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July 27, 2020 Meredith Simmons

A class at CSS Wellness in Lexington

As you consider your options in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, there may be a solution you haven’t considered yet: taking your classes or personal training appointments outside.

This option may not work for everyone; be sure to check any municipal government, logistical, or weather-related restrictions—especially if your city or county still has sheltering-in-place restrictions.

Where to go:

  • Many parks and open spaces have reopened—you may be able to find one to hold a class or personal training session outside. Keep in mind that every city is different, and you’ll need to check with your local government for their recommendations, permitting restrictions, and class size restrictions.
  • Unfortunately, some professional and collegiate sports have come to a halt during this pandemic—sorry sports fans. However, their unused stadiums could provide yet another public space that fitness studio owners can take advantage of while they need to keep their studio doors shut. Maddie Watkins, owner of 202strong, has been hosting socially distanced classes at Audi Field in Washington, D.C. since July 6.  “In May, Audi Field reached out to me because they were toying with the idea of holding fitness classes on the field and making it more of a community space,” Watkins said. When they got the green light to start hosting classes, other gyms followed suit and saw success. Again, each city and state may have different requirements for accessing these establishments—be sure to check them out first. 
  • If a park doesn’t work, consider what CSS Wellness in Lexington, Kentucky, did: they took the first three parking spots in front of the gym and turned it into a mini classroom. Each session allows a small group of people to work out while maintaining a 6-foot space of social distancing. “I didn’t feel comfortable going to the parks and I didn’t want to move too far from our space,” Brian Leggett, owner of CSS Wellness said. “I looked at those three parking spaces and took the flooring out of our cardio room and extras from my basement.”

What to take:

  • Keep it simple—focus on full body and bodyweight movements that don’t require equipment.
  • If you decided to use equipment, consider assigning each person equipment to limit exposure and be sure to have strict cleaning protocols in place. CSS is taking this approach with their classes: “We’ll move things out based on the weather,” Leggett said. (Pro tip: if you take this approach, consider checking the items out as rentals.)
An outdoor class at CSS Wellness

Other things to consider:

Communicate with your customers:

If you decide to offer outdoor fitness, it’s paramount to communicate it with your customers—after all, there’s no point in offering a class if no one comes. Add them to your regular schedule, post on your social media accounts and send emails to your customers using Marketing Suite to make sure they know that classes are available to book. If you’re changing locations, be sure to let your customers know where to go!

Set up your software for success:

Also, be sure to update your software to reflect how many people are allowed to attend the class based on your local government’s guidance (e.g. fewer than 10 attendees). Use a waitlist feature to allow others to be alerted if a spot opens up.

Think about offering a live streamed version, too:

If you decide to hold classes outdoors, you may want to think about offering a live stream version of your classes, too. This will allow your at-risk customers to join the workout from their homes as well. (Here’s a guide on how to get started.)

Check with your business advisors:

Before you make the call to take it outside, check with any of your business advisors, especially your preferred legal professional.

CSS Wellness has found success in their newly created outdoor approach—“Our customers appreciate it,” Leggett said. “We all went from full life to full stop with no outlet. Training has been an escape from everything swirling in the news. When you’re inside that training session, you put that out of your mind.”

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