Throughout Georgia, the last couple of weeks have been fraught with strife from local business owners who have been weighing their options on resuming operations against continuing to lay low amongst the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
One of the specific types of businesses that has received special attention since Governor Brian Kemp relaxed many restrictions has been gyms. Often synonymous with close quarters, frequent person-to-person interaction and — let’s face it — some contact with the sweat of others, the opening of gyms has been a touchy subject.
One establishment in Statesboro that is proudly picking up steam and resuming its normal operating hours is CrossFit Boro.
“It’s definitely been a strange couple of months,” owner Ryan Brack said. “We closed down as soon as we were told to, and that definitely created a strain. Just the way that things went, we had just made some big payments on things and were looking forward to March and April, which are usually big months in terms of the income we’ve seen from clients.”
With the local - and then statewide - order to shut down gyms, CrossFit faced a big issue. The business’ model is based on regular monthly dues and attendance at classes that resemble personal trainer sessions in a group format.
“One thing that has helped is that we sell ourselves on coaching rather than on amenities,” Brack said. “We have very knowledgeable trainers who have all gone through intense certification processes. Because of that, our coaches are in a spot where they have been able to meet with people online and work with them to devise their own workouts at home.”
Brack stated that he was pleased with the retention rates of his clients. While many Georgia Southern students had to abandon the gym when the university shut down, many local members have been going strong over the last two months.
A big fear among gyms across the nation is that — on top of closures — financial strains placed on many due to the rising unemployment rate would lead to cost-cutting in personal budgets. And even for those who value their fitness, a gym membership could easily become one of the first luxuries cut out if the times get too tight.
"I think that a lot of our members value the community aspect on top of the fitness and training," Brack said. "That sense of us being a family has probably done a lot to keep people participating and working through this tough time."
CrossFit was quick to open its doors once allowed to do so, but is also going above and beyond recommended policies to keep its clients safe. The main floor area of the gym now features a grid pattern that allows everyone well over the standard six feet of space when participating in group activities.
“It helps that a lot of our members are very health-conscious in the first place,” Brack said. “Right now, we have people signing up for sessions to ensure that we aren’t overcrowded. Once they’re here, everyone is responsible for cleaning their area and equipment before and after using. On top of that, our staff is doing its own cleaning every hour.”
Brack said that he intends to keep an ear out for any lightening or tightening of restrictions and that he will be taking measured steps — such as slowly increasing the number of people allowed to participate in a given session — to get the gym back to 100 percent functionality.
“Our main goal is to help people with their physical health, but getting back to our place is also about some mental health as everyone wants to get back to their routines,” Brack said. “Of course we want everyone to come back and to get after it with full classes, but we’re definitely taking our time and making sure that the safety of everyone involved comes first.”