Consumer Shift in the Fitness Industry as Gyms Reopen

Gyms, health clubs, and fitness facilities were among the first businesses, along with bars and restaurants, to be closed in March for the Coronavirus pandemic.  As a personal trainer working in gyms and health clubs since 2008, my world flipped upside down literally overnight.

Over the past few months, home gym equipment has leaped off the shelves of big box stores and backordered for months from online retailers.  Amazon delayed any shipping of fitness equipment until mid-May and into June.  Companies like Peloton are now having record breaking sales with people forced into purchasing higher priced items from continued gym closures and reduced capacity once reopening begins.

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National and local gyms, and personal trainers of all types have taken to offering free or reduced-price classes to keep members and clients plugged in.  The health club I work at in the New Orleans area also took and is still taking part to an extent, with this model.  With a set of light to medium dumbbells, gym goers can do body pump, Zumba, yoga, cardio kickboxing, etc., from the comfort of their living room any time of day.

#Reopening.  Along with other businesses, gyms are now faced with decisions on how to reopen “safely” at 25-30% capacity in most states.  Some states as of this blog are already up to 50%.  Social distancing and sanitation/hand cleaning requirements also add into the mix for attracting members to come back.  To be honest, most of the sanitation issues have been rules posted in gyms for decades.  Members did not follow these rules and yet somehow aside from an occasional cold or flu, everyone miraculously survived over the decades.

While you may think people are lining up to pack the gym at its reduced capacity on day one, you are sadly mistaken.  Fear still dominates members’ minds even though guidelines are in place.  Realistically, it’s not possible for some of the guidelines to be implemented.  What do members do with all the home gym equipment and accessories they invested in?  Using their membership is great, yet a new routine has taken hold over the past 60 days and now is entrenching into a habit.  Free online classes are still available.  Older members are remaining at home.  Childcare is still closed for a little while longer.  Food services and gatherings for coffee or lunch are still off limits.  Personal trainers also remain furloughed in some health clubs or are making more money traveling to clients’ homes.

Fit and healthy people have stronger immune systems, regardless of age, and are more resilient to bounce back from illness.  Unfortunately, this was and is overlooked by public health, and an industry that literally can save lives, is currently in the doghouse as a den of Covid filth.  Many larger health clubs will feel the economic sting more than smaller ones.  Large health clubs have higher overhead, higher dues, and require more employees to operate.  Small gyms like an Anytime Fitness, typically have minimal to no staff, and at primetime, are still way under the fire marshal 25-30% capacity.  Could the fitness industry see a shift away from high-end, large footprint health club back to smaller boutique or franchised business plans?

A small footprint doesn’t require childcare, group classes, paid training staff, and food services.  Membership costs are low and 24/7 access from a network of locations may make these now more attractive than ever for investors, and members seeking to reduce personal expenses.  A market will always exist for higher incomes wanting perks and the latest in gadgets, classes, and equipment.  What happens to the remaining 80% of potential gym goers who are evaluating their options?  Time will tell the changes in consumer confidence and tastes for what they desire.  The gym landscape has shifted indeed.

Video Conference Calls Can Be Hazardous to Your Cervical Spine During Stay at Home

Work from home video conferencing is hotter and trendier than ever.  Staying safe is the mantra for reducing human contact and spreading COVID-19.  Many workers are able to continue in their jobs and companies have found ways to allow them to remain connected.  Even socially, people are having virtual happy hours and seeing old friends through the use of Zoom, Go To Meeting, and other video conference sites.  What is going largely unnoticed, are the significant tolls more screen time is playing on the physical dysfunction of our society.

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Text Neck is a new term that describes how basically all humans are looking down to view their phones constantly.  It’s coupled with now leaning forward even more into laptop and tablet screens on multiple video conference calls daily.  This “new normal” posture wreaks havoc on the spinal discs in your cervical vertebrae.  The natural effects of aging are accelerated in middle age and younger adults, making them appear shorter and causing Degenerative Disc Disease, commonly called a herniated or bulging disc.  Degenerative Disc Disease (DDD) can lead to excessive compression forces placed on the facet joints, which can cause pain and predispose to arthritic degeneration (Kumaresan, Yoganandan, Pintar, Maiman, & Goel, 2001).  You may not even realize the damage you’re doing because there are no nerve endings in the disc itself.  Up to 35% of individuals between 40 and 64 years of age may have a cervical disc herniation without symptoms (Antoni & Croft, 2006).

At what point do you take notice of your lack of mobility and reduction in quality of life?  Likely you haven’t noticed because you’re staring down at your phone.  The consequences are felt when you perform motions like turning your head to back your car up.  Not all cars have backup cameras, and now you’re compromising the safety of everyone in your car and oncoming cars.  You probably haven’t thought about that lately, it just hurts to turn your head more for some reason.

More seat and device time also lead to increased risk of COVID-19 death factors such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes.  While working from home may be great on the outside appearance, unless you regulate screen time even more, you are at risk of physically debilitating issues.  Being home also ties you longer to the screen because “working hours” don’t exist to the extent as before.  24/7 connection to email and other technology makes you accessible 24/7.  In going to work, there is a start and finish typically five days a week, this is no longer the case.

The need for self-preservation regarding spinal and joint dysfunction is now paramount.  Using specialized techniques for stretching and strengthening muscles to prevent soft tissue injuries in this COVID-19 world are now vital.  I offer a program to assist executives and professionals overcome these trying times with their joint mobility.  You can find specific information on my site.  You can also email me at for questions about the highly specialized program I offer.

Get control of your daily screen time tasks before they reduce you to constant pain and arthritis!

Tips to Avoid Boredom Eating & Weight Gain During COVID Shutdown

It’s 8:00PM on a weeknight, usually I’m cleaning up dinner after getting home from working my last client at 7:00PM.  That was before the mass shutdown, now at 8:00PM dinner was done two hours ago and I’m hunting around for a snack or fighting off the urge to have a beer.  Does this sound familiar?

It takes just over 60 days to cement in a new habit, good or bad.  The shutdown is quickly reaching that magical number.  Are you like me and sifting through the pantry and fridge at odd times during this zombie apocalypse?  The answer is probably yes, you are.  And how do you stop yourself?

Being a personal trainer also means being a billboard for healthy, active lifestyle.  Some people think personal trainers aren’t human and can say no to sweets, salty treats, or booze without a problem.  We don’t workout much and just appear looking like Greek gods.  Sadly, we are human also and experience the same emotions and require the same amount of hard work to reach and maintain our fitness levels.  Struggling through these odd couple months to not become a drunken sloth is difficult.  I like having cocktails much as the next guy and sneaking in chips or other unhealthy foods.  The accountability isn’t there with seeing clients regularly and keeping a set schedule.  Plus, physical activity levels are not where they used to be.  All of these ingredients can make a fit person fluffy!

How do we fight the fluffy?  The origins begin the same way they did before the shutdown, at the grocery store.  What you buy you eat, simple enough.  The problem is a mindset of using this time like it’s a weeklong vacation.  Sure, you buy more sweets and unhealthy snacks because it’s only a week and you want to enjoy life without the regular hassles.  Unfortunately, this vacation is dragging into months and your shopping habits are still in vacation mode.  IF you purchase regular items on a regular schedule, there aren’t poor choices to make when you rummage around. Processed-foods

Weight gain and weight loss are still math equations, yes math is hard.  To do the math on proteins, carbs, and fats, click my website for more info.  You can eat to much of healthy foods because they have calories, just more nutrient dense than a bag of chips and cookies.  Sometimes when we’re hungry, it really is dehydration and we need a few glasses of water.  Drinking a few glasses of water gives you a fuller feeling without the calories.  Try that strategy when you’re bored and looking for snacks.  Buy some flavored mineral water to give you a different taste and carbonation like a soda.  These also have zero or little calories and do the job well, I know from experience!

The best strategy for later at night snacking is going to bed.  Gastric emptying is a fact and happens 3-4 hours after a meal.  If it’s 10:00PM and you ate dinner at 6:30PM, getting hungry again is natural.  Likely you don’t have any specific reason to be awake longer and are watching shows that will be around for decades to come or reading a book that will be on your nightstand in the morning.  Save yourself the hassle and boredom, turn off the lights and go to sleep! Wake up tomorrow hungry and eat breakfast.  Eat a bigger breakfast if you like because you have all day to use those calories.  Taper off the portion sizes as the day goes on.

The last strategy is forgiveness.  When you have a bad eating day, no problem.  It’s just ONE day not a lifetime!  Make sure one day doesn’t lead into multiple days, that’s where you get in trouble.  Forgive yourself for one day and make tomorrow normal, not excessive in making up for past sins.  The body evens out, I promise.  It’s easy to let our minds run away with crazy thoughts.  Reign it in and dedicate to change tomorrow, then repeat the process.  20 pounds isn’t gained or lost in a day!

“New Normal” at Gyms? Nope, Impossible! Old Works Just Fine, Time to Reopen

“New normal,” a phrase the media throws around to cause shock n’ awe with the public.  Does this phrase truly mean anything long lasting for gyms and health clubs?  The answer is no.

A gym is full of equipment spaced apart just enough to maximize total number of machines, dumbbell racks, benches, etc.  People need people close by to spot them for safety.  These attributes are diametrically opposite of “social distancing”.  While phase 1 (whatever that means) says people have to stay six feet or more apart and only a limited number of members inside, let’s not get into wearing masks while working out, everyone knows that is not possible.  Phase 2 (whatever that means) allows for more people inside and some other freedoms to socially interact.  How many phases are there?  Who knows?

The reality is gyms and health clubs are social places.  Close contact and body contact are standard modes of operations for members.  Germs are everywhere due to constant touching of equipment, sweat, and temperature of the room.  Cleaning everything by employees after each use is impossible and impractical.  Self-policing by members to wipe down equipment is and has been on every gym’s rules since the dawn of time.  How many people follow this rule?  Not many.  Sure, they will in the beginning, then taper off and back to the “old normal”.  What is truly amazing is how many people are not sick with colds, flus, and viruses on a regular basis from all the shared touching.  It’s called herd immunity and has worked for decades.  Hmmmm, maybe there’s a lesson to learn there, but politicians, media, and “Karens” don’t want to admit this.

When gyms open their doors, social distancing rules will go out the window within a couple weeks if not days.  Charging members full amounts while limiting their access is a recipe for disaster.  Oh yeah, and don’t forget the number of employees needed to run a facility.  You have to add those body counts into the total number allowed on premise.  And one more factor, childcare.  The small humans don’t take up a lot of space, but they do count towards total bodies in an area.  In America, restrictions on our freedoms do not bode well.  Restricting usage for a paying membership population also doesn’t bode well.

On a side note, one of the preventative measures for contracting COVID-19 needs to be gym use and nutrition counseling!  It’s the elephant in the room the media isn’t addressing, go figure.  Obesity + Coronavirus = DEATH.

What is the “new normal” for gym operations?  There is none.  Gyms will be packed shoulder-to-shoulder the first opportunity to be opened.  A stampede and mutiny will happen by all the full paying members who are denied access.  Time to move forward and allow the healthy population to stay healthy.  The immune system of a gym goer is stronger than the average person and needs to be on the forefront of everything health related.  We get sick less and for less duration because of our health condition.  To truly make a difference and get the economy going, the new normal is the old normal for gyms and health clubs.  Reopen them at full strength and include government encouragement to join one.  It is a fact among humans and all animal populations, the strong do survive and create a stronger next generation.  The CDC can’t deny and change what millions of years of earth history has shown and continues to show.

New, welcome back old.  More things change, the more they stay the same.

Coronavirus: Gym Closures from a Personal Trainer’s View

The gym/health club plays a large role in people’s lives beyond the obvious working out.  For many it is an essential part of their social life and source of friends.  Being a gym rat turned personal trainer in 2008, I’ve seen this dynamic in every gym that I spent significant time at over the decades.  Now that Coronavirus has ended this important aspect of people’s lives, what are they to do?

A majority of my friends since 2008 have come from the gym and fitness industry.  This is a natural progression as I spend my working hours in that setting.  What casual gym goers don’t grasp from an employee standpoint, is that the gym is NOT my place to socialize and hangout.  When I am there, even if I’m working out, I’m still in work/employee mode, while they are in social mode.  What appears to be socializing and hanging out, is really not.  Difference is people can come into my place of employment at their leisure and stay long as they want.  I can’t do that when going to a doctor’s office, factory setting, or retail location, it’s conduct business and leave.

In a health club setting where other services like a café, pool, and childcare are offered, members’ lives are tied to opening and closing hours.  Typically, they meet friends for classes, coffee, and relaxation throughout the week.  Taking multiple functions away in one fell swoop is hard to overcome.  The health club is a second home to families, especially when there are school holidays.  Not working out is only a part of the tension caused by health clubs closing down during this pandemic.  I have spoken with members at the health club I work at that are dying to go back for this social reason.  My health club also has multiple pools and a water slide, which is the daily hangout for many families.  Also, the health club provides meals for the day while these families use the facilities to get out of the house during the heat of the day.  Coronavirus continues to do more than just crush the business aspect of a health club; it has an emotional toll too.

What have closing gyms done for me regarding socializing?  It’s had no effect on my social life in the gym.  I don’t spend my non-working hours inside hanging out and talking to members.  The pools are used in the late spring and summer for weekend relaxation, that is a nice perk of employment.  I do not specifically go to the pool for seeing members and coworkers socially.  Sure, I speak with them, but they are not the driving reason for getting a tan and a cool dip in the water.  The gym is an income and exercise source for most employees.  I also know this because not many coworkers are there in their off times except to workout.  Another surprising fact is a majority of employees don’t even workout!  I’ll save that tangent for another day.

Unfortunately, all the positive health and social benefits do not overcome the need to reopen gyms in the first wave of essential businesses.  There are many arguments to support gyms as a necessity, look at the deaths and related obesity factors that led to these deaths more than healthy people.  A gym cannot socially distance, it’s impossible.  Square footage is maximized with equipment and members must be in close proximity.  Because members are exercising regularly, their chances of serious conditions from Coronavirus are lower than the average American, whom over 1/3 are classified as obese.  Government and media want to ignore the health factors because they don’t make news, and nobody wants the truth anyways, it doesn’t sell airtime and ratings.

I’d love to hear your thoughts.  Comment on the blog or drop me, Matt Peale, an email at  Stay healthy, my friends!

Reincarnation of the Garage Gym

Remember that weight bench, dumbbells, and barbell collecting dust in your garage?  You gave it away finally two years ago.  Don’t you wish you had it now?

Social distancing, quarantine, isolation, or whatever you want to call it, has brought a surge in garage/spare bedroom gyms.  The clothes and dust on your treadmill have been cleaned off and thankfully it still works.  On the day my gym employer closed for Coronavirus, a client and I went to Academy Sports & Outdoors to buy a few items we could use for training at his house.  When we arrived that evening, all that was left were the floor models of various equipment.  Not much matched, you saw it, they sold it at a discount just to move it off the floor.  I don’t think retail fitness departments ever saw such a spike in sales as they did that day and week!

We’re now almost a month into gyms and health clubs being closed.  If you have backdoor access to anywhere “unofficially”, you are the envy of your gym friends.  Out of tragedy, comes necessity and innovation.  While nothing can replace a fully stocked gym, a little elbow grease and online shopping can give an adequate substitute.  For many men, these days harken back to their bedrooms working out with a curl bar, pull-up bar in the doorway, and push-ups till you face planted every night.  As teenagers, this type of workout was the standard to “get big” if you weren’t on the football team.  Well, boys, those times are back!  At least for a few more weeks.

A new twist on the old home gym are the number of women who enjoying pumping iron and are buying various equipment for this unusual time in our world.  I have a female client in her early 70’s who purchased dumbbells and loop bands for us to use in her carport.  She’s still very excited to workout and see new results from the combo of her and my stuff.  From a trainer standpoint, I have to rethink movements because there are no luxuries of a full gym at my disposal.  Creativity is the key for everyone, and from what I see on social media, people are having some fun with their new ideas.  A lot of “trainers” have popped up on Instagram sharing their workouts to stay connected with others.  For some it’s an outlet for maintaining friendships, and others it’s a tiptoe into whether a fitness career path can work for them.

The year 2020 is not your father’s garage gym.  Now you can buy a TRX, full cable machine, a bench, and adjustable dumbbells that rival large hotel gyms!  The proliferation of free workouts on YouTube have made it easier than ever to incorporate whatever equipment you have into an effective session.  Add your smart speaker and smart phone, now you have a full studio in the comfort of your garage.  One constant from the old days is the weather.  Whatever temp it is outside, it is in your garage.  Heat and humidity are definitely equalizers on your endurance and stamina!

When we are allowed back into the gym, it is inevitable, that recently purchased equipment will be pushed back into the closet or corner of the garage for the spiderwebs and dust bunnies.  30 or 45 days doesn’t create new habits, and we are itching for the comforts of a full gym.  In the meantime, let’s get creative and share the knowledge.  All those “new” ideas can be used wherever your fitness journey takes you.