solution. "You're missing the outside contact, you're missing that personal training of somebody giving you instruction," she says. "Because think about it, you might have all this equipment at home, but do you know what you're doing with it?"

Like so many other aspects of life, it's likely the fitness industry will be changed permanently from this pandemic. But that doesn't mean in-person workouts and public gyms will be going away for good. "We need these workout regimens, we need human contact, we need to get out of the house, we need to be in the park, we need to be in the gym," says Lee-Sexton. "I personally believe we're going to come back eventually, and people will be working out in their regular environment...I really do."

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