Talks & Takes: Planning for a Post-COVID World

    In the show’s second installment, hosts share their thoughts on the GYMS Act, mental health and fitness, and post-COVID training. 'Talks & Takes' is sponsored by ABC Fitness Solutions.

    As we mark one year of the COVID-19 pandemic, the challenge to stay physically active and healthy continues. Some of these hurdles to overcome include constantly changing restrictions, increased depression and anxiety, and lingering health problems following COVID-19.

    In the second installment of Talks & Takes, hosts Brent Darden, Sara Kooperman, J.D., Bill McBride, and Blair McHaney discuss the negative effects of inactivity and how it can impact mental health. While exercise is known to help with anxiety and stress, Darden shared astonishing statistics showing high anxiety levels among club-goers during the pandemic.

    To help relieve that anxiety, the group discussed ways to change the way we view exercise, which means defining the idea of exercise and setting a routine that can be followed with consistency. And for those that are dealing with the effects of COVID-19, Kooperman recommended more research and development for post-COVID training.

    Industry news Talks Takes Feb 2021 Unsplash Stcok man gym treadmill column

    Here are the top 5 takeaways from Talks & Takes, which aired Wednesday, February 17, 2021.

    But first, don't forget to sign up for the next show that will take place live on Wednesday, March 17, 2021.

    Developing Post-COVID Training & Programming

    Kooperman touched on why the fitness industry should be looking at a post-COVID training program to support individuals with long-term health struggles after battling the novel illness. Studies show long-lasting effects following COVID that can include lingering lung issues, shortness of breath and fatigue, and cardiac effects. As post-COVID training programs are developed, Kooperman added that it would be beneficial to add a doctor referral component for this type of program and gyms need to review the protocol and adhere to it.

    Mental Health Support Is Critical

    Darden encouraged everyone to be aware of those around you when it comes to mental health. Staggering statistics find that:

    The John W. Brick Mental Health Foundation is an organization that is focused on changing the way the world treats mental health by focusing on exercise, nutrition, and mindfulness.

    “There’s opportunity for clubs to play a role in this going forward and to provide programs and make sure people are educated about the benefits of being physically active and how they are related to mental health,” said Darden.

    ‘The Next Normal’

    McHaney dove into “the next normal,” which refers to terminology by McKinsey and Company. McHaney explained how this applies to the fitness industry and that clubs should not get hung up on long-term planning because things are changing quickly and change is evident. He goes on to add that the biggest pitfall for CEOs is to think their business will go back to the same way it was before.

    Creating a Hospitality Environment

    McBride discussed the importance of being prepared for hostile situations that may occur in health clubs, especially around COVID rules, mask-wearing, diversity, and overall sensitivity during the pandemic.

    In a viral video shared by McBride, a gym member is pushing and provoking an employee, who shows restraint and patience as he worked to de-escalate the situation. McBride praised the employee and asked, “How do you train your staff to be sensitive and understand the perceptions that different members have about compliance?” By training team members to be sensitive to situations and to create a hospitality-focused environment, he added. “We need to protect our members and staff and your training and development programs should include this,” said McBride.

    Industry news Talks Takes Feb 2021 Unsplash Stock mask column

    Lawsuits Are On the Rise

    The group discussed the growing number of lawsuits, which include employee lawsuits over layoffs, contract lawsuits in regards to events, and personal injury. McBride shared his advice to protect and prepare health clubs by advising that it is important to have an emergency protocol well-defined, conduct regular walk-throughs, use incident reports and documentation, and provide ongoing training for employees.

    The hosts noted the importance of having a strong strategy around managing risks and how to avoid them in all ways through employees, members, and vendors.

    Training and documentation are two of the most critical things you can do to protect your business, Darden added.

    “Settle quickly. Don’t prolong the litigation. Mitigate the negative effects of social media, reviews, and negative advertising for your facility,” Kooperman recommended.

    Talks & Takes Quick Bites

    Besides the top five takeaways, hosts touched on a wide-range of other topics. Here are the key points:

    • The hosts talked about how imperative it is to change the narrative around exercise by making it more accessible. McHaney discussed the platform that COVID-19 has given the fitness industry to motivate people to stay as healthy as possible. “One of the big issues is that when people think about exercise, they think about their friend that’s in the gym two hours a day,” McHaney said, “A real opportunity here is to have people have their own description of exercise. Not how do we get people into the gym, but how do we get people to start moving.”
    • The GYMS Act dashboard is available to everyone. The dashboard includes information on co-sponsors and the key target representatives for the passage of this bill. Darden explained why having these top target representatives involved is so important: “One of the reasons they are top targets is because they are part of the small business committee that’s going to review the bills.” McHaney also shared that IHRSA has two one-click campaigns where fitness professionals and consumers can advocate for the fitness industry.
    • Kooperman shared the holistic and wellness trends of 2021 from the Global Wellness Summit. Highlights include Beyoncé and Peloton partnering to celebrate music and pro-social initiatives with the first celebration focusing on historical black colleges and universities. Other topics included immune health, centers that create inspiration, the self-care renaissance, adding diversity into branding, resetting events with wellness, financial wellness, and travel reset.
    • The hosts shared the latest fitness industry technology trends. Kooperman shared that the No. 1 trend is “technology rules” and noted that if a business is not up-to-date on technology, they are bound to fail. People have accelerated their technology knowledge and they want a smooth and frictionless experience. McHaney said, “I think one of the best things we could be doing with technology is making sure that we are using it to create better human to human experiences,” which includes personalization, targeting, and connecting.

    Tune into the next Talks & Takes on Wednesday, March 17.

    Talks & Takes includes presenters Brent Darden, IHRSA interim President & CEO and REX Roundtables Chairman, Sara Kooperman, J.D., CEO, SCW Fitness Education and WATERinMOTION, Bill McBride, Co-founder, President & CEO, Active Wellness and Owner, BMC3 and Blair McHaney, CEO, MXM and Owner, WORX Health Clubs.

    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.