Last week, Swerve Fitness CEO Eric Posner had to make what he calls one of the most difficult decisions of his life when he—along with the two other co-founders of the New York City-based spinning studio—closed the doors to all three of their gyms. Embracing the realities of the coronavirus crisis is hard for a lot of us, and it’s proved especially tough for the finance-guy-turned-entrepreneur and CEO of a small business, knowing that each day the studios are closed is a day of major financial loss.
“What’s happening in the world right now is hard to swallow. We did what we had to do to keep our team and community safe,” Posner says, “It chokes me up talking about it. It wasn’t something we anticipated happening so soon.” Now, like many other leaders in the fitness industry, Posner’s trying to figure out how to make ends meet for an uncertain amount of time and limit the damage to his business, all while encouraging their community of riders and staff through the crisis. “We’re going through the numbers and doing everything we can to call all of our vendors, partners, banks, literally everyone and see what sort of relief we can get,” he says.
“Some conversations have gone well, and others we’re still having.” Joey Gonzalez, CEO of the much larger Barry’s, can relate to Posner. “It was the hardest decision of my life to close before any national mandate was in place, especially when thousands of our customers were begging us to stay open for as long as was allowed,” he said. “In 21 years of business, the company hasn’t closed our doors—not for even one day.”
Despite shutting down their brick and mortar locations, Gonzalez—like many other fitness professionals—is committed to keeping in close contact with his clientele during this difficult time. Streaming workouts are popping up on every possible platform: Instagram, Zoom, Skype, Facebook, you name it.
“I led an Instagram Live workout this morning and felt a total goober doing it,” Sam Tooley, a gym owner and run coach from New Jersey says. “Usually I feed so much off of the energy from my clients or people in the class, and it’s so different when it’s just you alone in your space. But I know it’s doing good. We have to keep moving.” It’s not just the studios that are struggling to stay afloat at this time; their employees are toughing it out, too.
For many trainers who rely on regular classes to pay their bills, this is uncharted territory. “The idea that our main stream of income came to a complete halt is—like many other individuals in other fields — is an unfathomable reality to accept,” says Ash Wilking, a Nike trainer and Rumble instructor. Wilking is posting daily workouts on her Instagram feed for free—but she's asking followers to make a donation to the Food Bank for New York City. As for independent trainers, gyms closing across the country and orders for quarantine mean that IRL sessions are a thing of the past.
“Not being able to go and train my clients in person and use the equipment at the gym is definitely challenging,” says Lacee Lazoff, New York City-based trainer and kettlebell expert, who says she expects to be set back at least eight months by the crisis. “I have to reevaluate the programming for my online clients who now have limited resources," she says. “Still, I think it’s a wake up call for how big of a role technology will play going forward. I believe in in-person connection, but there’s a lot that we can learn from this situation to come out better on the other side.”