Making things work
Diana Inglis leads remote workout classes from the Empowered Fitness studio in Half Moon Bay. Photo courtesy Diana Inglis

Snap Fitness is a nationwide chain of gyms. It’s one of the most popular training facilities in the country, but the business has taken quite a hit over the fear of the coronavirus. And the future is uncertain — not only for chains like Snap, but for many fitness clubs and studios of all sizes.

The Snap Fitness Half Moon Bay location has closed its doors to the public, for now. According to Joseph Mackay, a general manager at a Snap gym in Placerville, Calif., the corporate board elected to cease all billing during the shelter-in-place order, meaning no income for the club. Mackay said, with very few exceptions, all corporate personal trainers have been furloughed. The company hopes that trainers can keep their medical benefits and become eligible for unemployment assistance.

Mackay said it’s possible the bigger gyms with larger capacities will be impacted more than smaller operations going forward, and the fallout from the coronavirus is “devastating to the industry in ways we haven't fully seen yet.”

The shutdowns put in place to stop the spread of the coronavirus have thrown a wrench in the system from the biggest fitness centers to small-scale personal trainers. On the Coastside, some have continued to charge for their services, creating an online extension of their gym. Others have transitioned to free classes just to retain participation.

Summer Williams, a former Cirque du Soleil acrobat who’s done personal training in Sydney, Australia, and San Francisco, is the owner of Coastside Health and Fitness. She started her company out of El Granada last year. Now, the coronavirus has changed the fitness industry landscape.

“It’s definitely taken a massive toll and hit on my income,” Williams said.

Williams, like many personal trainers in the last month, had to adapt with the times. She still has regular clients but she has started doing free Zoom workouts for drop-in participants. Under normal circumstances, Williams either works outside, at her client’s houses, or has clients come to her garage, which is stuffed with typical gym equipment. Though some clients may have more time on their hands, Williams recognizes that their income may be affected as well.

“Where before I had a definite class and pricing structure, now I’m a little more flexible depending on what people need,” Williams explained.

She referenced two of her clients who are both overweight, and how they had been making steady progress with her consistent workouts.

“But now they are at home and they just don’t have that motivation,” Williams said. “They’re sinking back into their habits.”

Enso Yoga Studio in Half Moon Bay is keeping a consistent habit of daily Zoom meetings. The studio’s schedule is available on its website, and instructors are available

seven days a week. Classes cost between $5 and $10. But creating a robust online system that is agreeable to customers and trainers is no simple task.

Diana and Mike Inglis run Empowered Fitness together with their staff, and though they saw the signs of sweeping changes, they still had to scramble to keep a structure together. They closed their locations in Pacifica and El Granada four days before California’s shelter-in-place orders went into effect.

By March 23, the Inglises had essentially turned their online programs into an extension of their gyms. With 17 live classes per week, they’ve found a way to offer online classes every day to clients, and given access to an extensive on-demand inventory of various workout methods and stretches. Class sizes tend to be around 20 but sometimes go to as many as 40 participants.

“It’s become a new facet of our business, which was something we didn’t expect,” Inglis said.

According to gym owners and personal trainers, establishing a routine and interactivity at a time when people are remaining indoors can be good for mental and physical health. Diana Inglis believes what separates the program from others is the real-time engagement between herself and her clients, something they’ve strived to maintain in the online atmosphere.

“For a lot of them, it’s huge because it’s a little dose of feeling normal,” she said. “They can see me and each other, and they feel connected.”

Empowered Fitness made other changes as well. The Inglises loaned equipment to those who needed it and changed the membership options to accommodate the dramatic transition away from their gyms.

“We basically have applied credit to our clients as goodwill toward them and to level the playing field,” Diana Inglis said. “We have everyone at our lowest membership and yet they all get unlimited classes.”

This is uncharted territory for Empowered Fitness, as it is for the majority of local businesses. To keep people on board, they’ve altered their revenue stream and the method of delivery.

“It’s devastating,” she said, “but I feel fortunate that we have a way to pivot and still offer something good to our clients.”

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