Sherry Majecki and her husband own five Hotworx franchises in Dallas Fort-Worth, including the Richardson location. She said the two-month closure has taken an incredible toll on her business, which opened last June.
“I have zero revenue,” Majecki said. “The strain has been enormous.”
Gov. Greg Abbott announced earlier this month that gyms could reopen at 25% capacity May 18. Showers and locker rooms must remain closed, all machines must be disinfected after use and clients must wear gloves, Abbott said at a May 5 press conference.
Hotworx offers virtually instructed exercise classes in infrared saunas. Once statewide orders forced fitness facilities to close, the company paused all memberships but still offered free exercise classes via the Hotworx app.
“Now that we’re opening back up, we’re running into people that want to cancel because they're not comfortable coming in yet,” Majecki said.
Hotworx has put in place several temporary measures to help enforce social distancing, Majecki said. Members must book sessions before coming into the studio, and only one person is allowed per sauna. The gym, which is normally open 24/7, is operating on modified hours to limit the number of people coming in and out of the building.
“We are trying to make sure everybody feels as comfortable as they can,” she said.
Prior to the pandemic, gyms and other fitness facilities were thriving. In 2019, the sports and fitness industry grew by 3.9%, representing the largest annual growth in 17 years, according to a 2020 annual report from the Sports & Fitness Industry Association.
While gyms have taken a significant hit, the past success of the industry should position it to quickly bounce back, said Tom Cove, president and CEO of the association.
“The pre-COVID evidence should give companies encouragement that the sports and fitness industry was strong, sustainable and central to American way of life before the pandemic and should return to vitality as we recover,” Cove said in a May 6 news release.
Personal training facility Fitness Together also opened last year in Richardson. Owner Kevin Cain said the halt in activity was damaging to his young business.
“We are still in the growing stages, so we weren’t really set to weather two months with no revenue,” he said.
Cain said his three trainers were able to schedule some virtual training sessions with clients, but revenue from that venture was “not nearly enough for us to pay the bills,” he said. As a result, trainers are anxious to begin working with clients again, he added.
Cain’s staff spent the last week booking appointments, he said, but not all clients are ready to return.
“Some are really eager to jump back in, and some are a little tentative,” he said. “They want to wait a little bit more, which I totally understand.”
As a personal training operation, Fitness Together is well equipped for social distancing, Cain said. However, the business has made some changes to ensure clients and trainers are as safe as possible. Only one client will be allowed inside at a time, and appointments will be spaced out by 15 minutes so trainers can clean and disinfect machines and surfaces, Cain said. Trainers will wear masks, and there will be gloves available for clients, he added.
“I hope it gives clients confidence. ... It's safer than Kroger,” he said.
Cain said he is hopeful his business model will attract new clients who may be too nervous to return to a larger gym.
“This is a great alternative,” he said. “Everything is one-on-one and probably more sterile than many places that are open for business right now.”
Many gym-goers turned to virtual workouts while sheltering in place, but Cain said his clients prefer one-on-one interaction, so he is not worried about how at-home workouts will affect his business.
“I’m not that concerned about losing business to YouTube videos,” he said.
Hotworx’s 125-degree saunas may be an unfavorable environment for the coronavirus, the company said in a statement. However, Hotworx makes “no claim to provide a cure, remedy, treatment or relief in any way for COVID-19.”
Regardless of whether heat has an impact on the virus, the supposed health benefits of infrared saunas could lead to an uptick in new members, Majecki said.
“Since everyone right now is more health-conscious, we might see a surge,” she said.
As with many industries, the coronavirus could have lasting impacts on how gyms do business in the future. Virtual training could be useful for clients who are on vacation or for some reason cannot come into the gym, Cain said.
“It’s just another tool in our arsenal,” he said.