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Back to the gym: fitness classes, gym memberships bounce back from pandemic hiatus

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But, she said, widespread immunization rates have made people more comfortable with group workouts, and you no longer need to wear masks indoors. Plus, Glabicky said, people want to get in shape.

“I’m not 100 percent [business] still, but I’m getting there, ”she said. “Everyone was ready to come in.

Tread Tabata owner Kathy Glabicky teaches an outdoor class in the parking lot of her Beverly studio during the COVID-19 pandemic in June 2020. David L. Ryan / Globe Staff

According to the ClassPass fitness booking app, there are approximately 300 fitness studios in the Boston area that offer classes through its platform, about double that in San Francisco or Miami. Bookings in Boston have increased 270% since January, spokeswoman Mandy Menaker said, and 32% since May 29, the day Massachusetts lifted nearly all pandemic restrictions.

Of course, not all local fitness companies survived the pandemic. As of December 2020, an estimated 17% of fitness clubs and studios in the United States have closed permanently, according to the International Health, Racquet, and Sportsclub Association, a professional group in the Boston-based fitness industry. Shuttered gyms dot the shopping malls and main streets of Greater Boston.

And even in studios where there is a steady increase in bookings, owners say bringing traffic back to pre-Covid levels has been an uphill battle. Some clients splurged on home workout equipment during the pandemic, like the coveted Peloton bike, adopted a new workout routine, or – worse yet for their local studios – moved. Predicting their return, or realizing that it won’t, is tricky.

“People don’t buy a Peloton and then email you and say ‘Hey, watch out, you won’t see me buying 10 class packs anymore,’” said Lauren Meyer, co-owner of the Boston Fitness Studio. Mystryde. “It would be great if everyone who came here told us what they do and what they want, but we don’t have that data.

South Boston's Nicole Stauffer lifts weights while training at Mystyde, a weight training and running studio on June 30.
South Boston’s Nicole Stauffer lifts weights while training at Mystyde, a weight training and running studio on June 30.David L. Ryan / Globe Staff

This puts pressure on the studios to attract new clients to make up the difference, said Becca Skudder, Meyer’s business partner and founder of Mystryde. The gym tries to retain customers through membership sales, she said, because it’s a more predictable revenue stream than walk-in visits. But membership has been difficult because suddenly there is so much competition for people’s time.

“People have ten weddings because five of them were supposed to take place last summer,” she said. “People work from home, so they can go away for a few weeks. “

At Tread Tabata, many customers – new and old – take a dip with drop-in classes, Glabicky said, only signing up for a full membership when they’re ready to return regularly. This initial welcome class is important, however, she said, as many fear they will be out of shape.

“Some of the people who come say they haven’t worked at all during the pandemic,” she said. “We are happy that they are here.

While some are returning to indoor studio workouts, others are similarly flocking to large-scale outdoor programs that have also taken a pandemic break.

The November project hosts free outdoor workouts year-round, but last March went completely virtual when COVID restrictions prevented hundreds of people from gathering in one location. The Boston nonprofit restarted outdoor programming last fall, but with small groups scattered across town, instead of a large workout, and attendees had to wear masks and a social distance. In June, the November Project resumed its massive workouts, including climbing the stairs at Harvard Stadium in Allston every Wednesday morning.

People climb the stairs at Harvard Stadium on June 23 as part of a weekly program hosted by the November Project.
People climb the stairs at Harvard Stadium on June 23 as part of a weekly program hosted by the November Project.Emilie Saul

“People who come to the November Project don’t want to train alone,” said Emily Saul, co-leader of the Boston chapter. “It’s normal [to be together], and that’s what’s weird about going back.

And the group learned a lot during the months of separation, Saul said. Executives decided to keep the virtual programming – something Saul never thought to start – and to be more intentional about where the November Project holds practice sessions in the city. Saul said the nonprofit has realized that the virtual workouts and breakout sessions spread around Boston make group events more accessible and inclusive.

Chris Capozzi is leading a virtual training class for the November project from Harvard Stadium on June 23.  Others connect via Zoom.
Chris Capozzi is leading a virtual training class for the November project from Harvard Stadium on June 23. Others connect via Zoom.Chris Capozzi, Emily Saul

The November project is free, but gym and studio owners have said it’s hard to monetize virtual offerings, so they’re cutting them down. Glabicky said “everyone and their moms started training online” during the pandemic, and Skudder said it was hard to compete with already established online fitness companies.

Gyms are also seeing a post-COVID boost, but Ed Mazzuchelli, owner of Train4Life in Marshfield, said the pandemic has caused a noticeable change in consumer spending habits, so the gym has had to change its model. commercial.

Before the pandemic, most of the gym’s income came from people seeking personal training subscriptions, with one-on-one fitness coaching costing $ 200 to $ 600 per month. They are the first customers to cancel when COVID-19 hit, and the least likely to return during the various phases of reopening with their mask rules and distancing protocols.

“It was an ‘oh shit’ moment,” Mazzuchelli said. “It wasn’t overnight, but we realized it was time to pivot.”

After an unsuccessful attempt to create virtual content, Mazzuchelli turned his team into “painters and repairers” while the gym was closed. He also bought new equipment, renovated the juice bar, and focused on selling memberships to more traditional gyms, for $ 40 to $ 50 per month.

“We’ve gone through the roof in terms of adding new members,” he said. Train4Life now has around 1,000 members, 25% more than before the pandemic.

The most rewarding result, he said, is the number of people still casually thanking him for keeping the gym doors open. People are also better at wiping down equipment after using it.

“I think people took gyms for granted before,” he said. “There is a level of appreciation now.”


Anissa Gardizy can be contacted at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @ anissagardizy8.



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