Fifteen Months Later: There’s Light at the End of the Pandemic Tunnel, Gym Owners Say
While the overarching message in the last 15 months has consistently been how devastating the pandemic has been for gym owners, many American-based CrossFit affiliates, and functional fitness gyms, are reporting having had their best year yet, thanks to an uptick in new members in recent weeks.
What they’re saying: We quickly found 22 gyms who offer more group classes now than before the pandemic — not because they’re hosting smaller classes due to COVID — but to accommodate their increased clientele.
- “Our numbers have almost doubled since pre-COVID,” said Maria Vasquez McManus, the owner of CrossFit Glynco in Brunswick, GA. As a result, she has switched her foundations program for new members away from one-on-one training to small group OnRamps in order to accommodate them all, has added five group classes to her schedule, and is about to add two more.
- “The growth in membership was what created the need for more classes. We have doubled our membership since reopening,” offered Chris Williams, the owner of Altamont Performance Lab in Tracy, CA. He has added 13 classes since before the pandemic, his revenue is up 25 percent, and he’s getting ready to raise his rates on June 15.
- Williams has been able to do all this without even having to increase his payroll, as he has turned less coaches into full-time coaches and has been focused on ensuring they’re paid “a professional, highly competitive wage,” he said. As a result, payroll is the same as pre-COVID, but with half the number of coaches.
- Similarly, Steve Gillis, the owner of 3 Star CrossFit in Mt. Juliet, TN, added five new classes in recent months, classes that are larger today than pre-COVID. This is because his membership has increased by 30 percent, and he has had his gym’s “best year yet,” he said.
- Finally, Daniel Moore, the owner of CrossFit Royal Coast in Pascagoula, MS has added seven classes since pre-COVID to accommodate the fact that he has 70 more members now. And while this has shot his payroll up $2,000 a month, his revenue has also increased by 200 percent, he explained.
One big thing: One of the reasons these gyms have seen such a big increase in new members is because the pandemic, in a sense, scared people to take their health more seriously, Gillis said.
- A handful of new members have come in and said things along the lines of, “I’ve got to do something…I know I need to lose weight and get in better shape or I’m not going to be around long,” Gillis said. “I think people are realizing that healthy people did very well through the pandemic.”
The bottom line: While the positive news isn’t to suggest the gym industry hasn’t been suffering, and continues to suffer in many places around the world—case in point: most of Canada, where many affiliates have been essentially closed since last March—it’s not all doom and gloom for gym owners today. And in some cases, the pandemic might even have encouraged people who need the gym the most to prioritize their health, allowing gym owners to do what they do best: save lives.