Local gyms, trainers adapting to pandemic

Eufemia Didonato

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) — For many different reasons, it may be more important now than ever to stay active, but the pandemic has changed or even canceled many of our old workout routines. 

But local businesses are responding to help keep you fit and help limit your exposure to COVID-19. 

A global pandemic is an uncertain time to start a business, but that didn’t stop Mike Chirchirillo.  He and his wife Jess started Collective Flow, which is a yoga, fitness and functional medicine health coaching practice. Collective Flow got off the ground by offering yoga classes done remotely instead of in person, and Chirchirillo says clients have not only adjusted, they enjoy it. “We have more first-time yogis than ever before and I think I credit that to having this virtual platform,” he said. 

Chirchirillo says his clients like learning yoga, without the pressure of making mistakes in a crowded room. “You’re able to to take that big barrier out of people in the class looking at me because I don’t know what I’m doing,” he said. 

The pandemic has shifted habits. Home health and fitness sales more than doubled from March to October of last year, and national chains like Gold’s Gym and 24-Hour Fitness declared bankruptcy. 

The gyms that survived, like the Wisconsin Athletic Club, have had to adapt. Laurie Warner, general manager of the WAC’s Menomonee Falls location, says they’ve gone over virtually every inch of their space to make sure people stay masked and socially distanced. “We’re open at this facility from 4 a.m. to 9 p.m., throughout the course of the day about 900 visits, and right now no reported member-to-member transmission of the spread, so we are super pleased about that,” Warner said. 

With the knowledge that there are people who aren’t comfortable going to a gym, the WAC is trying to bring their trainers to members online, or on-demand through their app. “I think a gym that offers some virtual and on-demand classes is going to be huge. We’re going to meet you and still help you reach your goals even if it’s not within our building,” Warner said. 

While the WAC is moving online, Chirchirillo and Collective Flow have secured a physical space on Milwaukee’s East Side. Both businesses seem to agree that a combination of online and in-person training is built for success now, and after the pandemic is over. Home gyms are not going away, and that may benefit the fitness consumer. “I think gyms are going to have to offer up some different packages and pricing structures than ‘traditional one month gets you unlimited classes.’ There’s going to have to be something to compete now that there’s more choices out there,” Chirchirillo said. 

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