The co-owners of a US club forced to shut its doors – with no certainty of when it will re-open – talk about the challenges of coping with uncertainty, and the steps they’ve taken to stay connected with their members.

We are living in strange times indeed. As more countries enter government-enforced lockdowns, confining us to our homes, we in the fitness industry know that Instructors, clubs and members are all hurting. We may be feeling the financial pinch, but we are also feeling the lack of connection with our members and with the clubs themselves.

Like many other clubs, US-based BodyShop Group Fitness was forced to close its doors on March 16th by mandate from the state governor. Owned by Valecia Davis, Athena Pangikas-Miller and Jennifer Eller, the club is unique in being a completely Instructor-owned and run facility. So how are they managing the situation?

Based in Ellwood City, Pennsylvania, BodyShop has facilitated group fitness since 1997, and is the city’s longest-running fitness establishment. There are 12 Instructors, including the co-owners. The club runs 30 programs a week across nine Les Mills programs: BODYPUMP, BODYSTEP, BODYCOMBAT, BODYFLOW, LES MILLS TONE, LES MILLS BARRE, LES MILLS GRIT, CXWORX, and SH"BAM.

Jennifer admits that the team is concerned about the longer term financial implications of the shutdown: “The Instructors and owners have been worried about the closedown financially breaking our business. There has been no word of when we can re-open.”

Social media has played a huge part in allowing the club to maintain connections with members.

“Our members have been missing the social part that group fitness has to offer,” says Jennifer.

“To keep our members engaged and connected during social isolation, we have created a Facebook group with daily check-ins. We share the free content that Les Mills has provided and set them up with LES MILLS On Demand. We have also arranged some video conference-style calls so we can physically talk to each other.”

As anyone who’s been through Les Mills training will know, a key part of being a Les Mills Instructor is showing “care and respect” for our members. It’s a quality BodyShop has in spades. Says Jennifer, “The one thing that made the biggest impact in the eyes of our members is that we loaned out our equipment – benches and barbell sets – for them to use at home. We care about their health and fitness even if they can't do it with us, and they know that we care.”

Group fitness Instructors spend their lives motivating others, delivering experiences that make people feel good about themselves and creating a sense of community in their classes. For the Instructors at BodyShop, it’s been rewarding to see this support reciprocated: “We spend our time as Instructors and owners encouraging members and fostering a close-knit group that feels like family,” says Jennifer. “One of our mottos is #morethanagym. So it has been a pleasant surprise that we are now receiving the support and encouragement back from the members that we need in this uncertain time.

“We had a big boot camp two days before we closed where we did 30 minutes of each program all in a row, and now looking back it was sort of like a going-away party. We plan to have just as big of an event when we get the all-clear to return.”