As the situation with the COVID19 virus continues to develop, gym owners are faced with difficult decisions that will have serious repercussions for the future of their business and livelihood.

We’ve been talking to some of you regarding this situation, and wanted to share some of the ways gyms have been handling this situation so others can learn from it and perhaps apply it to their own situation.

First, I’d like to share with you Alan “Gumby” Marques’ recount he just posted on Reddit. I trained at Gumby’s gym for almost 4 years and consider him a good friend, so I value his opinion greatly. I recommend reading the post I linked to above in full.

I’ve also talked to some of you who have taken similar steps, and there seems to many common threads that are applicable to all gym owners.

Temporary Gym Closure

Many of you have decided to temporarily close your gym to help with slowing down the infection rate. Personally, I believe this is a good idea, especially in areas where there are already a significant number of confirmed cases, and for the grappling martial arts which are at a higher risk of infection.

Closing a gym down is a big decision. Members could cancel their memberships, and there will be no new signups, while expenses continue to pile up. It’s a big financial decision to make.

There are ways to mitigate the impact as you can read in Gumby’s story above and we will continue to go over below.

If you decided to close down your gym – we added a feature yesterday to make that move easier through your account. In your gym schedule management screen, you will find a “Close Gym” button now where there used to be “Vacation mode”. Using this button will replace the gym schedule with a closure message you can customize. You can also freeze all active members and stop their payments for the time being.

We will provide a feature to mass-unfreeze all members frozen during gym closure, to make going back to regular operations a smoother process later.

Communicate with your members about the situation

One of the most important things you can do to mitigate the impact of the situation on your gym, is to communicate openly with your members about the reasons for closing the gym, and ask for their support during this time.

As you can read in Gumby’s story above, and as we’ve heard from some of you, once the gym closure is announced and communicated properly, most members will not ask to freeze their account as a result in order to continue supporting the gym. You can expect some freezes, however by getting ahead of it and initiating this move you can maintain some level of income to keep you afloat as this situation develops.

You can offer some compensation to your members for continued support, such as free private lessons in the future, free gear, access to instructionals and more. Even if it’s not comparable cost wise, it shows your appreciation for their support and helps everyone get on board to support each other.

Additional precautions if you stay open

If your area has not been affected and you decide to stay open for the time being, it’s a good idea to start implementing additional precautions with regards to hygiene and distancing.

Get a supply of hand sanitizer (such as Purell) and ask all members to wash their hands for 15-20 seconds on arrival and then apply hand sanitizer. Continued application of hand sanitizer throughout the day for instructors and staff is also a good idea. Make sure to disinfect all training areas and equipment between sessions. Use alcohol based solutions and bleach when possible.

Though information about the spread of the disease is still mixed and evolving, most sources recommend social distancing – being at least 6ft (2 meters) apart from the other people. This is not applicable to the grappling arts, but striking arts should be able to enforce it with smaller class sizes and proper distancing.

Anyone exhibiting flu-like symptoms should be sent home immediately. In your communications with your members, ask people who already have symptoms to stay at home and potentially seek medical help if their symptoms worsen. Increasing awareness can go a long way as not everyone has been keeping track of the situation.

Getting ahead of rent and other bills

You should talk to your landlord / lender regarding postponing payments while this situation is ongoing. In areas that a local emergency has been declared, you should contact the local municipality regarding utility bills and other easements they can provide during these times. Contact local business groups that would have resources about what is available for you during emergencies like these.

If you contact us and ask to suspend your account temporarily, we will understand. So far we have not had any cancellations, and we appreciate your continued support. We are a small business just like you and thus in a similar position if many of our accounts cancel on us. We do believe most of you will continue to support us, but we certainly understand those of you who cannot.

Providing Online Alternatives

If you close your gym or reduce the number of classes, you could consider providing an alternative online, through a broadcasting service such as Youtube or Twitch. Some ideas include showing a daily technique, or a movement drill that can be performed solo at home, to help members work on their mobility and keep them somewhat in shape.

Even a little bit of shared (online) training can help keep the sense of community and progression going, instead of feeling like the gym closure is a total loss for training purposes. You can also enable a community chat on the stream to allow members to feel the camaraderie of being at the gym.

I recommend OBS Studio for streaming, it’s completely free and works with all the major streaming website. It allows you to use your camera or stream a window on your desktop to your audience.

Let us know how we can help

We are here for you if you have any questions or concerns. If you have other situations not covered here that you would like to hear more about from other gym owners, let us know and we’ll circulate it and share how everyone is dealing with the situation.

Stay safe out there!
-Eran Galperin
Founder @ Martial Arts on Rails

Published by Eran Galperin

Eran has been building software and companies for over 15 years, and is a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. In 2016 he founded Martial Arts on Rails, online software for managing gyms and martial arts schools.

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