Did the pandemic positively impact the fitness industry?

Gyms reopen with cleaning guidelines amid COVID-19. Photo by Matt Siciliano-Salazar | The Signal

The sports world flipped upside down along with the rest of the world when COVID-19 showed up. But that didn’t stop all athletes from staying in shape. It also didn’t stop much of the country, let alone the world, from exercising. 

With the highest unemployment rate since the Great Depression sweeping the United States, the fitness industry also did a 180. However, unlike the sports world, the fitness industry is thriving.

Dick’s Sporting Goods was selling lots of fitness equipment almost immediately after all non-essential businesses were shut down. Through curbside pickup, the multi-billion dollar company kept its customers satisfied and its investors happy.

The company’s stock price plummeted to $16.87 per share on March 18. On May 11, DSG’s stock closed at $29.88.

“People were looking to put their own gym in their home, so they bought everything–every barbell, every dumbbell, fitness equipment, you name it,” Michael Tharp, store manager of the Perimeter Pointe location, said. “And out of the fitness department, if they used it at a gym, they bought it here. Curbside delivery, Omni business exploded after we closed.”

Two months, many survivors and hundreds of questions later, living with the coronavirus epidemic has almost become a norm for society. Many businesses are unsure of when they will open again after continuing to make budget cuts. Some are unsure if they will ever be able to open their doors again.

But across the nation, practicing social distancing and following the government’s orders is all someone can do. At the same time, people want to get back into the gym and continue working out. 

Resistance band workouts are being created and published at an all-time high quantity level while the prices have gone up by over twice as much for some brands, such as this set from Mpow on Amazon.

Resistance band workouts are great, but nothing can compare to being on a bench or squat rack and hitting a new personal record for weight. That is why Crunch Fitness could not wait to open up their 200+ locations across the country again. 

According to Crunch West Florida and Atlanta President Geoffrey Dyer, they could have opened their gyms on April 24. Crunch reopened their gyms on May 1 after closing them on March 18.

“The members are loving it,” Dyer said on the early impressions of the layout. “They started going in on Monday, the first of May, and initially, a little bit apprehensive. But as the days have evolved, members are coming in more frequently, [starting] to bring their friends. It’s been absolutely tremendous the way the clubs have been received.”

In addition to Dyer’s partner personally training the staff for five days in a row himself at the locations, the company sent out a 37-page list of guidelines to follow. 

The numbers indicate early optimism. After two weeks, the company has only received two reports of two members contracting the coronavirus. Dyer confirmed that both are still alive.

So what is new inside of each Crunch Fitness location?

It was common for the employees to wear gloves while cleaning and often masks too. But now, all employees are required to wear masks and gloves at all times. They also must check their temperatures before and after each shift. 

For the members, there are a number of things that will be different. 

There are decals on the floors to properly distance members when they are checking in. Cardio machines that used to be right next to each other have been unplugged, instead, only allowing for every other one to be used. 

Additionally, the gyms moved all of the equipment around and rotated it throughout the floor so that each machine, bench and rack would be six feet apart.

But the most important thing Dyer noted was the message they are hoping to send as a company.

“What was important was we had developed all this signage criteria. What was important was wherever the members went, they saw what we thought were the most important things to do when you’re coming into the club,” he said. “When you’ve got 21 clubs, we spent 30 grand on signage to make sure that every club has the same exact look and feel [when] a member walks through the front door.”

He continued, saying, “when [Crunch members] go to the sink, we want them to see ‘please wash your hands for 20 seconds thoroughly with soap.’ We want them to see all the things that have been impressed on us [by] the government so that they understand what it takes to be socially responsible.”

From the sporting goods industry to local gyms, everyone is eager to remember what a normal life feels like. Dyer hopes that everyone who worked out before the pandemic will continue that norm in their life whenever they are ready.

“We all need to get back to a normal lifestyle just like we all need to get a haircut and, from time to time, be able to go to a restaurant to eat,” Dyer said. “If you’re not comfortable going back, then just wait, keep your membership on freeze until you’re ready to return to the gym. But the sooner you return to the gym, the sooner your life will get back to a sense of normalcy.”