Bright Spot: Reaching Out To Isolated Members During the COVID-19 Shutdown

The temporary shutdown of our Fast and Fit Women’s Fitness Studio due to COVID-19 has hit hard for many of our members who are women between the ages of 50 and 75, and many of whom are isolated or alone, so we have been reaching out in different ways to them.  

Our facility is a small, privately owned boutique studio in Grass Valley, California, which is in the western foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountain range about 60 miles northeast of Sacramento, California. We have been in business for more than 17 years and have known some of our members for many of those years. Our studio primarily offers classes with open studio time between classes and keyless entry during unstaffed hours.  

When the shutdowns first occurred, we started our reach out to our members by signing up for an Internet fitness site called Team Body Project and encouraging our members to check out the classes. Many of them did so. We then got e-mail groups going depending on the time members visited the studio. Those groups are being managed by Joyce Scott, one of my trainers. Many people have been coming into our studio at the same time for years, and the women they saw on a regular basis became their friends for an hour or so several times each week.

Joyce keeps in close contact with the women and puts out challenges and ideas for communicating with each other as well as sending a weekly check in “food for thought.” She asked the women to send in photographs of their gardens (a big thing for our ladies), and I put together a slide show of the photos and sent it to everyone. The next project, which we are working on now, is having them send us photographs of projects they are working on or have completed. 

Everyone likes to brag, most of all our ladies, and these types of projects seem to keep them connected to us. I also film a weekly class for the level one members and make that available to them in an e-newsletter from me. And, Amanda Courtney, my other trainer, records a couple of HIIT classes each week targeted at the members who regularly attend this particular class. She keeps in close communication with this group. We also are working on community projects, including writing cards to hospice clients, knitting blankets for the Linus Project and more as they unfold.

What will happen when we return to the studio is a mystery at this point. What we do know is that we will be managing attendance, having members sign up for classes ahead of time—which is not what we normally do—and wearing a mask. Our studio is just 1,200 square feet, so we are limited in how many people we can accommodate at one time. This will be difficult for them to grasp, but I hope they will all settle into the new way of doing business, at least for the first few months we are back at it.

As an owner, it is a challenge to stay energized and enthusiastic. I keep in close contact with my two trainers as we talk about what we are doing with the members and the communications we have with them. Some members are more connected than others, and that is a worry. But we can’t reach everyone because some don’t seem to be interested. We sometimes are disappointed by the lack of interest from members, but we are grateful for the ones who do keep in close contact and send us messages about how much they enjoy the classes and seeing us—even though it is through a camera lens.

I am hopeful I can come through this and be able to open once again. Because of our demographic of members, we are not leaping at going back right away. We are going to hold back to be sure we can keep them safe. This will be disappointing, I am sure, but our motto is better to be safe than sorry. We don’t want to open only to have to close down again in a few weeks.

Financially, I was able to secure a PPP loan, but that only goes so far. I decided to humbly ask my members for financial contributions during this time, and I am grateful that we had a fairly good response to my plea, which will get us through the next few months. Asking for money is not anything anyone wants to do, but they understood that in order for us to come back fighting, we need help. And they came through. Fingers crossed, we will be back in the August/September timeframe, and if not, then we will be looking at a different scenario.