If you want to know what matters to a community, one of the simplest things you can do is pay attention to how they use their real estate. By walking through a major city and using that measure, you’d notice a few things: Americans depend on constant access to caffeine, for example, and we are passionate about fitness. Gym facilities, from large fitness centers to specialty studios, line the streets. Post-COVID, however, the landscape may look quite different.
Despite their popularity, gyms are high-risk spaces when it comes to virus transmission. Many gyms have been shut down and in places like New York City, gyms will be among the last places to reopen under the Mayor’s phased plan. And while many individual trainers have pivoted to streaming classes, allowing small communities of fitness buffs to stay together, many suspect this pandemic will bring about the end of the gym as we know it and drive significant growth in the home fitness sector.
Key To Well-Being
Pre-pandemic, gym membership could be split into two categories: daily or near-daily users with established routines and people who had bought memberships as part of a New Year Resolution and never used them. This latter group put money into gym owners’ pockets, but as far as actual fitness behavior goes, working out wasn’t important to them. For the former group, however, working out was key to their mental and physical well-being, and their sudden lack of gym access posed a real problem – but this group was also highly likely to invest in home gym equipment. This group is the reason many stores had difficulty keeping fitness equipment in stock.
People who are really passionate about working out don’t need the month-to-month financial commitment of a gym membership to guilt them into hopping on the elliptical, and they typically don’t mind committing some of their home’s storage space to the necessary gear. As long as they’re not renting, this group will even install full-length mirrors to create a home studio space. They don’t need a membership or a gym buddy, they just need to sweat.
Groups Go Remote
While the majority of chain gyms, and even many smaller, local gyms, are the equivalent of a big box store – they have everything, but they don’t really specialize in anything – there’s also a niche fitness community. These are often people who specialize in a particular kind of workout, passionately attending group workouts like SoulCycle or who prefer a yoga class. Thanks to streaming technology and, in some cases, specialized gym equipment, this corner of the fitness community can also access their preferred workouts.
Yes, for those who need the energy and guidance of a class setting, fitness instructors are streaming classes on Zoom or through the company website. Meanwhile, products like Peloton bikes and SoulCycle’s similar, branded product, offer on-demand access to favored spin instructors, complete with personalized encouragement. Though there are some financial and spatial limitations to the home gym, with enough room and careful budgeting, you can now do any workout at home.
Will COVID-19 ultimately put an end to the gym industry? While the outcome may not be quite that extreme, it doesn’t bode well for gym owners, and chains will likely lose a large number of franchises. That doesn’t mean we’ll value fitness any less, though – just that people will prefer to get their workouts in the comfort and safety of their own homes.