IDAHO — Just before the pandemic hit, KVELL Nutrition and Fitness owner, Brett Denton, was getting ready to open his third location in the Treasure Valley, but, unfortunately, his plans were cut short because of COVID-19.
“We were a year into our second facility, and we were just getting ready to open a third facility, so we ended up having to close our Meridian facility, and we are in the process of closing our Eagle facility," said Denton. "We will only have one facility still running.”
A loss in memberships and overall revenue is devastating local gyms.
“We have lost about 30 percent of our memberships and about 30 percent of our daily revenue,” said Hollywood Market Yoga owner, Sallie Riley. "I’m trying to figure out what our next steps are just because I would like to survive the winter. There have been three other yoga studios that have closed recently, and it’s sad.”
When the pandemic first hit and the stay-at-home order was in place, it was nearly impossible for gyms to make money.
“We are a group training model, and so we need a certain amount of people for it to make sense for us to stay in business right and with the 6-foot distancing and shutdowns and not as many people being able to come into the training session it gets really hard to make money," said Denton.
Without training people in person or having full classes, live-streamed or pre-recorded classes became the norm quickly.
“It was a fast learning curve, right. We had to switch gears pretty fast, but so far, I think people have responded well," said Denton. “It’s been a positive change for us because we have been able to add those to what we already have for long term purposes.”
But, it doesn't work for everyone.
"We started offering virtual classes, and its good, and people still get their yoga in, but for us being hot yoga, you don't get those extra benefits," said Riley. "It's also really difficult teaching a class and dealing with internet or virtual issues at the same time."
According to a Forbes study, 85% of people have started using virtual classes weekly during the pandemic versus only 7% a year ago in 2019.
But, is this where the fitness industry is moving towards; trainers pre-recording or live streaming their classes for people to work out at home? Denton doesn't believe so.
“It's going to be a synergy. Some days it’s really good because our clients don’t have time to come into the gym, and so great they can knock it out at home and they are ready to go," he said. "But, humans need community, they need accountability, they need human interaction, they need a coach correcting their form or cheering them on, and you can't always get that virtually, especially the community aspect.”
Although the virtual class is a great option, gyms are also taking extra protocols and precautions for people that want to come into the studio. Class sizes are limited; people have to be spaced out six feet apart and disinfecting frequently.
“Gyms disinfect everything all the time we mop with triple disinfectants we spray everything," said Riley. "We've always been extra clean, but now we take it to a whole new level, and we closed down our changing room because it's just too small."
For Denton and Riley, the fear of their businesses not surviving the pandemic is real.
"It's scary. I know a lot of gym owners who are going out of business," said Denton. “We are just trying to get out there with the virtual stuff as much as we can and then in our gym trying to get people in making sure they feel comfortable and safe."
"I don't know what we are going to do. But, I just want to say thank you to all our members that have stuck it out because that's the only thing keeping us alive right now," said Riley. "I'm hoping we will get more support soon and be able to open our studios fully because we are being safe and should be trusted."
As more gyms and studios close, it will have a lasting effect on Idaho's fitness industry for years to come.
“In a few years, when people start getting comfortable, and they get tired of working out at home, which is what usually happens, and they are going to want community. They are going to want to come back into someplace, and unfortunately, they aren't going to have that many places to pick from,” said Denton.