COVID-19 Sparks Creation of California Fitness Alliance
Members of California’s fitness industry have joined together to form the California Fitness Alliance (CFA) with the goal of safely and responsibly initiating the reopening of clubs and fitness facilities throughout the state.
“We realized we really needed a voice in setting a direction in the industry and getting a seat at the table,” said Francesca Schuler, the CEO of In-Shape Health Clubs.
Schuler and Randy Karr, the president and CEO of California Family Fitness, are CFA’s founding partners, along with Angel Banos, the president and CEO of Gold’s Gym SoCal Group; Cory Brightwell, the CEO of Chuze Fitness; Pete Bakis, the president of Yuba City Racquet Club; Sebastyen Jackovics, the founder and president of FitnessSF; and Marc Thomas, a franchise owner of Orangetheory Fitness.
“We all are aware of one another and have talked in different conversations prior to this about best practices and we’re all connected in different ways,” said Karr. “But I think the thing I am most proud of is the fact we are working together as a team in the fight for fitness within the state.”
Karr explained CFA wants to change the narrative in California and let the decision makers at the state level know health clubs and gyms can open as safely as a dine-in restaurant or other businesses that got the go-ahead to open. “Selfishly I think we’re more important to people’s mental and physical health and also getting jobs back,” he said.
Jobs have been a major driver in the CFA’s cause. Schuler explained not everyone on the outside of the fitness industry realizes how big an impact the industry has on local communities, at the state level, etc. She said having a rallying cry and cause has been really helpful for a lot of their team members on furlough.
“We’ve laid off over 90% of our teams, all of us,” said Schuler. “And so, we wanted to create something as our team members are waiting, to feel like there was a cause fighting for them as well and that’s where #Fight4Fitness came from. Staff can enroll as a member of the alliance and help advocate, so it really gives everyone a voice, not just the operators.”
However, Schuler emphasized they do not view this this as just a crisis organization, but as something for the long term.
“Safe reopening is the No. 1 priority, then we would roll into a recovery phase, and we have some thoughts on aligning with the national efforts with the PHIT bill,” said Schuler. “We are worried about the mental and physical state of so many people after shelter in place and how can we make it easy for them to join a health club or a studio or a CrossFit box and get back on track. We’re trying to stay focused and tackle one issue at a time, but we definitely mean this for the long term. This is not a COVID-19 alliance, this is really is the California Fitness Alliance.”