4 Ways the Pandemic Saved My Gym

Detric Smith

Trainer, Coach, Business Owner, Author

Williamsburg , Virginia, United States

Strength and Conditioning, Kinesiology, Nutrition Coach, Exercise Physiology, Certified Personal Trainer


COVID has left an indelible mark on the fitness industry. Business owners, gym employees, and gym-goers were left scrambling, confused, and in the dark by the ever-changing COVID rules and regulations.


Gyms were required to close their doors with no idea when or if they were going to reopen. Some gyms, including mine, could keep going because of flexible business plans, long sleepless nights, and a little luck. Others were not so lucky.



Here are four statistics that COVID inflicted on the U.S health and fitness industry last year:


  1. Industry revenue plummeted by 58%.
  2. Seventeen percent of fitness facilities were closed permanently.
  3. Eight major fitness companies filed for bankruptcy.
  4. More than one million industry employees lost their jobs.


The financial loss is enormous but imagine for a moment the effect it had on people's health.


We cannot measure health benefits, but the clients will feel these effects for a long time. My heart goes out to these people.


My gym Results Performance Training remains open because COVID forced me to learn some tough personal and business lessons. In some respects, it saved my business, as ironic as that sounds.


Here are four lessons I learned that made my business better today.


And if you’re still in business, hopefully, you can apply these lessons so you can survive and thrive in the future.


1. Pivot and Focus on Your Options

Due to the uncertainty of the job market and COVID fears, we focused on semi-private and virtual options.



  • Results Performance ended up doing more semi-private/small group training to adapt to people who did not feel comfortable in large groups.
  • Our gym devoted more energy to building our higher-priced services of semi-private training instead of our large group.
  • We then added more options for one-on-one and semi-private (3-5 people per group) training. By having these three options, I was able to keep my gym afloat while allaying fears about COVID.
  • By keeping the groups between three and five people, my gym can offer personal service without the personal cost.
  • Reducing group size allowed us to provide a service that charges more than large group training with fewer sessions and requiring less staff.
  • Semi and private groups are also easier on our coaches versus doing many group sessions per day.
  • Going with the semi-private/small group training still offers higher-cost options like one-on-one training.


One-on-one training makes your group training easier to sell to those who cannot afford personal training long-term.


2. Improve Your Mindset

It’s easy when you're knee-deep in the trenches to sweat the small stuff.


Before COVID, I was complaining about being too busy, and then COVID shut me down.


Now, I will never complain about being busy again. When Results first shut down, it put things in perspective and helped me practice gratitude.


During COVID, I became more aware of my negative thoughts and improved my ability to stop them quickly and turn them into positives.




If you practice gratitude and keep your mindset focused on the positive while ignoring the negative, it will help with the day-to-day running of your business.


3. Play To Your Strengths

There is a push from some fitness business coaches to have you remove yourself from the training floor altogether.


  • It’s your decision, but you must realize being a trainer and owning a training business are two separate things.
  • Removing yourself from one side of the business to focus entirely on the other may not play to your strengths.
  • I feel you need to know both sides of your business to be a complete business owner.


I love being back on the training floor because it keeps me in touch with my members and their wants and needs. If you’re not delivering what the members want, you’ll soon be out of business.


You must find a balance if you own and work in your business.


You may have to devote resources to other members of your team to cover your spending less time on the business side of your gym. I had to analyze my team and find people who can play off my weaknesses to focus on my strengths.



Rebuilding my team during COVID gave me the opportunity to right some of my wrongs. No one wants to say this, but when you screw up as a leader, your employees and members will not forget it.


That’s why, in sports, when a coach goes, you see the team clean house.


Before, I had too many people in the same position, which was a drain on my payroll. When I reduced the number of employees and staff and played to their strengths, the business ran smoother, and our work atmosphere improved.


Because of this, our culture improved.


Improve the Culture

COVID gave me a chance to see who bought into my training philosophy. I was shocked by people going out of their way to pay even more to help or invest more in our business to keep it going.


The culture of our studio became even more vital because the clients who stuck with us during COVID are our ideal clients.


Your culture improves when you have your staff and members pulling in one direction.


It isn’t easy to put this culture into words, but you can sense its enormity. Your culture is always something you should try to nail down and strengthen because knowing who you serve and who you don’t will help sales, member retention, and your bottom line.


COVID forced me into a situation where I needed to improve, or my employees would lose their jobs, and I would lose my business.


These four lessons have improved my business, and hopefully, they can improve yours also.

See more about: , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Breaking Muscle Newsletter

Breaking Muscle Newsletter

Get updates and special offers delivered directly to your inbox.