John Cortese’s wife was pregnant when a 6.0-magnitude earthquake shook Napa in 2014 and threatened his business by yellow-tagging his family-owned gym for two months.
So, when he got the message last month that all nonessential businesses had to cease operation, he was sure to act fast.
“I feel like I’m fairly used to a situation that is not pleasant or fun, and I know that we can’t sit back and be scared,” Cortese said. “I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t anxious and nervous when this all started happening, but we don’t have time to sit back and worry. We had to be proactive, adjust and try to make it work for our people.”
Cortese’s CTS Fitness & Performance loaned out much of its exercise equipment to members and is offering daily training via video: a prime example of how the fitness industry has had to adapt on the fly to a surge of in-home workouts due to the coronavirus.
The $100 billion fitness industry has been dramatically impacted by the pandemic, forcing gyms to close, skyrocketing sales for at-home equipment, and calling for alterations in seemingly every aspect in between.
San Ramon’s 24 Hour Fitness closed its 400-plus gyms March 16, but it still charged its members for the March 17-April 15 billing cycle. The extra time will be added to the end of membership, and the company says it will suspend billings if gyms aren’t opened by next week.
In the meantime, 24 Hour Fitness launched “24GO LIVE,” a virtual fitness experience on its YouTube channel.
“During this critical time for our business, our goal has and will continue to be focused on surviving this crisis so that we can ultimately emerge and welcome our team and club members back when it is safe to do so,” chief executive officer Tony Ueber said in a statement.
While 24 Hour Fitness is dealing with an overwhelming volume of requests to end membership, at-home services like Peloton and Mirror are soaring.
Mirror, a fitness system that allows users to follow virtual personal trainers in disciplines like yoga, Pilates and cardio, may have doubled its $300 million June valuation. Analysts believe Peloton will add 1 million subscribers by the end of 2021, and shares of the interactive stationary bike and treadmill company rose 3.5% to $28.45 Thursday.
According to Google Trends, interest in kettlebells went up 194% between the first week of March and the first week of this month. Interest in resistance bands vaulted by 368% during the same time frame.
“We’ve seen 10-fold increase in the sales of our fitness equipment over the course of the last couple of weeks,” said Tomas Unikauskis, the CEO of Smart Brands Laboratory in San Francisco, which helps develop fitness gear like Victorem. “Our preliminary demand data analysis indicates that at least 10 million Americans will have searched for products related to in-home exercise equipment by the end of the quarantine period. People are also searching for home workout programs online to stay active during their time at home.”
Cortese predicted the demand and started recording workout videos a day after he closed the doors of CTS Fitness & Performance. By the end of the first week of Napa’s stay-at-home order, Cortese, his wife and four trainers were doing live workouts on Zoom for 10-25 people per session.
Last week, Cortese started loaning out the gym’s dumbbells, kettlebells, jump ropes, resistance bands and medicine balls to members. He arrived at the gym at 1 p.m. Sunday to find a line of 10 physically distanced people and others waiting in their cars.
He created a sign-out sheet that allowed members to choose equipment, sanitized each piece of gear and brought it out bit by bit, until everyone had been served.
“It’s been crazy to see how fast we were able to pull this together. We went from a full, in-person coaching business to full-on remote and digital within one or two days,” Cortese said. “If we just continue to be creative and come up with ways to innovate and offer our services remotely, the business will survive. The product is still there. The delivery is just different.
“I miss the in-person thing, but as a community-based business, we can’t just let people idly wonder what the next move is.”