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Lansing-area health clubs and gyms find a way to survive during COVID-19

Customers working out in the fitness studio at F45 Training in East Lansing.
Becky Newcombe/F45 Training
Customers working out in the fitness studio at F45 Training in East Lansing.

Staying healthy has become a priority during the pandemic, providing mental and physical wellness. But it hasn’t been an easy journey for local facilities.

EAST LANSING, Mich. – Everything seemed on track for F45 Training in East Lansing in May 2020. The fitness brand, which specializes in group circuit and HIIT training, was set to open a new franchise on Grand River.

Except for one huge, and unforeseeable issue: the COVID-19 pandemic. The worldwide crisis plunged the business into crisis, as it was unable to open - or operate - fully until a year later. F45 in Grand River had its grand opening in January 2021, and now is making up for lost time.

“When the pandemic hit us in Michigan in March of 2020, we quickly realized that our buildout and opening was not going to happen as planned,” said studio manager Becky Newcombe.

While it would be quite obvious to say the pandemic presented many challenges to the brand new business, Newcombe says that it also helped the business as well.

“I think yes, the pandemic definitely impacted the fitness community and changed the way things need to be done,” said Newcombe. “But in terms of our F45 Training East Lansing fitness studio, I think the pandemic helped our clients and members realize just how important fitness, wellness, group activity, socializing, team training and camaraderie is to them.”

Despite this major obstacle, the business did not give up. It realized it had to adapt and get innovative. They decided to hold workouts outdoors in the summer and fall months, and found an empty indoor space to use as the temperatures got colder, leading up to January when they were finally able to have an official grand opening.

She saw how working out has helped customers not only physically, and also helped with emotional and mental health.

“For over a year now, we hear it all the time: ‘COVID set me back…It is so good to get out of the house…I finally feel like myself again,’” said Newcombe.

Because students had missed going to the gym so much during the pandemic, the time they spend there does not get old and makes them want to continue going there.

“With the exception of students leaving for winter break, most still returned when MSU chose to stay remote for a couple extra weeks,” said Newcombe.

Another popular East Lansing fitness studio, Orangetheory Fitness, also had to overcome similar major obstacles. Unlike F45, it did not have to delay its opening, as it was open before the pandemic. But keeping the doors open to clients, and staying compliant with changing rules was not easy.

“Our community has helped us persevere through the pandemic,” said studio manager Liz Ballinger. “We have a great and loyal community-based population of members who have been loyal throughout the pandemic.”

Ballinger said she is appreciative of the MSU students who are clients.

“We love having our students when they get back,” said Ballinger.

According to Ballinger, as mandated by the state of Michigan, there was only 50 percent capacity allowed in the studio from when they reopened up to May. Although the studio is now allowing full capacity with masks optional, she said it’s important for the customers’ safety to remain a priority.

“It’s our goal to keep everyone safe and accommodate everyone’s comfort level the best we can,” said Ballinger.

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