Edgeville Buzz

Local Fitness Businesses Get Pumped Up During Shutdown Orders

Making lemonade out of lemons? Call it what you will, but there is no substitute for actually having your doors open to earn a living. Edgewater and Andersonville fitness-oriented businesses have been hit particularly hard by the COVID-19 shutdown but they are finding ways to keep customers engaged.

According to a mainstreet.org poll put out earlier this month, nearly 7.5 million small businesses may be at risk of closing permanently in the next five months while 3.5 million are at risk of closure in the next two months. In addition, nearly 35.7 million Americans employed by small businesses are at risk of unemployment as result of the COVID-19 crisis.

So now is the time that local storefronts search for every avenue in order to survive. With a steady stream of possible solutions to help them pull through, small businesses are increasingly relying on online options during this time of isolation.

The health and fitness industry has been one of the hardest hit industries in the nation. With our local economies strengthened by our quest for both vanity and longevity, businesses such as gyms, fitness studios, trainers and classes have played a crucial part in a community’s prosperity.

Deemed as non-essential, almost all in the fitness industry have been ordered to temporarily close their doors forcing them into a financial struggle. Sirron Pilates at 5434 N Clark finds the value of their business through personal attention, tactile cueing, individual support, and unique equipment they offer. The virus has made the studio’s owner Norris Tomlinson unable to safely deliver the same quality in-person service he has come to expect. To make things worse, the foot traffic on the usually busy Andersonville strip has disappeared and so have potential new customers.

“The Andersonville main drag is essentially dark,” said Tomlinson. “The vast majority of businesses on the strip are closed and even the ones that have permission to be open have diminished patronage since there is little to no foot traffic. People are doing what they need to do to comply and to survive, most with a smile and a sense of good will.”

Tomlinson, like so many small business owners in the area, knows it is important to keep their patrons engaged. He has found social media to be an important tool by offering videos on Youtube to help customers stay in shape at home and others that address common issues like lower back pain.

Though not the same as in-person instruction at the studio, the need to stimulate some cash flow has become very necessary. Sirron provides video-conferencing where clients can purchase dedicated virtual classes with instructors, a service that has become in demand since the shutdown. Tomlinson says that many are skeptical about not training in his space but end up loving the online option.

Martial arts trainer Jason Bender operates both group and individual classes privately and out of Cheetah Gym (5248 N Clark). Because the gym is closed due to the need for social distancing, his in-person instruction has come to a halt for now. He says that his business of almost 20 years has been affected drastically by the COVID-19 guidelines.

“I teach fitness and martial arts, and what I teach the most can jokingly be called ‘extreme hugging’ since it is a grappling art,” explained Bender. “So first of all I cannot train or teach my biggest passion. I have a beautiful group of people and we make each other smile and have so many laughs.  Folks are really looking for that human connection. Having a group that you sweat with every single day makes it a little easier.”

Bender believes some good things could come out of the shutdown though. According to him, those who were putting off trying skills like jiujitsu due to lack of time now realize that they can’t let their schedules or fears get in the way of accomplishing goals.

Bender has also turned to video-conferencing to get people off their couch and moving during isolation. He has been teaching virtual classes on Zoom regularly and says that they are doing very well. He takes to his online camera daily at 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. via Zoom with special classes for only $5 per session. He also offers free workouts on Facebook for those considering martial arts training.

“The way the North Side of Chicago is cheering each other on and supporting local businesses has been amazing,” Bender added. “If we continue to support our community, the community will support us.”

Other area fitness-related businesses offering online options include:

Orange Shoe Personal Fitness
Be Yoga
Gus Giordano Dance School
Yoga Tree
Fit Body Boot Camp
Orangetheory Edgewater
PXM Crossfit
Metro Yoga Chicago

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