As fitness centers around Alaska shut their doors in response to the coronavirus, Kodiak’s gym owners are scrambling to find creative ways to reach their members, with many turning to online classes.
A health mandate announced by the governor on Tuesday requires all entertainment facilities to close from March 18 to April 1, including theaters, gyms and fitness centers, bowling alleys and bingo halls.
Tracy Chandler, owner of A Balanced Approach fitness studio, paused her members’ automatic payments and switched to an online format for some of her classes, posting them on the “ABA At-Home Workouts” Facebook page.
“We’ve created a Facebook page and we are writing up our classes and posting the written workouts. A couple of the instructors have done videos and we are posting links to free (online) content,” Chandler said.
She has adapted her bootcamp classes, which typically use weights, to include resistance bands and bodyweight workouts like push ups and core exercises.
Chandler said that prior to the COVID-19 outbreak she had already built a social media community among the “ABA tribe,” as she refers to the gym’s members.
“We post memes and keep each other motivated. We already had the community built,” she said.
With the gym closing its doors and putting members’ accounts on hold, Chandler is concerned about the future of her business. She said that if the closure continues longer than just two weeks, she would need to decide how much debt she would like to take on.
In the face of these difficulties, the community has come together to help the gym.
“Some members who are able or willing have reached out and asked that I not put their accounts on hold,” Chandler said, adding that the town’s close-knit community gives her hope.
“Kodiak is really good at coming together,” she said.
CrossFit Kodiak Island, owned by Tim and Shanna Rockenbach, has also moved its classes online.
“We are going to do one workout a day that everybody completes,” Shanna Rockenbach said. The classes posted on the gym’s member Facebook page will include a warmup, the main workout and cool-down exercises. The gym’s instructors will coach students through each of the movements.
In some of the videos, instructors will try to use items that most people have around their homes, such as jugs of detergent filled with water, six-packs of gatorade and broomsticks.
Students can also invite their children to join the workouts, Rockenbach said.
“Get your children involved. Put them on your back for a squat,” she said. “We are having some fun being creative and looking for our members' input as well.”
Despite the new format, Rockenback is worried what will happen if the closure continues past April. In addition to owning the gym, she also works as an emergency trauma technician at the Kodiak Area Native Association.
Only one day after the closure, the gym had already lost 10% of its members.
“We are extremely worried, I can't support our family on our one income,” she said. “If this goes on longer than a month, it's going to be hurting everybody. It's a huge concern and I don't have the answer. There will be rent and mortgage that still have payments coming in without an income.”
To help out the gym and the Rockenbachs, the CrossFit coaches said they would volunteer their time.
Many of the gym’s members who are U.S. Coast Guard service members have also continued their memberships despite the closure. Rockenback said this was in response to the gym waiving their memberships last year when they were not receiving paychecks during the government shutdown.
“That’s one of the testaments to our gym. We are more than just a gym, we are all family,” she said.
The Kodiak Area Native Association Wellness Center is also among the organizations providing workouts online. The workouts will be free and available to community members and posted on the center’s public Facebook page.
KANA’s exercise fitness specialist, Manya Wandersee, who is a yoga instructor and personal trainer, said she will post four exercise videos each week. She also creates three total body workouts a week, and posts the written workouts online.
“I recommend starting with just 10 minutes. Tell yourself after 10 minutes, it's okay to stop,” Wandersee said. “I guarantee that as soon as those 10 minutes are up your endorphins will kick in, your mood will lift and you’ll be feeling too good not to finish the workout.”