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Recap: COVID-19 Impact Review and the Way Forward

COVID-19 impact review

On November 18, IHRSA, REX Roundtables and Club Solutions Magazine presented the 33rd installment of a weekly virtual roundtable series, on the subject of COVID-19 impact review and the way forward.

Panelists included Christine Ulatoski, the education manager at IHRSA; Rachel Zabonick-Chonko, the editor-in-chief of Club Solutions Magazine; Bill McBride, the co-founder, president and CEO of Active Wellness; and Blair McHaney, the CEO of MXM and owner of WORX health clubs. The discussion was led and moderated by Brent Darden, the interim president and CEO of IHRSA, and chair of REX Roundtables.

The following is a summary of top takeaways from the discussion, centered on COVID-19 impact review and the way forward:


Virtual Offerings

  • Virtual is a great way to augment your membership.
  • Make sure you’re productizing virtual offerings.
  • Ask yourself, “How can members have a coherent way to get into shape through virtual offerings?”
  • Virtual programming has helped clubs extend their reach outside of their market, some even internationally.
  • People love the option of having a virtual option — not the virtual experience. Virtual will not replace the in-person experience, but rather add to it.  
  • Think of other programs you can offer virtually — nutrition, wellness, etc. — don’t limit yourself to only fitness offerings.
  • Members want to maintain the personal connections with their instructors while away from the club. You don’t need extravagant technology for this, Facebook Live and Zoom work great.

Another great way to serve members during COVID-19 is through outdoor fitness spaces and reconfiguring indoor spaces.

  • Training pods are great for reconfiguring spaces indoors.
  • Pods also create a better member experience for everyone. They are not just for safety.

Facing Another Round of Shutdowns

  • How each state is making the decision to shut down again varies.
  • Contact your local legislators and officials and share your personal story and experience with them.
  • Only about 16 states have alliances. If you want to create one in your state, contact IHRSA for more information and to help set up the process.
  • Clubs are having better luck staying open during shutdowns when partnering with medical community who will help advocate for them. Chicago is an example of this.
  • Think of creating a video to send on your behalf to local legislators. It is easier from them to digest rather than pages of a document.
  • Be conservative of your club’s spending if there is another shutdown.
  • A mistake clubs made during the first round of shutdowns was planning on only being closed for a month or two.
  • 15% of all health clubs have permanently closed as of the end of October. This is expected to grow higher.
  • A silver lining of a second wave of closures is that you have clarity of what your members want now.
  • Be cautious about asking members to reach out to local officials on your behalf. But don’t have them attack them — it could make things worse for your club.
  • Openly communicate with your members. Tell them you are advocating and fighting for them to the government officials.
  • Don’t violate the law. This can hurt the industry, your insurance and your reputation.
  • Staying open when you’re not supposed can be a gamble that isn’t worth it in the long run, according to McBride. Can you afford to take on a $10,000 fine?

Stay Optimistic

  • People are craving getting together again and will return to gyms.
  • Use this time to reinvent yourself.
  • Find the silver lining whether it be that you’ve created a new program, created a better team morale, etc.
  • The pandemic allowed some clubs to implement reservation systems, collect data and know what their members are doing in the club for the first time.
  • The amount of innovation coming through is encouraging.

Access the on-demand version on this webinar.

Access the audio-only version of this webinar.

This was the last installment of Successful Strategies for Shaping Your Future for 2020. You can watch all 33 webinars or read their recaps here.  

Taylor Brown

Taylor Brown is the assistant editor for Club Solutions Magazine. She can be reached at taylor@peakemedia.com

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