WACO, Texas — "Eat well, eat smart, wash your hands, take time doing the sanitation, and you will be alright," said Kyle Williams, co-owner of Halo Athletic Center, during an interview with 25 News on March 9, 2020.
On March 17, 2020, then-Waco Mayor Kyle Deaver issued a local state of disaster and ordered the closure of all bars, dine-in restaurants and gyms due to rising COVID-19 cases.
Now, one year later, 25 News checked back in with the gym to see how they've adapted and what their plans are for the upcoming holiday slow season.
On any health journey, it's always important to step back and take a look at where you've started to realize how far you've come.
Ashley Beard, owner of Halo Athletic Center, remembers the day gyms and other businesses were forced to cut back hours.
“We had only been open for four months, and my first thought as soon as we heard that gyms needed to be closed by 5:00 p.m. was let's close it down immediately," she said. "Let's get everybody out. That way they can be safe with their families, do whatever they felt most comfortable with doing, and make sure that it didn't matter if we were still in business or not. As long as the community was safe, that was our number one focus.”
Halo Athletic Center was forced to adapt from in-person to virtual fitness training.
“We were texting them things that they can do," Beard recalled. "I know me personally, I was sending videos of certain exercises to some of the women that I train at home just because it's difficult to remember when you're used to a trainer, especially, what were those exercises that you did like. And if they were able to buy bands or weights at the time, because there was no inventory, then we were able to show them what to do.”
After a few months, the gym was finally able to re-open, but with a lot more protocols.
“At the beginning we were very cautious and we were doing all the sanitary protocols that the CDC and the FDA had regulated," said Beard.
Those health habits have stuck around.
“We're still implementing the six-foot rule," the gym owner continued. "We're still implementing the sanitation areas, making sure people are wiping down, making sure that we are being more rigorous on our cleaning process, especially in the locker rooms and especially with the stations and areas that people do sweat a little bit more, like cardio, and then making sure handles and stuff like that are being wiped down a little bit more frequently.”
Having to shut down a few months into opening wasn't part of their business plan, but Beard says they've adapted well to what this past year and a half has thrown their way.
“Well, of course, whenever you open a business, you want to flourish, right? So when COVID did hit, our main concern was making sure our members were safe," said Beard. "We were totally fine shutting our doors… Yes, we were upset of course, you know, that we had to shut down, but our main concern was our members. And then once we opened in June, it was kind of like we had two New Year's resolutions. Everyone came back and they were excited.”
Though many fitness businesses weren't as lucky.
The IHRSA says during the lockdowns, industry revenue fell by 58% relative to 2019 sales. When it comes to the workforce, 44% of people in the fitness industry lost their jobs.
Beard credits that care for the community as the cornerstone for their success.
“I think that what we have implemented here at Halo is community-based, and so I think that, especially now more than ever, we need that," she said. "And so I think that we will still keep trucking through everything”
As for this upcoming holiday season, the gym isn't worried about a dip in business. They say the pandemic has forced many people to take a closer look at their health.
“I think that everyone is kind of more like let's get our vitamin D and let's make sure we're getting our vitamins and minerals," said Beard. "Let's make sure we're stepping outside, maybe getting a little bit more steps on those watches that we have. So I think that it has been a good thing in that aspect.”
Lifting something positive out of a dark and devastating time for the fitness industry.
Beard and Williams say they are excited to see people returning to the gym and will continue to adapt to whatever is thrown their way.
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