PLYMOUTH – Things have a way of working, and it turns out this is no exception.
Plymouth Fitness Center has been as much hostage to COVID over the past two years as anyone or anything.
Like all other health clubs and fitness studios in Massachusetts, the gym at 16 Aldrin Road in West Plymouth was forced to close in March 2020 in the face of the coronavirus, and it would be almost four months before those businesses were allowed to reopen, albeit with crowd limits, social distancing and mask requirements in square.
Plymouth Fitness’s success, both at the height of the pandemic and now in what many hope will be its true wake, was far from guaranteed. The industry has been particularly hard hit, according to figures from the International Association of Health, Racquets and Sports Clubs (IHRSA), which found that nearly 30% of gyms to date have closed permanently as a result.
“We have always believed that as a business, Plymouth Fitness will get through COVID-19,” said Lisa Barros, COO of Plymouth Fitness. “We have a very stable ownership and the management team at the club is very experienced and dedicated.”
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Barros said she and other staff have been buoyed by the support of their customers during the long period of closures and restrictions, which included a city-imposed indoor mask mandate that ran from 30 December to February 9 of this year.
“Now that we’re fully open again, we’re even more aware that the social aspect of exercising with others is really important in helping people be consistent, not to mention the mental and emotional benefits of it.” , she said.
According to the club, 2019 was its best year since it opened in 1979.
“And 2022 is shaping up to be even more successful,” club chairman Curt Larson said. “All of our key performance indicators are trending up in the right direction. Daily visits are increasing, our swim lesson program is thriving, total membership is growing, and the overall club vibe is energetic. »
The gym has installed $60,000 of new equipment and has other capital improvement plans underway.
“Coming out of the pandemic, we’re learning that our customers’ wants and needs are changing,” Larson said. “They are looking for ways to improve their well-being and fitness as a way to improve their health and more so as a preventative health care measure.”
The gymnasium plans to expand programs incorporating wellness, recovery and socialization.
“We need to understand that many people don’t need to exercise too hard to get results,” Larson said. “Just moving more and having fun with others can make a big difference in how someone feels physically and mentally. We’re back in the business of keeping people healthy, and it feels good.
COVID as a medical issue, not just a barrier to business opportunities, remains a priority for club training director Nate Graham.
“Physical activity provides significant protection against more serious consequences, including hospitalization and death,” he said. “As scary as it sounds, it has motivated people of all ages, shapes and sizes to become more active in order to boost their immunity and strengthen their ability to fight disease.”
The club has seen an increase in the popularity of workouts that include assisted stretching, meditation and yoga as a way for users to “recover” from more intense fitness activities or everyday life challenges.
“It’s not just about how hard you train anymore,” Graham said, “it’s more about feeling better and enjoying the wellness journey along the way.”
The return of COVID has not been without its challenges for the gym, with the biggest challenge being hiring new employees, a situation facing gyms nationwide.
Nearly half of all fitness-related staff, or some 1.5 million people, were laid off nationwide from March 20 to mid-2021, according to IHRSA.
Marlene Velez-O’Brien is responsible for managing the club’s popular group lesson schedule. She said more than a third of club members prefer to attend group classes because of the social aspect of being with other people.
“We offer a variety of classes with appeal to people of all fitness levels,” O’Brien said. “Now one of the challenges posed by COVID-19 is adding even more dynamic instructors to our incredible team.”
Planet Fitness Managing Director Paul Baldrate developed this idea.
“COVID-19 has forced some people to change careers or relocate, and we’ve lost some fantastic staff,” he said. “We have recently been able to hire some great new trainers, and some of our employees have taken on expanded roles.”
He said the gym was looking to add more employees, especially massage therapists and swimming class instructors.
“In a way, it’s a good problem to have, because it means the business continues to grow,” he said.
The gym’s success, he added, reflects the positive attitudes kept lit during some dark times.
“People want to be with other people and they want to have fun,” he said, “and we’re really good at that.”