Normal. What is normal? Whatever your definition of normal may be, your “normal” daily life shifted completely back in March when COVID-19 began to make its presence felt in our country. The fitness industry took a huge blow, as many did many other industries, when the shelter in place orders took effect. My business was no different, yet we will be a stronger business and able to serve more individuals because of how society has shifted during the pandemic.
As the virus began spreading rapidly on the east coast, I took notice on how businesses were being affected; in particular, small fitness studios. I also began paying attention to how the same businesses were affected in foreign countries and the future was appearing to be very grim for Specialty Athletic Training and other fitness companies. I was reminded of a quote from one of my favorite movies, Moneyball, “Adapt or die.”
In the movie “Moneyball”, Brad Pitt plays Billy Beane who was the General Manager for the Oakland Athletics during the late 90’s and early 2000’s. The Athletics did not have the budget to sign the talent required to compete for the pennant, at least not in the traditional sense. Beane had to think outside of the box and adapt if he wanted the organization to thrive. This required going against the traditional ways of baseball operations and adapting to the situation.
Over the past eight years, I have taken pride in partnering with facilities and creating an inclusive community to provide access to fitness for our clients. This community has allowed our clients to thrive in a supportive environment and has helped break down common misconceptions and stereotypes that society often associates with their diagnoses. In-person training was our traditional way of providing services to our clients, but that quickly became no longer an option.
The shelter in place order came quickly and swiftly shifted the way that we had to provide services to our clients, a population that is already susceptible to obesity, anxiety and depression. We pivoted to offering online virtual training sessions. We had to “adapt or die.”
We have had the ability to train in this capacity for several years, however clients loved the in-person connection and socialization aspect that came from our traditional services. However, they also had to adapt to the new way of living as the restrictions were placed on what services were considered essential. Virtual became the new norm for EVERYTHING and they still craved the interactions with their peers and trainers that they had come accustomed to at our facilities. Their longing for some type of normalcy and routine, along with our ability to pivot our business, we started offering our services virtually to all of our 100+ clients.
Location used to be a barrier to accessing our services, but with our new ability to train virtually it no longer is. We are now set up to train anyone, ANYWHERE. We have gained several clients outside of our traditional service areas and will continue to offer virtual services in the post-COVID future.
As our state attempted to return to the old normal and eased restrictions, it provided a way for us to adapt once again. With the aid of my Portland facility manager, Brad Carter, we converted my garage into a weight room and immediately began offering in-person services to local clients that were going stir crazy and craving some personal connection.
These circumstances have forced us as trainers to find new ways of communication, be creative with exercise selection, and forced us to do more with less; overall making us better trainers and develop skills that will carry over to the post-COVID era. We had the option to “Adapt or Die”. We chose to adapt and look forward to continuing adapting in order to break down barriers to fitness for the community that we serve.
About the Author
Ryan Lockard, CSCS, CSPS is the founder and head trainer of Specialty Athletic Training and is accredited by the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) as a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist and a Certified Special Populations Specialist. He is a member of the board of directors for the Autism Society of America and the Central Oregon Disability Support Network.