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Q&A Part 1: What will reopening gyms after Coronavirus be like?

This is the first installment of a two-part series in which we examine the fitness effect of COVID-19 on businesses and their plans for reopening. In part one, we provide readers a glimpse into one local Sacramento studio, 9Round Fitness, and its owners’ plans for emerging from closure. In part two, we will examine the industry as a whole.

Do you wonder what changes are coming to your favorite gym because of Coronavirus? Will those changes be temporary or permanent? Will the fitness industry, as a whole, ever fully bounce back?

To get an idea of what reopening gyms after Coronavirus might be like and answer these questions, we looked locally to two women in the trenches fighting to save their gym business — Paige Winchester and Adele Letro, owners of 9Round Fitness in Sacramento’s Midtown neighborhood.

If you are like many fitness enthusiasts that aren’t working out in a big club, then you are most likely at a smaller studio or specialty gym like 9Round. Founded in 2008, with a total of 768 locations in over 20 countries and another 500 in different stages of development, 9Round is not new to the scene. They set themselves apart by having a trainer at hand for every workout, as well as a short duration — 30 minutes from start to finish, comprised of high-intensity kickboxing training in nine 3-minute rounds with 30 seconds of active rest between rounds.

Capital Rivers spoke with the owners of 9Round to examine the future of the fitness industry, and how 9Round is navigating these times.

Q&A On Reopening Gyms After Coronavirus With 9Rounds

Q:  For starters, talk about what the last couple of months have been like. When did you close, what drove that decision, and how severe has the impact been on your business?

A:  The last couple of months have been stressful, scary, and full of many unknowns. We closed our doors on March 17th after Sacramento County issued the closure of non-essential businesses. The impact has been substantial. We have lost almost 30% of our membership base and the number continues to rise as more people are laid off and experiencing hard times. I don’t blame them, this time is extremely hard on everyone.

Q:  How will you decide when to re-open?

A: We will base our reopening on the guidelines released by Sacramento County officials, as well as Governor Newsom’s guidelines.

Q:  When you re-open, how are you changing the in-gym experience? Will you do anything for those who need or want to stay home? Will you follow a chain-wide program, or will you get to make your own decisions?

A: The in-gym experience will change in many ways. Where members could show up whenever with no class times, now they will have to book a class. This is the biggest change. We will also only allow 9 members and 1 trainer in the gym at a time, in normal circumstances we could have a max capacity at 25 with 2 trainers.

Trainers will no longer be engaging with mitts or hand pads, giving high fives or coming within 6 feet of a member. Members and trainers must also wear a mask. For those with compromised immune systems or facing a fear of COVID-19 we will continue to offer corporate home workouts as well as live zoom workouts throughout the week. 9Round is worldwide, so the decision regarding offering live workouts is up to us, and if the members want them we will continue to provide them. The chain-wide program is more of safety protocols:  taping off designated areas for members to work out, limiting the number of members in the gym, cleaning and disinfecting after each class, etc.

Q: Do you plan to implement these changes on a permanent basis? Do you think the changes being implemented by the industry now will become the “new normal”? Are you optimistic in the long run, or do you think the fitness industry is in jeopardy? 

A:  No we do not plan to implement these changes on a permanent basis. If laws change and we are enforced to do so, then yes, but otherwise once this is over we would like to resume normal procedures. We will however continue to disinfect and sanitize regularly.

Q:  From a real estate perspective, do you think gyms will need to find a different — especially larger — type of space to occupy going forward?

A:  Yes, I could see that being the case for gyms that have classes with members bunched in like sardines. Most spin classes have members so close you can feel the person behind you breathing. I could see gyms with this type of class needing to expand the area where people are confined to workout.

While boutique gyms may have tailored recovery plans like 9Rounds, how are bigger box fitness centers going to adapt and maintain both profitability and safety for everyone who walks in the door? What will be the “new normal” in gym protocols? Should smaller studios like 9Rounds be lumped in with the bigger gyms when it comes to protocols and rules?

These questions and more will be answered in part two of our blog series on reopening gyms after Coronavirus. To receive this second installment in this fitness industry series directly to your inbox, subscribe to the Capital Rivers newsletter!

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