Gyms flex on reopening challenges of coronavirus, summer
When 614Fitness, 6417 Busch Blvd. in north Columbus, reopened May 26 after its state-mandated closure during the early days of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, the dropoff in membership initially was low, said Jim Hofstetter, owner and chief fitness officer.
But that changed as the weeks have progressed.
As of July 1, Hofstetter had lost about 20% of his membership from the beginning of the year, he said. 614Fitness had 85 members as compared to 105 in January, he said.
And although 614Fitness has added a few new members, the numbers don't make up for those who have left, he said.
"The question is, how long is that sustainable?" Hofstetter said.
614Fitness is one of several central Ohio gyms and fitness centers facing the hardships and challenges posed by state restrictions, the summer season and the coronavirus itself after being able to reopen more than a month ago.
When Gov. Mike DeWine announced that gyms and fitness centers could reopen May 26 after being closed since mid-March, it came with a list of mandatory and recommended best practices, including such topics as spacing, capacity, sanitization, signs and face coverings.
According to the state, group classes at 614Fitness cannot include more than 10 people, Hofstetter said. About half of the group classes are available via the Zoom videoconferencing platform, and some people are attending their classes remotely, he said.
614Fitness can best be described as a boutique fitness studio, Hofstetter said. The business offers small-group or personal training rather than walk-in fitness services.
The pandemic has changed the way the group classes are conducted, Hofstetter said. For instance, 614Fitness has discarded circuit training in favor of training stations at which patrons stay for the duration of a class, he said.
Still, small fitness studios like his are experiencing a great deal of uncertainty, Hofstetter said.
Many who have departed left after hanging on for some time out of loyalty, he said. He hopes that as things become a new normal, "we'll have them back in the family."
Mike Frate, general manager at Fitness 19 at 85 W. Schrock Road in Westerville, said his fitness center has experienced an approximately 25% decrease in membership since reopening May 26.
The gym, which offers cardio- and strength-training equipment and classes, was signing up members a week to 10 days before it reopened, he said. The members primarily were middle-aged or younger, he said.
But as of June 29, Frate has been seeing more membership cancellations – and he thinks people still are afraid to visit gyms during the ongoing pandemic, he said.
"It's gotta turn around here at some point," Frate said.
Still, he said, he foresees the trend continuing even six months from now. He said he wishes those who choose to cancel their memberships could see firsthand the cleaning procedures the gym has implemented.
Six sanitizer stations were installed throughout the gym, and every other cardio machine was made inoperable to abide by social-distancing standards, Frate said. Weight machines were moved farther from one another for social distancing, as well, he said.
Social distancing cut class capacity in half at Cycle614, 1636 Northwest Blvd. in Columbus, just outside Upper Arlington.
Co-owner Demi Tsapatsaris said the fitness studio, which solely offers indoor cycling classes, had to drop from 41 bikes to 21 bikes to meet social-distancing standards when it reopened June 15.
In the interim, the studio made improvements, including the installation of an air-purification system for the ride room, Tsapatsaris said.
The business should rebound, she said, "but it's going to be really hard until we get to full capacity again."
Metro Fitness, a gym at 1245 Worthington Woods Blvd. in Columbus, just outside Worthington, made videos showing its customers the gym's cleaning and improvements, such as the spacing of equipment for social distancing, said general manager Julie Davies.
Metro Fitness has cardio and weight equipment, as well as group classes.
It's not known if the social-media campaign had a direct effect, but Metro Fitness has had an influx of new members as of late June, including more than 55 new members joining the first day the gym reopened May 26, Davies said.
"We're very happy," she said.
Some people joined because their normal gyms weren't open that first week, Davies said. Some left when those gyms reopened, and others have canceled, but not all, she said.
The gym's membership isn't at the level it was before the pandemic, Davies said, but it still has a steady flow of people. And because June historically has been the business' biggest membership-cancellation month, she was hesitant to attribute the loss entirely to the coronavirus.
"In the summer, all gyms are down," she said.
However, the warm summer months could be having a positive impact on membership at the Club at Corazon, 7155 Corazon Drive in Dublin, owner Jon Krachenfels said.
Membership has been up just over 30% since the center reopened at the end of May, he said.
Krachenfels said the facility's inside pool and outside pool – the latter of which he described as a resort-style, oasis pool – might have something to do with the increase.
Like other locations, Corazon also changed the layout of its equipment and increased cleaning of equipment and high-touch and high-traffic areas.
Group classes are held outside, he said.