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Fitness Centers Weather New Year's Slow Down

Jason Scott

The beginning of a New Year often brings with it a new surge of memberships for fitness clubs, as people resolve to exercise more and lead healthier lifestyles. However, the pandemic has stalled the traditional New Year’s surge for health clubs in Ohio, according to the Akron Beacon Journal.

“Like every fitness center, we kind of get flooded with new members in January but that’s going to be different this year because of COVID, especially with a lot of the restrictions in place,” Richard Gershom, director of Akron General’s LifeStyles fitness center told the Beacon Journal.

LifeStyles centers are reportedly trying to reach a goal of hitting 50 to 60 percent of the new sign-ups they got last year, and hoping those sign-ups translate into the same percentage of visits.

Tracie Zamiska, who owns Flourish Yoga and Wellness, told the Beacon Journal that this time of year would normally have her swamped with calls and emails, this year the deluge has slowed to a trickle.

“My conversion rate is 30 percent to 50 percent. So when I get 30 to 40 inquiries, I might end up with half of that actually joining,” Zamiska told the Beacon Journal. “If only three people are calling, that means I’m lucky to get one.”

Still, there are some silver linings to be found amid the slow down. LifeStyles has reportedly seen members who haven’t been to the gym since March beginning to return, something which Gershom attributes to COVID-19 vaccine availability and new operational practices.

“Yoga was back to pre-COVID levels back in October or November,” Gershom told the Beacon Journal, “We’re putting them in a gym instead of the group exercise studio, so we’ve been able to put more people in there.”

Meanwhile, other local gyms are extending January specials hoping to attract new members with deals such as zero joining fees.

In addition to the COVID environment, brick-and-mortar clubs are facing increased competition from would-be members investing in personalized home gym set-ups. The Beacon Journal reports that despite surging prices for home fitness equipment and free weights, the demand for such equipment remains high. 

“Even though the vast majority of gyms are back open, people have already spent a couple hundred dollars forming their home gyms, so they’re just not going back,” Cuyahoga Falls Play it Again Sports manager Matt Trayer told the Beacon Journal. 

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