Gym owner: Post-COVID, we’ll need to pump up the value | Opinion

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Gym owner: Post-COVID, we’ll need to pump up the value | Opinion


By Dan Goodman

New Jersey is synonymous with the word gym and is the home to nearly 4,000 gym businesses employing 35,000 people and accounts for $1 billion in annual sales. No one could have expected what was to come of the 2020 shutdown, but for the ones that have weathered the ongoing storm, it has improved many businesses.

Since March 2020, service businesses have been crushed, with the gym business bearing the brunt. It’s been reported by statista.com that 25% of all national brick-and-mortar gyms have closed with many household name brands filing for bankruptcy. With this has come the high attrition of coaches leaving the industry. In fact, 90% of all coaches left the industry after only one year.

Through the ebb and flows of market changes, economic downturns and a housing market collapse, there’s been one constant with the fitness industry the last 30 years — continued growth. When the going gets tough, people have double-downed on their personal health and fitness. This hasn’t been the case the last two years as the industry has lost billions of dollars.

So, where is everyone going?

Studies have found that 50% of all Americans have gained weight in the past two years. This is the result of people sitting idle — citing that one in four Americans sit for longer than eight hours per day.

With many professionals working from home, people figured home-based fitness would be as convenient. This blazed a trail for Peloton, Mirror and other interactive home fitness brands. The question remains, has this type of fitness routine made a positive impact on Americans health and fitness?

With 50% of Americans reporting weight gain in the last two years, the answer is quite simply, NO. The numbers don’t lie, and we’re failing the test.

Virtual fatigue is real. Being stagnant is real and the negative psychological effect of not seeing people in person is real.

               

For the gyms and coaches in New Jersey that have weathered the last couple of years, consider this the new frontier of fitness. We’re on the verge of people being ready, willing, and eager to break out of the house and prioritize fitness once again.

COVID-19 has shined a light on the fact that strength is never a weakness. Improved cardiovascular strength, decreased body fat and more physically fit individuals have an easier time coping with the infection. This applies to the fight against COVID, as well as other preventable diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and many types of cancer.

It’s a wake-up call to fitness professionals that people buy what they value. Peloton comes with a $4,000 price tag along with monthly dues. By the numbers, it seems for many, these bikes have become expensive clothes hangers.

For years the fitness industry has been a price race to the bottom. Virtual at home fitness brands have taught everyone a very important lesson. People are willing to invest large sums of money to get fit. As fitness professionals we have to provide the VALUE that spending it at our clubs is the right move. The move that will get results and have fun doing it.

Here’s what we can learn:

  • People pay for convenience. Streamline the process of doing business with your brand. Simplify the booking system and sales processes. Signing up for a gym shouldn’t feel like mortgage paperwork.
  • Digital accountability. How can you layer in digital support to your clients when they’re not at your gym? Can you utilize training programming software, nutrition push notifications, and a members accountability group?
  • Great Service. The days of the facility selling itself are over. Service training for all staff needs to be at the forefront of the education process.
  • Personal Data. People want feedback. This can be done with wearable fitness (apple watch, whoop bands), Digital body scans (Inbody scans), tracking of weights lifted over time and personal bests.

The path to success will look different for New Jersey-based gyms but for the ones willing to adapt, it will prove to be a very busy few years. We welcome the opportunity.

Dan Goodman lives in Ridgewood and is the CEO of Varsity House Gym.

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