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Local gyms: Workout options during COVID-19 shutdown

The COVID-19 pandemic has created a lot of adversity when it comes to getting a workout in. Gyms have been going back and forth between being open and closed throughout the country, most notably between March and May 2020, when sports were shut down. Teams in professional sports did not start competitions in the U.S. until July.

Many gyms have been on the unfortunate end of shutdowns and some of those businesses had to close. Gyms have tried to get creative with customers — getting virtual workouts in for people unable to get to a gym in person because of the pandemic. Fitness centers such as Snap Fitness, Anytime Fitness and Next Level Performance in Wahpeton were able to stay open and in business throughout the majority of the pandemic.

Snap Fitness added a new virtual option after the new year started. They now have a library on their website where you can watch videos of over 100 workouts. The library is accessible from anywhere and the workouts are family friendly. There is also an option called “Aging Well Live Workouts,” in which you can attend a class live online at 10 p.m. Central Standard Time (CST). Snap Nation Studio offers 20-minute and 30-minute classes led by certified Snap Fitness coaches, and classes emphasizing stretching, core and mobility.

Snap Fitness and Anytime Fitness are franchises across the U.S., while Next Level Performance, a local gym in Wahpeton, has partners within the organization to help them out with online programs and workouts that they use.

Next Level Performance Owners Chad and Tracey Desjarlais provided other types of workout options that members can do outside of the gym. They don’t have an app that people can use on their phones, but there are other ways for clients to get in touch with them along the way.

“We have one of our partners that we use, she’s in Atlanta and she does a lot of online workouts,” Tracey Desjarlais said. Next Level Performance also uses JFit as an option for online workouts.

“We almost always send our clients to JFit. It’s really easy workouts that they use,” Desjarlais said. “We don’t have our own app per se, but I’ve often thought to get one started.”

Early on during the pandemic, people wanted to go into the gym for exercise, but they couldn’t until the gyms were allowed to open. JFit was a great business partner for Next Level Performance throughout the pandemic, the couple said. They sold fitness equipment on their website, along with being dealers for gyms like Next Level Performance around the U.S.

Anytime Fitness has other options, like their Anytime Fitness smartphone app.

“You can go on there and find thousands of workouts,” Club Manager Joe Keaveny said. “Another thing that we did is that I taught classes and did training, and obviously they couldn’t come in for their training. So what we would do is I would do live streaming, and I would record stuff doing workouts, showing them how to do that.”

Keaveny said he would provide workouts for people who couldn’t attend his classes, putting up the exercises with the sets and reps, and it was easily accessible for people to use when there was no other option to workout.

When the fitness centers in Wahpeton went through the shutdown, it caused them to get creative by having virtual options. This is big for businesses who needed to maintain gym memberships during the shutdown because smartphone apps aren’t a part of the membership. The online options kept all three gyms afloat, allowing their clients the ability to continue to exercise and stay in shape.

Birchem Therapeutics: Business surges through online classes

Sophie Birchem, owner of Birchem Therapeutic, has been affected by the pandemic. She has been able to keep her business going and give people virtual options for classes. Birchem was a graduate at North Dakota State College of Science and received her associates degree in applied science. She is a licensed massage therapist with the state of North Dakota and a registered yoga teacher through Yoga Alliance. She is currently continuing her education through the Institute of Integrative Nutrition for Health Coaching, specializing in the balance of hormonal health.

Through the pandemic, she’s had to pivot her business quite a bit by utilizing virtual online yoga classes. She’s had to change things like the payment plan and how she records the classes and posts them.

“Virtual has been really difficult to do because I really like to read people’s energy in the room, and I pretty much base the class on the presence of who’s joining the class, and how you walk in, how I think you may feel,” Birchem said. “The virtual aspect for me has been very challenging. The fact that I don’t necessarily know if I’m doing a good job for people and a certain aspect for what they need out of their practice that day.”

As far as getting the class out there for people to access, it’s been a positive experience thus far for Birchem. She originally offered all of her classes at the studio through Zoom and streamed them live. But as things started to open back up, she had less attendance for live classes. People still wanted virtual access but not everyone was available for the same time slot so she used Vagaro as a way to offer virtual classes. Security was a major concern because there was an overwhelming amount of businesses trying to access these types of platforms, so she moved to YouTube and pre-recorded her videos for consumers to access.

Vagaro was still used for all of Birchem’s platforms. It was her booking tool for getting people to sign up for her classes and using other options for the business for people to access during the pandemic.

Birchem learned some things throughout the pandemic that were really useful such as how to use the technology involved with making these classes happen. She was able to manage her website and have a good amount of class viewership via platforms like YouTube and Vagaro. Birchem said that people were able to find her content through Vagaro, and it actually helped her business from a consumer’s standpoint, but now, she is back to hosting in-person classes as people are still willing to consume her content. She utilizes social media as well for her offerings. It’s great from a marketing standpoint to get people involved with the business and to get them to go to the virtual online yoga and nutrition classes that she posts, she said.

Birchem is not where she needs to be from a technology standpoint for the classes, she said, but her main focus is getting back to having people participate in online classes.

“It was really tough and hard right away to get the quality of products I wanted for people,” Birchem said. “A lot of platforms are giving people a break and making them become more user friendly and what not.”

She was able to fit between 30–40 people per virtual class and toward the end of the shutdown, was getting normal class numbers, which were 10 people maximum per class. People get on waitlists for these classes because of how much the business has boomed since the end of the shutdown in May. Mostly people between 25–40 would be in attendance for these classes. Other participants were in their 40–60s and it would mostly be moms with younger kids. She would get some college kids to join, but not a lot.

Birchem offered $5 per class and would have them streamed two to four times per week. In-person classes in the studio were priced at $12 because of the pandemic, and she had a hard time with the technology at first, but eventually was able to bring more consumers to her business.

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