Why the pandemic could have lasting impacts on gyms


During lockdown, many gym-goers took to establishing their own home gym to still get their workouts in.

They bought dumbbells, yoga mats, and kettle bells to keep their fitness up. Now, it's almost impossible to find any of that equipment.

Jason Sheridan with Goodlife Fitness says about 75 to 80 per cent of their Ontario members have returned. Most of the others have put a freeze on their account.

"There's a lot of people that are kind of trickling back in and seeing what the club is like, we're finding that people are very happy with the experience, they are a little uneasy or unsure at first," Sheridan says. "As we get into the fall then people may start to look to change their fitness activities into something more indoor. It's a bit of a wait and see at this point, it's certainly been a bit of a decline in activity in the gym."

Sheridan says the club's personal trainers are back to work, but a lot of their clients haven't been back yet.

"Personal training clients are in the same situation where some were eager to get back right away, some are taking a bit of a wait and see," Sheridan says. "There isn't any plans to close any clubs."

But Sheridan does admit that freezing all of Goodlife's memberships during lockdown did impact the bottom line.

Independent personal trainer Paul Landini says this could shape the future of the gym industry.

He adds that many personal trainers found out during the pandemic that they could earn more as a private operator, as opposed to being an employee of a large gym.

"The studio I operate isn't my own, a friend has a space and I pay her per client, and at the end of the month she just invoices me a pretty small fee," Landini says. "So I end up taking home of that hourly fee that my clients pay me, I take home almost all of it."

Landini says that's the biggest difference — there's no large corporation taking a cut from the trainer.

He says even though more trainers are leaving big-name gyms, there likely won't be a shortage of trainers inside those facilities, as they're often used as stepping stones to launching their own career.

"I don't think there's ever going to be a shortage of young people to take advantage of, unfortunately, there are some business models that are based off of that," Landini says. "Young people, their first job, they might not have the courage... to stand up for themselves and to demand a bit more, and they're more easily taken advantage of. I think that's going to exist for a while."