Before the coronavirus struck, the fitness industry was one of the few healthy parts of retail, snapping up leases in the Bay Area at a record pace and signing up members for a broadening range of workouts.
Now, gyms in the Bay Area and around the world have seen their doors shuttered by health orders. This month, 24 Hour Fitness filed for bankruptcy. And plans to reopen an industry that saw revenue of nearly $100 billion last year are teetering as surging infections cause authorities to rethink programs that would have included indoor workouts.
The sector’s recovery will probably demand a mix of high tech — smartphone apps and scheduling websites — and low tech — disinfectant wipes and painter’s tape. To satisfy health officials’ and consumers’ expectations of safety, some will have to switch to serving members outdoors or offsite. Heavy breathing and camaraderie may still be on offer — as long as there’s fresh air and lots of distance separating gym-goers.
For gym owners who were wrestling with attracting new customers and managing facilities before, it’s a whole new set of challenges.
“Ultimately, it is going to be about people who adapt. It’s about understanding the new normal and adjusting to assure that you can access physical health and mental well-being while minimizing risk,” Sonoma Fit CEO Adam Kovacs said. “I feel like I just ran a marathon, and now I have to climb Mount Everest.”
Procedures will differ between mega-chains — San Ramon’s 24 Hour Fitness has its own check-in app, for example — and small boutiques. And within the Bay Area, they’ll also vary county by county as local health officers make different decisions on what they will allow.
With two gyms that reopened last week in Sonoma and Petaluma and a third scheduled to reopen Monday in Novato, Kovacs is living the future of fitness. Drawn from his experiences and that of others, here’s a look at how going to the gym will work in the near future.
The days of dropping into a gym are a thing of the past. Most patrons will…