Where Do We Go From Here?

Estimated read time: 3 minutes. Contains 632 words

by Ryan Freebing

Nashville has been hit hard over the last couple of weeks. After a tornado swept through parts of East and North Nashville on March 2, trainers and staff were adamantly rallying their members to support not only their own gyms but the community at large, accepting donations and raising money for various relief efforts.

Seven days later, the stock market crash of 2020 began on Monday, March 9, with the largest point plunge for the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) up to that date. It was followed by two more record-setting point drops on March 12 and March 16 which included the three worst point drops in U.S. history.

Today most of the country is in some form of lockdown mode. Having received our own “stay-at-home” mandate by Mayor John Cooper, gyms and studios in Nashville have followed suit and closed their doors along with all non-essential businesses. Now, our fitness community, like the rest of the nation, is adapting to the change on the fly.

The Digital Shift

In response, there has been a frenzy of live streaming and on-demand content, a massive surge in social media activity and an inevitable shift toward online fitness. I have spent many years in the fitness industry, but I have never seen more digital fitness content created or consumed over the last few days than I have in the last few years. From local studios and brands to personal trainers and coaches, everyone is rapidly churning out workout videos or going live and hosting their own classes and cooking seminars.

While some are sharing their content for free, others are attempting to market to new clients in the hopes of maintaining their revenue stream. I have spoken to a few groups about this in the past, but the current crisis is quickly speeding up something brick-and-mortar owners have been struggling to face now for many years. “Will on-demand fitness offerings steal some of my members?”

Prior to the mandated COVID-19 shutdown, the problem was lingering but not an immediate threat. “Now, the shift to digital is nearing a tipping point, in what could end up being an exodus – albeit a forced one – from studios to apps and at-home equipment,” says Fitt.co.

There is however, the issue of equipment. Members of indoor cycling studios, for example, can’t take a class without a bike. To satisfy customers, gyms are renting out their equipment to go along with their at-home workout plans for the near future. Jonny Diaz at Fit Factory explains, “Our equipment is not ours. It’s yours,” meaning their members. But is their enough to go around?

So What Next?

Around the nation, the overall consensus seems to be that COVID-19 is an accelerated shift to digital and at-home fitness, but what does that mean for Nashville’s small businesses? “Depending on who you ask (and who you believe), once we hit this tipping point, the pendulum may not swing back to exercising in-person,” reports Fitt.co.

For many others (including myself), social distancing all day will leave people craving their community now more than ever once things are get back to normal. The question of when still remains though. Others who have responded to the pandemic by purchasing a Peloton, outfitting their own home gym, or downloading a fitness app might never look back.

Then there is the gut wrenching reality that some of our favorite small businesses may not survive this shutdown at all. And if that’s the case, there won’t be a gym for some members to come back to.

There is no need to panic though. Right now it seems as though there are more questions than answers, but in this moment, there is no doubt in my mind that fitness may have changed forever.

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