Talks & Takes: Easing of Restrictions & Preparing for Reopening

    The powerhouse panel, Brent Darden, Sara Kooperman, J.D., Bill McBride, and Blair McHaney, shared their thoughts on clubs preparing to reopen, elevating women in fitness, why outdoor fitness is here to stay, and more!

    The easing of COVID-19 restrictions in some parts of the country are requiring health club owners to think about and decide whether they want to follow their state’s policies or continue to enforce COVID-19 safety measures for their business.

    In the third installment of Talks & Takes, Brent Darden, Sara Kooperman, J.D., Bill McBride, and Blair McHaney, discuss how some clubs are handling the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions and the options available when it comes to outdoor fitness. Talks & Takes is sponsored by ABC Fitness Solutions.

    Here’s a summary of the show’s trending topics.

    But first, don’t forget to register for the next show.

    Be Prepared for Reopening

    With the news of the Texas governor removing the mask mandate and other restrictions, clubs in the state are still maintaining safety protocols. Despite Texas allowing businesses to open “100%”, there haven't been huge conflicts within the industry, according to Darden.

    To give an example, Darden shared a story from a Corpus Christi club that still requires mask-wearing after the lifting of the mask mandate. He said the numbers show that out of the 1,140 visitors to the club in a day, only nine questioned the mask policy by the club. Darden also noted that many clubs in Texas have changed their signage to read: “Masks highly recommended but not required.”

    McBride added that owners and operators need to educate their teams on how to transition members back into clubs. Darden suggested to approach this transition by easing out restrictions slowly as you prepare to completely reopen once that time comes.

    “We see that good teams that are committed to reopening are successful,” Kooperman added.

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    Elevating Women in the Fitness Industry

    In support of National Women’s History Month, Kooperman dove into the importance of elevating women within the fitness industry. She discussed that many girls are raised to be told not to fight, not to offend others, and to “be a good girl”. Meanwhile, boys are raised to be tough, to never give up, to not quit, and that it’s all about winning, she stated, which are attitudes that are prevalent in the business world.

    “In business, you don't need to be liked, you need to be respected,” said Kooperman. She encourages women to ask themselves, “Do you want to be the trophy or do you want to win the trophy?”

    To bring in more representation into the industry, McBride said, "You've got to go back to design. ... You want to design a diverse workforce? You have to design it as such by where you start in job descriptions, where you recruit, and so on."

    “We need better representation,'' Darden said and encouraged underrepresented fitness professionals to get involved with IHRSA and other key organizations within the industry.

    Outdoor Fitness Is Here to Stay

    When the experts reviewed the 2021 fitness design trend predictions from Active Wellness, the conversation focused on outdoor fitness and how it’s changing how we do fitness.

    Some businesses are partnering up to get fitness outside, others are putting turf in parking lots with permission from their landlords, Kopperman mentioned. She also suggested clubs need to clearly communicate about their outdoor training options, such as adding their classes to a schedule with all necessary details. Kooperman proposed clubs could partner with sporting goods stores and other businesses if they are looking for outdoor space.

    McBride added that we should look at how people trained on their own during the shutdown and how we can bring that into the gym. He also added that you don't need to offer the same thing outside as inside.

    "You should make it a different program offering so members aren’t having the exact same experience inside and out," McBride said, “make it your brand, don't just throw some stuff out on the concrete slab and call it outside it the right way within your brand.”

    McHaney ended the segment by giving examples on how to bring the outside inside as well, including using roll-up doors and bringing in more natural light.

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    Talks & Takes Quick Bites

    In addition to the top three takeaways, hosts touched on a wide range of other topics. Here are the key points:

    Support the GYMS Act. Blair McHaney provided an update on the GYMS Act and shared that, as of the March 17 airing, there was an increase of 48 co-sponsors since the last Talks & Takes in February. However, the seven top targets of U.S. representatives remain the same. “We need to keep going after each of the U.S. representatives…. It’s the individual reach-out, the phone calls, and the emails,” said McHaney. Learn what you can do to help get the GYMS Act passed.

    Wishing Dr. Cooper a happy birthday. Dr. Cooper, known as the father of aerobics, turned 90 on March 4. Darden reflected on his work with Dr. Cooper and discussed the eight healthy steps to get “Cooperized.” He also added a piece of advice from Dr. Cooper, which is to walk your dog every night for 30 minutes even if you don’t have a dog. The group all agreed that he’s a force in our industry and lifestyle. Head on over to the Cooper Aerobics website to wish Dr. Cooper a happy (belated) birthday.

    Mental health is an underlying theme. Mental health continues to come up in many conversations, trend reports, and is something we all need to take a deeper dive into, McBride mentioned when recapping the show. “COVID-19 has made us more intrinsically motivated and less extrinsically motivated. I’m not sure we are going back anytime soon,” he said.

    Emphasizing the positive. McHaney led the discussion around SCW’s video 10 Positive From the Pandemic. “When something negative happens, the human spirit can find something positive,” said McHaney. Kooperman went on to discuss looking at how you can monetize some of these positive changes, such as the increase in pet adoptions since the start of the pandemic. For example, health clubs could create a pet/dog walking program at your facility. The group shared other ideas like hosting live-stream classes in your PJs and finding fun in all the negativity.

    Be future-ready. Kooperman led a discussion around SCW’s video on the 9 Keys to Becoming a Future-Ready Company. No. 1 is taking a stance on your purpose. For example, CVS took a stance on no tobacco sales, which created a big financial loss for them but was important to them on values. She also discussed using culture as your “secret sauce.” Consider offering free post-COVID sessions or maybe free classes at homeless shelters, Kooperman suggested. Dive into what your culture means. “You can’t fake culture,” said Kooperman.

    Don’t miss the April edition of Talks & Takes.

    Author avatar

    Elizabeth Studebaker

    Elizabeth Studebaker focuses on new business marketing and employee engagement and advocacy for the Active Wellness organization. She has over 10 years of fitness marketing expertise and has been a speaker for IHRSA and served on the Medical Fitness Association Marketing Committee. She works out of her home office in the Bay Area and stays active by taking Active GO virtual classes or chasing around her 1.5-year-old son.