Covid-19, fitness centers, grow your business

Jay Cardiello’s Exclusive Guide to Reopen and Rebuild Fitness Businesses During Covid-19

jay Cardiello's Exclusive guide to reopen and rebuild fitness centers during Covid-19

Fitness expert and celebrity trainer Jay Cardiello partners with Appointy to bring exclusive tips and advice for gym owners to reopen and rebuild after the Covid-19 shutdowns (Reopening checklist + email templates inside!) 

As the second round of gym reopenings come knocking on your doors, are you back to business as usual?

Or is the anxiety to maintain one-third capacity, manage a mask-wearing workforce, and deal with client questions catching up to you as well? 

We’ll admit it! During the first phase of reopening, just like everyone else, we too thought these guidelines and safety measures will be temporary. 

But here’s the thing: They are here to stay, and as gyms are permitted to reopen, it’s time we start talking about growth and rebuilding again! 

We know it’s hard, and you might not get a fists-pumping-in-the-air response when you talk about growth with your team. It’s easy to lose motivation when the entire world seems to have come to a grinding halt. 

But what if we say all is not lost? 

The fitness industry has faced disruption but it doesn’t imply that the future is bleak. Operating on low efficiency doesn’t have to mean working with low profit numbers. With disruptions, come spikes – and you should be prepared to maximize that. 

To help gym owners and fitness professionals like you prepare for this next phase, we have partnered with the fitness expert and celebrity trainer Jay Cardiello – who has worked with Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, Jennifer Lopez, Rami Malek and teams in the MLB and NFL. 

We bring you actionable advice and expert recommendations for tools to use in the form of this exhaustive guide on how to safely open and grow your business in the Covid-19 world. 

Are you pumped up to #reopenandrebuild with us?

About this guide

This guide will help you: 

  • Reopen successfully and safely (if you haven’t)
  • Ensure your business stays afloat during this time
  • Plan for the next few months: Start preparing for the next few months and 2021 now instead of getting discouraged. Keep in mind that your business is adapting to the new world of fitness.

It’s relevant for: 

  • Business owners who are reopening soon: If you’re from the tristate area, especially New York City, then this guide will help you reopen safely
  • Business owners who have reopened: Follow the checklist to ensure that you’re on the right track and work on increasing your profits 

How to navigate this guide: 

Setting up your fitness business for success amidst Covid-19 will depend on two important factors and hence, this guide is divided into two sections: 

You can jump to the relevant section from the links above, or start from section 1 below!  

Section 1

Reopening guidance and safety procedures

The multiple rounds of reopening and closures were marked by confusion among fitness businesses and everyone was left wondering about what exactly they should be doing. 

To avoid this following the latest reopening announcements, we created this section to help you with some actionable steps and the implementation plan that you should follow to reopen safely. 

What do gym and fitness center owners need to think about before reopening business post-Covid-19?

List to think about before reopening fitness centers and gyms

We have also curated a complete checklist to help you stay on top of your implementation plan. Find it at the end of the section (or jump directly to it)! 

1. Implementing social distancing in your gym and center

a) Client-capacity Management

Ensure you are working at a 33% capacity. This number can change depending on your local guidelines, so be prepared to tweak your schedule quickly. 

  • Set a limit on the number of people allowed in the gym within a particular time slot. This way, you can be in complete control of the occupancy in advance and implement social distancing effectively. You can refer to your local guidelines to understand the number of people allowed on your premises at any time. 
  • If you have separate spaces within your gym (such as resistance/weight training area, cardio area, and spin class area), calculate and implement their capacities separately as well.
  • However, implementing a capacity on the occupancy of your gym might lead to some members of your gym not being able to take appointments at all. You can combat this by applying the following booking restrictions:
    • Only allow active members to book initially, slowly opening it for new members when rules are relaxed
    • Request members to pre-book an appointment and/or sign-up for a class or session online. Avoid walk-in members/pay as you go members.
    • Strictly enforce appointment times. Restrict workout time to avoid overcrowding.
  • Offer online workouts to members who do not feel comfortable in returning and would rather work out at home with pre-recorded and live workouts. You can also schedule classes and one-on-one sessions with trainers using a video chat service such as Zoom.

b) Setting effective and smart staff availability

Remember that the total capacity of your gym is not determined just by the number of members in it. Include your staff in your calculations as well.

  • Communicate with your staff and split the entire day into multiple smaller shifts. Spread your team evenly between the times that you are open
  • With a fewer number of members coming into your premises, you will not always need 100% of your workforce to be present at all times, hence you can stagger schedules for your staff members. This way you can spread out the availability of your staff evenly so that you’re indirectly also helping reduce overcrowding within your premises.

c) Avoid proximity 

  • Maintain at least 6-feet distance between individuals. Avoid workout forms that require individuals to be in close-contact or require trainers to support/contact the members while working out. 
  • As per the NY gym reopening guidelines, it is also recommended that you discourage free weight exercises that require a spotter; if those exercises occur, an employee wearing a face covering should be available or the patron who is lifting weights should have a member of their household/party who is wearing a face-covering spot.
  • Reorganize the equipment placement in your gym to ensure that no two workstations are within a 6-feet radius. 
  • Put up signage and floor indicators to ensure adequate social distancing in the workout area, as well as the locker rooms, restrooms, breakrooms, juice stations, lobby, etc. 

2. Reducing contact   

Contactless check-in through mobile and scanner

a) Contactless Check-in/Check-out: 

The check-in process in many gyms requires members to enter using their fingerprint or show physical IDs to a staff member that validates it before allowing they to avail the facilities of the gym. 

However, using a fingerprint scanner creates a new shared surface between customers that we want to avoid as much as possible. Not only that, coming into close proximity (in this case, a staff member to validate your ID) with a person also adds to the problem.

Replace this with a contactless check-in process. 

When a customer comes into your studio, opt for a virtual check-in process. You check in your customer from a distance by searching their name or contact details in your digital customer database using a PC, laptop, tablet or mobile device. Use the same device to check them out, once they are done for the day.

b) Contactless Payments 

Strictly say no to cash or card because they too can be highly contaminated. This way you’re moving with the times and also staying ahead of the curve. A research, relevant now more than ever, shows that even money can be a source of communicable disease.

For example, if a member wants to refill their protein powder from your retail store, opt for virtual payments through Square or Stripe. Once you do start accepting walk-in and ‘Pay as you Go’ customers, you can also ask them to pay through online methods.

Or, if your members book an appointment online, you can simply request a pre-payment at the time of booking though your fitness scheduling software.

3. Equipment management 

It is very important to be smart about managing the equipment and its usage. By doing so you are able to restrict the overuse of particular equipment over others. 

For example, if you have 5 treadmills, you can make sure that all your members use all 5 treadmills evenly so that there isn’t a heavy usage concentration on a particular treadmill (likely the one that is placed with a better view, directly in front of the AC, or is just closest to the door!). 

You can also internally assign equipment to members when they visit or ask them to schedule equipment beforehand. This will also help you do contact tracing just in case a member tests positive for Covid-19.

4. Maintaining a client database 

a) Perform mandatory health screening and store client information

Screening members before they visit your gym or fitness center can help you minimize the chances of infection for other customers or staff members. 

You can ask your members to fill a simple questionnaire that collects relevant member information such as:

  • Any pre-existing conditions (that makes them a part of the at-risk group for COVID-19)
  • Their age group
  • Travel history
  • If they’ve suffered any Covid-19 symptoms in the past 14 days

Based on the information that a client provides, owners and gym managers can choose to accept or decline the appointment. This way you can protect your gym, its staff, and patrons.

For an added layer of safety, everyone that enters the premises must undergo health screening (like a mandatory temperature check) and the checks should be recorded.

You can also make your members sign Covid-specific liability waivers once they arrive for their workout slot.

5. Safety and Sanitation 

The biggest concern across everybody’s mind is how they can avoid coming in contact with potentially contaminated surfaces. A thorough and frequent sanitation process is imperative as gym equipment can be difficult to sanitize with their weird shapes and innumerable places that a person could grasp it. 

  • It is important to wipe down high touch surfaces such as barbells, elliptical handles, and cycle bars as these could be the breeding grounds for the Coronavirus.
  • Keep track of the equipment and machines that are being used in a particular appointment slot. Make sure that the entire team cleans all the surfaces properly even if they “seem” clean. Research has shown that droplets can remain in the air for up to three hours, and droplets on stainless steel or plastic surfaces can linger for up to 72 hours. So you can never be too careful.
  • Give staff members plenty of time to sanitize the machines and benches in between and minimize client overlap. The benefit of accepting members through appointments only is that you can space out appointment slots in such a way that the staff members of the gym can sanitize the equipment thoroughly and frequently.
  • Require both members and staff to wear a face-covering at all times. According to the NY gym & fitness center’s reopening guidelines, for individuals who are unable to medically tolerate a face covering, ensure that they wear a face shield at all times.  However, the CDC “does not currently recommend the use of face shields as a [sufficient] substitute for masks.”
  • Adhere to hygiene, cleaning, and disinfection requirements from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and your state’s department of health and maintain logs on-site that document date, time, and scope of cleaning and disinfection.

Sounds like a lot to do? Well, it is – a lot to both do and remember. So, we decided to sum it up in a neat checklist that you can refer to, pass around among staff, and use for daily inspection both before and after you open up. 

Find the checklist here:

Section 2

Rebuilding and maximizing revenue

Now that you know how to reopen, it’s time to rebuild! 

In this section, we are going to talk about growth and marketing hacks that will help you maximize revenue for your fitness business during Covid-19 – even with the restricted capacity! 

The new business model for fitness businesses deals with two very financially challenging scenarios:  

  • The need to cut occupancy, and 
  • Additional expenses and operational cost 

You don’t have to be a finance guru to understand the underlying implications here – you’re basically earning less every day and spending more.

We know it may seem like the odds are stacked against you, but here’s the thing: It’s probably nothing you haven’t experienced before.

The fitness industry has seen countless turmoils, and always survives to see another day – and so will you! 

No business is made without sweat, and we are sure you made yours with years of toil! So, lace up your shoes, and get ready to hustle – because we are going to help you make money in the worst of times! 

Covid-19 has upended the financial model and metric numbers that fitness businesses have followed for years. In the wake of this, we offer strategies that help you stabilize the boat by: 

  • Retaining members for the long term 
  • Earning more from each member

Let’s dig into each one-by-one!

1. Retaining members for the long term

Attracting new customers might require both money and effort, but retaining existing ones can, for the most part, be achieved with a little bit of strategy:

Engage with them, delight the right ones, and make it convenient for them to take advantage of your services!

Here’s how to achieve this step-by-step:

a) First: Engage with your members to bring them back

As gyms have reopened, only 30.98% of gym members have returned [5,055 Member Survey]

Your members might not be willing to come for a variety of reasons ranging from the Covid-19 anxiety to having no idea that you have reopened. But the good news is that proper communication can help you address almost all of those reasons. 

  • Launch a reopening campaign to inform members that you open and connect with them to understand their concerns.
  • Address everyone’s safety questions individually and set the precedence that you are undertaking all safety precautions by:
    • Marketing your sanitation procedures and COVID-19 response on social media.
    • Posting the information and safety guidelines on your booking portal.
    • Requesting members that are coming in to exercise to review your gym especially mentioning how well you’re following the guidelines and how safe they feel.

b) Second: Identify and focus on specific customer segments

Think of it like focusing your efforts on your best bets. 

Since you are already working at a reduced capacity, there are a limited number of clients you’ll be able to accommodate on a weekly basis. 

So, while running your marketing campaigns, it makes sense to focus most of your efforts on clients that are 1) most likely to visit you 2) spend more. 

Now, how do you identify and reach out to these client segments? 

Classify your clientele with personalized tags and channelize your communication.

  • The clients who are most likely to visit you even during the pandemic are your long term, loyal clients. The ones who have seen your business grow and trust it to keep them safe while providing their favorite service. 
  • While the ones that spend more are the people who either come in for big services, or buy combos/packages, or depend on you to supply for their monthly retail needs. 

To identify these different kinds of clients, you need to dig deep into your client database. You will need to filter out clients based on their appointment history, booking frequency, add-on purchases to identify segments such as loyal, high-end, retail loving, etc.  

If you have been using fitness appointment scheduling software with in-built CRM to collect and track this data, it should be easy for you to identify this segment. If not, you might need to dig into your client list manually and highlight these clients. 

Once identified, tag them in different groups or segments. A few examples can be:

  • Active clients 
  • High-end clients 
  • Frequent clients
  • Retail lovers, etc. 

Once tagged, run an email campaign targeting specific segments. Move away from the one-size-fits-all approach and draft targeted emails for each customer segment. 

Make all the groups feel important and treat them like VIPs.

Craft emails to your regular and loyal clients thanking them for patronizing your business for so long. Appeal to your high-end clients by giving them offers. Offer them access to priority booking and no waitlist time.

You can add a credit bank so that members keep paying for their memberships even if they don’t visit the gym right now. 

To help you with this, we have designed personalized email templates for different client segments.

Download them from below and get your marketing started in minutes. (They’re free!) 

c) Virtual classes and sessions

Instead of missing out on potential membership revenue, you should look to switch to online virtual classes as a way of keeping your members from canceling their memberships and earning without having to open your doors. 

The best part about classes and group challenges is that whether it’s pushing through the last few reps of a set, or avoiding that unnecessary slice of pizza: your buddies don’t let you slouch. COVID-19 doesn’t change that mentality. 

People still want to exercise with their gym partner as their source of motivation. This opens an opportunity for fitness businesses to start online group training classes such as Pilates or Crossfit. 

Offer virtual group classes to your members to make more money per session as it will allow you to cater to more members at once.

Additionally, allow your members to purchase additional seats for their friends and family at discounted prices/for free. Ask them to refer you and give them incentives. This way you’ll be able to increase your class sizes.

A girl on a yoga mat attending a virtual fitness class using her laptop

d) Curate new membership models 

In addition to offering online fitness coaching and virtual classes, you can also modify your membership models to offer a few new memberships such as: 

  • Hybrid model: When you reopen, your gym will have a mix of in-person clients and online training clients. This vision will help with attendance limitations, and it will add a new revenue stream. Flex training with small groups. So people are coming in, they’re training in small groups, and they’re doing some homework online too.
  • Memberships with longer validities: Due to the uncertainty caused by Covid19, many people are skeptical of committing to any paid plan. For these people, you can launch memberships with a longer than usual validity, something like a ‘buy now, use till 2021 model’. Club this with attractive discounts and your clients won’t be able to resist and this will help you stabilize your cash flow. 

Introduce your new membership models as a cheaper alternative to a full membership that potential members can take advantage of. Customers love the option of choice and will appreciate the new COVID-specific membership models that you will have to offer. 

2. Growing revenue per member

An increase in revenue per user can be achieved by cross-selling and up-selling. A few ways to make this happen easily:

a) Revamp your offerings and in-demand services

Two men having a conversation amid an outdoor workout

Give your clients what’s trending and they will flock to take you up on your offer.

Right now, this can be outdoor workouts. They are really trending because of the built-in premise of social distancing coupled with the mental fatigue of people staying indoors.

You can easily start offering these and attach an additional fee to your outdoor workout sessions to generate some extra revenue. Let any interested person be a part of the boot camp.

One thing that you must remember is to choose your workout space carefully. Many states currently have closed public parks and walkways. It’s important for you to ensure that you conduct your outdoor activities following the local laws and regulations.

b) Promote Personal Training based memberships

If anything, this pandemic has brought to attention the importance of being healthy and leading a healthy lifestyle. Use this to your advantage by promoting PT-based memberships to your members.

If you’re in the fitness industry or have followed it for a while, you are no stranger to the difference that a personal trainer can bring to someone’s training program. Being their trade, trainers always know the nuances of training that helps novice gym-goers avoid injuries and make the most out of their workout.

You can use this to encourage clients to opt-in for a personal training program both in-studio or online. 

c) Sell more retail

Including retail items as part of your gym is one of the best ways you can boost your revenue. Many gyms have a retail store of some sort and others are always considering starting their own.

Whether it be bottled water, on-the-spot protein shakes, or even clothing, gyms should always aim to increase retail sales as a way of boosting revenue.

Here are a few tips to boost revenue from your retail store:

  • Talk about your retail store in the community
  • Make sure everyone can see it
  • It should be easily accessible

Your retail store should also go along with your online coaching and classes. Many online fitness booking software, like Appointy, allow you to increase retail sales items to customers and members seamlessly. 

d) Create Nutrition Plans and Subscription boxes

Take the time to discuss COVID-specific diets with your clientele that build immunity while also being simple to procure and make. Partner up with local certified nutritionists and refer your members to them. Your members will receive a balanced diet chart that they can follow to improve their fitness results. 

Additionally, you can also sell daily/weekly/monthly fitness subscription boxes that include healthy snacks for your members. Your members can pay a reasonable fee to subscribe to these boxes. This lets you create potent partnerships with people in your community and present yourself as an end-to-end fitness business. 

People prefer businesses that offer them all that they need in one spot rather than having to juggle between multiple businesses to meet their requirements.

That’s it for ideas on how to reopen safely and maximize revenue during Covid-19. But what matters more than the idea itself is the implementation.

So here’s a little trick to help you sail through this phase effortlessly:

Win big with automation 

When your weekly ‘To-do’ literally has ‘thrive business through a pandemic’ on it, one thing that you can’t ignore is: Automation! 

As you gear up your entire workforce to ensure survival, it’s time to leave a few important tasks to trusted tech. 

Automation, for the most part, can be achieved with the right tools and software. You can use tools to automate repetitive tasks, such as sending appointment reminders or to digitize important processes such as client database building. 

Instead of investing in human resources to optimize your time, a more affordable and efficient approach is to invest in tools that help you streamline your processes. 

Here are a few things that you can optimize using super-affordable tools: 

  • Online scheduling – to prevent your phone from ringing off the hook and allow clients to self-book in an appointment-only model. 
  • Digital client database – to collect and store information for contact tracing and check-in clients contactlessly. 
  • Email and text reminders – to ensure clients never miss an appointment, plus to send promotions and offers. 
  • Video Conferencing platform – to kickstart online training and classes. 
  • Online payment processing – for seamless pre-payments for your online bookings, gift card purchases, and retail sales.  
  • Business analytics – Reporting system to pull out daily appointment reports, ensure trainer productivity, and monitor payments. 

You can try separate tools for automating each of these tasks, or you can just use Appointy to do it all with one single tool! 

That looks like pretty much on autopilot, doesn’t it? 

That’s because Appointy’s fitness management software is designed to keep in mind all of your business’s needs.

In fact, during the past few months, we have been receiving hundreds of requests from gyms, fitness studios, and physical training centers to set up appointment scheduling for their businesses so that they can reopen safely. 

Look at what some of our clients say about us: 

Testimonial by Gareth Preston, a personal trainer, appreciating Appointy's fitness scheduling software

Being an easy-to-use, online scheduling software, Appointy can help you implement social distancing guidelines, adapt to the post-COVID-19 world, and run your gym or fitness center smoothly.

Check it out live in action how Appointy can help fitness businesses reopen and grow during Covid-19.

Implement social distancing at your gym, fitness studio or physical training center with online scheduling now →

Hope this guide helps you reopen safely and grow your business responsibly in the wake of Covid-19. 

We will continue to share more ideas and advice from experts over the coming weeks. Meanwhile, don’t forget to share this with your peers if you think it can help them.

We would also love to hear your thoughts and experiences on how you are reopening and rebuilding your business after Covid-19! Just drop a comment below to let us know! 

About Appointy

We at Appointy, help business owners grow and run their businesses with our online scheduling software. This blog was a part of our ‘Manage your Business’ category, where we provide expert tips, and resources, or simply talk about the challenges that small and medium businesses face every day. 

If you have any thoughts on this blog or would like to chat about your business struggles and achievements, let us know in the comments below. 

We love a good talk!