A BronCore Fitness bootcamp in the Boston Commons.
Jacob Gise opened a Body Fit Training franchise in Santa Monica, California, in November. By March, the flagship U.S. studio of the global chain had just become profitable.
Gise had traveled to Australia, where Body Fit Training began, to learn the ropes, so he was ecstatic to see the investment of time and resources beginning to pay off. Operating costs for the location totaled about $42,000 a month for rent, instructors and equipment.
Then, the coronavirus hit and most workout facilities in the U.S. were forced to shutter. Gise pivoted to online courses, but it wasn’t enough — he was bringing only in $8,000 a month, less than a sixth of what he was getting in March.
“I climbed this huge mountain, traveling to different countries and doing all this stuff to get it here,” Gise said. “Right as it started to be profitable and a lot of franchisees were interested, everything is shut down.”
The fitness industry has taken a huge hit as states, trying to mitigate the spread of Covid-19, forced brick-and-mortar facilities to close. There were approximately 62.4 million members of Health Clubs in the U.S. in 2019, according to the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association, with the industry recently valued at $34 billion, according to Ibis World.
The market is rapidly shrinking. Classpass, an online marketplace that connects studios and users, said 95% of its revenue dried up in April due to the virus, and 53% of its staff was laid off or furloughed. Flywheel, a cycling studio, and Solidcore, a pilates studio, laid off nearly all their staffers because of the pandemic. Gold’s Gyms and 24 Hour Fitness filed for bankruptcy.
To shore up their ailing businesses, gym owners are taking them to the streets. Holding classes outdoors provides these studios, among the last to gain authorization for reopening in many states, an alternative to less profitable online offerings.
Working it out-of-doors
On any given night at 7 p.m., a group of eight participants treks to the rooftop of Firehouse Fitness Studio in Philadelphia. Once up there, the group partakes in what studio owner Dana Auriemma called a “greatest hits” combination of the classes she typically offers.
“What we do is we bring together some of the best moves that clients will do in our mat-based sculpting classes,” she said.
A Firehouse Fitness Studio class on the rooftop.
Auriemma said the class, which is mainly mixed sculpting with a touch of cardio, uses fewer props than normal, but it was important to include some items, so clients can work out with more than their body weight — what they’ve been limited to at home. They picked out props that are easy to carry to the roof and can be easily sanitized.
She also worked with the landlord to ensure social distancing, limiting capacity to allow people more than 6 feet of space. Even a socially distanced in-person workout, Auriemma said, helps fitness studios like hers…