Fitness Industry Grapples with Coronavirus
Studio closures pile up and companies in the businesses of healthy living try to offer clients at-home alternatives.
Toilet paper and potatoes aren’t the only items people are stocking up on due to coronavirus. Minneapolis-based Ridgeback Yoga, maker of a $125 woven rug designed to absorb sweat and prevent mats from moving, is experiencing an uptick in online orders.
Why? Yoga studios are shutting down and switching to online classes, so devoted yogis are gearing up to workout at home for at least the next couple of weeks. Owner Kerry Roth sells on Amazon, but said she’s personally doing curbside drop off on local orders that come direct through her website.
Meanwhile, for gyms and fitness studios, where sweat droplets are inevitable and exercise mats are often just inches apart, the pandemic poses a massive challenge. After a week of stepping up cleaning time and limiting class sizes, the rapid pace at which the virus is spreading hit a tipping point over the weekend with several gyms closing their doors and shifting classes online.
Core Power Yoga is closing its more than 200 locations nationwide beginning Monday. “We’ve done all that we can to support the health and safety of our teachers, students and local communities,” the company posted on its website Sunday. “To stay true to that, we’ve made the difficult decision to temporarily close.” Core Power plans to resume in-person classes on March 30, but will reassess as that date approaches. In Minneapolis, Modo Yoga did the same. "The time has come to temporarily close our doors," started a message to customers. The current plan is to be closed Monday through March 31.
Minneapolis-based Alchemy 365 experienced a 10 to 15 percent drop in attendance last week, founder Tyler Quinn said. Not as bad as many restaurants, movie theaters and other gathering spots reported. Nonetheless, his team made the decision on Sunday to temporarily close all seven of its locations—five in the Twin Cities; two in Colorado—Monday through March 27.
“It felt an appropriate way for us to participate in the solution,” Quinn said. Alchemy is allowing members to check out one of its proprietary weightlifting tools, the Torpedo, and plans to live stream a workout every day. “Our first priority is helping people stay healthy. Our second is figuring out how to survive this as a company.”
Linden Hills mXe Movement Studio was one of the first to put live classes on hold until April 1. Workouts are available for streaming online with a seven-day free trial. “Please continue to take care of your mental and physical health by joining us form the comfort of your home,” founder Heather Corndorf implored clients.
Life Time is capping group fitness classes at 25 and cutting the number of classes offered each day to allow thorough cleanings between classes, according to the latest protocol posted on its website. Shared equipment has been eliminated from classes to minimize touch points. Members no longer check in to classes on a touch pad.
So far, Woodbury-based Anytime Fitness, which operates 4,500 franchise gyms around the world where the focus is on individual workouts, remains fully operational. "We continue to uphold our high standards of cleanliness by wiping down machines, surfaces and disinfecting thoroughly, multiple times a day," reads a special message about COVID-19 on the corporate website.
Flyfeet Running, a local business with studios in downtown Minneapolis and Wayzata has cut class sizes in half to insure social distancing and adding time between classes for deeper cleans. "We are monitoring the situation hourly," founder Kristin Shane said.
Stressful times are often when people step up their workout routine, and clubs are trying to maintain that sense of community from afar. The SweatShop in St. Paul posted to Facebook Sunday evening that it is working on setting up private straining and online classes and will make weights and other exercise tools available for take-home use.
Seems a good time to buy stock in Peleton, the buzzed-about maker of high-end exercise bikes and on-demand streamed workouts that counts more than 2 million people among its members . But actually, shares are down about 5 percent since the start of March. Peleton will close its 96 retail showrooms (including locations at Galleria and Mall of America) from Monday through March 29 and announced that it will delayed the opening of its new flagship studio in Manhattan, which was scheduled to open Thursday, March 19.
As CNBC reported, the fact that some analysts have listed it as a “stay-at-home-stock” could prompt an uptick if more health clubs close and consumers shy away from group fitness.