• Sarah Ballan

Fitness Before and After Coronavirus (BC/AC)

I would take a deep breath to center myself before going on the platform. I’d peer into the crowd and see 50 stationary bikes whirring up their single wheels, all 100 eyes on me, looking for inspiration. As the lights dimmed, and the music blared, the hairs on my arm would begin to push themselves out from the follicles; partly nerves, partly because the room was kept cold. I’d interlock eyes with my front row riders to confirm that their game faces were on. We were all about to sweat. A lot. Together. There’s nothing like being in a packed dark room, pushing it to your limit when the beat drops. But, that was fitness BC (Before Coronavirus). Now, specifically in New York City, gyms and boutique fitness studios have yet to fully reopen, and consumers and trainers alike are mourning the end of an indoor fitness era.


Studio workouts are a thing of the past. 


Boutique fitness studios with jam-packed schedules had to eradicate their rosters overnight to abide by city and state laws set in place to contain the spread of coronavirus. The few establishments that could afford to resurface during state re-openings have drastically diminished their size in numbers. Places like Barry’s Bootcamp are having class at less than half capacity, masks required. Other companies, such as my previous place of work, Flywheel Sports, do not have the funds to reopen. Flywheel filed for Chapter 11 last winter 2019, and was acquired by Town Sports, which later dropped the deal in April 2020 AC (After Coronavirus) when they, too, filed for bankruptcy. Flywheel was forced to file Chapter 7 and liquidate all funds. They remain 50 million dollars in debt. 


Group fitness will never be the same again, and neither will getting a job as a fitness professional.


The indoor boutique fitness empire has collapsed and been remodeled, and now, effectively has been replaced with online fitness conglomerates that are monopolizing the business. The powerhouses, like Peloton, Mirror, and Obe Fitness, only favor a few, established trainers, leaving many qualified and hardworking fitness professionals unemployed and dumb out of luck. These mega companies are turning select instructors into celebrities, while the rest of us struggle to get clients on zoom. 


If you’re lucky enough to work at one of the top boutique fitness studios that still has some money in reserve, odds are you have an opportunity to teach remote on a bigger platform and continue to grow your following and customer base. Companies like Barry’s Bootcamp, Rumble, and SLT have made a relatively smooth transition, given their studios are still banned from reopening in many states. There is a high demand for fitness, but the market has become oversaturated with startup apps and instagram content. Although there is endless free fitness content, the amount of at-home workouts and instagram live videos during quarantine was, and still is, overwhelming. Also, some people need more motivation than watching a video to achieve their fitness goals, and benefit from having a more personalized session or working out with a trainer they know and love. Tons of trainees turn to their favorite instructors for Zoom indoor and small, socially distant outdoor workouts. 

Many people choose to work out at home with well-known trainers, whom they recognize from reputable brands, who have a following and rapport. This is great for trainers at nation-wide companies at places that were hit hard from the pandemic, but still manage to pay employers and adapt to an online format. However, many talented and furloughed fitness trainers are still suffering because the studios simply don't have the money to hire everyone back. 


Instructors host zoom classes that allow the trainer to keep 100% of the money, which actually adds up to a pretty penny if you can rally ten or more people to participate. Another upside of online fitness is the freedom to create your own teaching schedule. The instructor's life “BC” consisted of very early mornings: waking up at 4:30am to teach a 6:00am class across town, and getting home after 9:00pm if you taught the late night, after work shift. On Zoom, you are no longer factoring in commute because you are teaching from the comfort of your own home! Also, you get to charge whatever you want. The downside is, it may be more cost effective for a client to invest in one of the conglomerate fitness media brands. Peloton, a company that used to only teach and broadcast spin classes, has expanded its services to include treadmill, yoga, stretching, barre, and more, in its monthly subscription. 


Why pay for personal training if you can have it all in one package?


Today, more than ever, our lives are primarily online. We host virtual meetings, classes, and happy hours, all on Zoom. We barely make our daily minimum on our fit bit step count, and we complain about Covid making us chubby. Covid-19 has dramatically changed our world, and has had a particularly dire effect on the fitness industry. Even though many fitness trainers have started their own donation-based or fairly priced online classes, the options are seemingly endless, and people are looking for a good deal. People crave connection and companies like Peloton give members a sense of unity and community; these cult classes are the closest thing we have to an in-studio experience during a pandemic. 



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© Sarah Ballan 2018

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