Local Fitness Studios Band Together Amid COVID Struggles

After a couple of lean years due to COVID-19, local fitness studio owners were looking ahead to January 2022 for relief.

Prior to the pandemic, the start of the year always meant a surge in attendance and memberships, and locals hoped to see that again this year. What they saw instead was a surge in Omicron cases that once again meant smaller class sizes and fewer memberships. And once again, says Becky Cerroni, JoyRide Cycling + Fitness Texas owner, no government aid was in sight for the industry that she says has been one of the hardest hit and least supported over the past few years.

“Up until December 2021, we hoped that January 2022 would serve as a turning point for local gyms,” says Cerroni, adding that January is to gyms what December usually is to retail shopping. “This January, Omicron meant that people were not going back to the gym in the numbers we’d hoped for. I felt like we needed to stand up and say something as a small business community that has been marginalized by federal aid.”

Inspired by friends who formed the Philadelphia Fitness Coalition in 2021, Cerroni decided to call together leaders from local boutique studios to form the San Antonio Fitness Coalition.

The group now includes Cerroni, Smart Barre & Pilates owner Kristin Faye, EnergyX Fitness owner Alison Galvan, Sweat Equity owner Heather O’Neill and Soul Fitness owners Jason and Yardley Padilla. They work together to raise awareness about the lack of federal funding for the industry and about the impact that is having. They’ve also committed to an attitude of “community over competition,” which means working together on cross-promotions, support and a mutual focus on keeping San Antonio healthy.

In late January, several from the coalition also went before the San Antonio City Council to request a portion of the American Rescue Plan Act funds that have been awarded to the state and earmarked for the tourism, travel and hospitality industries. (Of the $16 billion allocated for Texas, $180 million is meant for tourism and hospitality).

“Our job is to keep our community moving, healthy and resilient to disease,” Cerroni says. “We are committed to that mission, and we need the help of our politicians to do that.”

At JoyRide, revenue dropped 60 percent from 2019 to 2022. In an effort to keep the doors open, employee pay and hours were cut. Today, the company employs 20 San Antonians, a 30 percent reduction from 2019. And they’re not the only ones feeling the sting of the pandemic.

EnergyX’s Galvin says that they’ve kept capacity down in their studio at about 65 percent and have continued to see a drop in overall class participation. “We are still being affected by the mandates and COVID in general,” says Galvin. “The lack of funding to small boutique fitness studios has hindered our ability to get back on our feet after two long years of COVID ups and downs.”

Padilla agrees, explaining that his Soul Fitness group fitness studio limited class sizes after COVID, decreasing both the memberships and the number of in-person workouts. He, like many other trainers and studios, began offering virtual options for clients, and some have continued to prefer that option.

“Some members became accustomed to the virtual workouts instead of in-studio workouts,” he says. “It seemed safer for them during this time of uncertainty.”

Still, he says, while virtual options are convenient, there is still a need for in-person workouts, both because of the accountability of working out in groups but also because of the sense of community it builds.

Then there is the less tangible, but equally important aspect of working out: to strengthen the mind, says O’Neill, of Sweat Equity. The stress of the past two years, combined with the isolation, took a toll on the mental health of many people. Studies show there has been a rise in alcohol abuse, depression and feelings of helplessness, all of which may contribute to or exacerbate physical health conditions.

“If we feel stressed, fatigued and chronically out of balance, our daily decisions are a reflection of that state of being,” O’Neill says. “Conversely, if our physical and mental state is harmoniously balanced, we organically live a better life as our daily choices are a reflection of how great we feel.”

Cerroni says each of the coalition members want their studios to be a place that promotes wellness in the community. However, without the help of federal funding, it will be an uphill battle.

Cerroni says that while she was “encouraged” by the response to the group’s presentation to the City Council, she has yet to receive concrete steps for applying for a grant.

“As a proud San Antonian, I know we can do better than what has been done at the federal level,” she says.

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By Betty C. Giordano

Welcome to my site. My name is Betty C. Giordano and I am a blogger of everything related to mobile, news, events and reality in general. I hope you enjoy reading my content.

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