Early in the day on March 16, Erin Jennings got the news.
Like other gym owners across the state, Jennings — the proprietor of Amsterdam’s Tribe Fitness Studio — was told she’d have to close her business per an order from Gov. Andrew Cuomo. The closing of gyms was just one step being taken to maintain social distancing and slow the spread of the novel coronavirus outbreak.
With less than 12 hours before she had to close the doors of her women’s-only fitness studio for an undetermined period of time, Jennings hatched a plan. If her members — her Tribe — couldn’t get to her gym to access the equipment they needed for training, she’d simply let them bring the equipment home rather than be forced to buy expensive equipment online that they would only use for a — hopefully — short period of time.
“What was [the equipment] going to do in my gym?” Jennings said. “It was going to sit there.”
Jennings distributed equipment — three or four items per person, mostly dumbbells, barbells and resistance bands — first to her monthly autopay members, then to customers who paid per class. Every piece of equipment given out required a signed contract stipulating that it would be returned to the gym once it reopened to the public.
“I trust these ladies,” Jennings said. “We’re a family of 70, 80 women and there isn’t one doubt that I wouldn’t trust any of them to bring this equipment back whenever this is over. My first instinct was ‘get them what they need to keep going’ because we’ve worked too hard and a lot of these ladies have been with me the last three or four years.”
Then Jennings, like so many other trainers and fitness professionals, took Tribe Fitness Studio online, starting a Facebook group for members and trainers and posting multiple workouts — either live streaming sessions or video demos — every day since the gym’s been closed.
“Whether I give them a workout, or we stream or do a Zoom meeting, we’re just giving them as many workouts as possible to stay busy,” Jennings said. “Many options, just as if we were open. A lot of them are saying they’re way overloaded with options. They have choices each day, like they would if they were signing into our classes [at the gym].”
A mile down the road on Route 30 at Alpin Haus Fitness, manager Nicole Heck has taken a similar approach.
Since closing, the gym’s trainers have kept in contact with their clients through Facebook and are constantly uploading new workout tutorials to help its members stay fit while the gym is shuttered.
With so many who use the gym as their “time to de-stress,” Heck said that providing that outlet for so many who are stuck at home was important.
“Being able to do it from home gives them a little bit of a sense of normalcy,” she said.
Heck has seen a similar sense of commitment and community from a wide range of gyms and fitness businesses throughout the region.
“Everybody’s definitely coming together and sharing a bunch of different workouts and classes online,” she said. “It’s really brought a lot of people together, at a time where you really can’t do anything else, just to keep people healthy and keep them going.”
At Alpin Haus, Heck said all automatic membership payments have been suspended while the gym is closed, and that once it reopens, she'll be open to adding time to existing memberships to cover the time that was missed.
At her gym, Jennings is keeping Tribe members engaged by encouraging them to post their own workouts with the hashtag #TribeAtHome and holding prize drawings for those who post their workouts online.
The current challenges have also given Jennings options that’s she’s going to consider implementing even after she's reopened.
“I’m taking a lot of stuff with me,” Jennings said, “to help my autopay members do things at home when they can’t make it to the gym if they’re working or not feeling good. This will give me the option to, without hesitating, be able to do this now that we’re comfortable with it.”