Gym memberships, visits close to pre-pandemic numbers around NH

Trainer Justin Waddell keeps tabs on a member of Hungry Hearts Gym + Kitchen in New London. (Photo courtesy of Hungry Hearts Gym + Kitchen)

When the Covid-19 pandemic hit over two years ago, gym owners wondered what the future would look like.

Get Fit NH owner Meagan Baron was in a particularly difficult position as she realized early on in the pandemic that her business, in its current state, would struggle to rebound.

Baron, owner of the Concord club for six years, could not safely reopen his group training. His space was only 400 square feet, which didn’t make him big enough to adequately distance his limbs.

She decided to take a big step forward and moved into a 10,000 square foot space equipped with huge garage doors at both ends for good air circulation.

“The move was definitely a blessing in disguise,” Baron said. “I look at space now and wonder how I could have operated before.”

Over the past 1.5 years in the new location, Get Fit NH’s membership has steadily increased and is now over 300.

With the extra space, Baron is now able to offer its growing membership services like physiotherapy and a dietician.

Its growth and subsequent increase in foot traffic coincides with a national trend that has seen gym visits increase over the past 12 months.

Baron said 300 members was her goal when she started the business. “I’ve just been cleaning this up for the last three months. And I still see steady growth.

People are tired of online workout options so they choose to search gym communities and open new memberships. All of this has led to an increase in gym memberships nationwide, according to an analysis of analytics from Placer Lab, a software company that uses foot traffic to decipher trends. The report revealed that in the fourth quarter of 2021, there was a 2.5% increase in memberships compared to the fourth quarter of 2019, just before the start of the pandemic.

“I failed the exercise”

The new larger space at Get Fit NH has allowed members like Kate Fox to come back and be part of the gym community again.

As the world began to change in March 2020 with the onset of the pandemic, Fox’s life also took a turn when she was tasked with the enormous task of caring for her elderly mother while continuing to work. full time. More than ever, she needed Get Fit NH, of which she has been a member for 11 years.

“I missed the togetherness. I missed the exercise,” said Fox, 62, who now lives in Vermont but still visits Concord and Get Fit NH a few days a week.

Baron thinks more and more people are coming back to the gym for more than physical training. She noted that the pandemic has taken a mental toll on many. The mental release from a workout or the camaraderie is just as important as a toned or toned body.

“People come here for their emotional and mental health as much as their physical health,” she said. “There’s more emphasis on it in gyms – more than ever. I said throughout our shutdown: People need people. :

The same desire has new members reaching out.

“I think the pressure for people to start something stemmed more from mental and emotional stress than from their physical health,” Baron said. “It’s a very gratifying feeling, that’s for sure.”

The River Valley Club in Lebanon has not reached its pre-pandemic numbers. The club currently has just over 1,700 members, up from 3,000 at the end of January 2020. Still, owner Elizabeth Asch believes her business is moving in the right direction thanks to changes made since March 2020.

The club has built an outdoor area for training and lessons, is now offering free memberships to those aged 90 and over and, like most clubs, has been adamant about cleanliness.

“We turned over every stone to think about what we can do. It was really about staying in business,” Asch said. “People wanted to train. I wanted to show the community that we are committed to growing even in difficult times, in order to meet their needs.

This was evident during the club’s four-month closure at the start of the pandemic when employees at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center – which is across from River Valley – were given a free subscription that included live, online classes. A few hundred members joined in the first two days, and many continued their membership after the four months.

Asch has also started collaborating with other club owners – unheard of before the pandemic – to share ideas and initiatives to help everyone thrive.

“I think we’re better than ever, ‘because we’re listening more and because we’re more involved in the community,’ Asch said.

A shift in concerns

Jamie and Kristen Brause have opened their fitness studio, Hungry Hearts Gym + Kitchen, in New London at exactly the right time.

The couple moved from Cambridge, Massachusetts with the goal of giving the community a place where they can work out and learn the importance of healthy eating with on-site nutrition, cooking classes and take-out meal.

The idea caught on. Hungry Hearts eclipsed 100 members in the first three months after opening in August 2021, coinciding with the national trend of increased gym visits. The gymnasium currently has 130 members.

“Our membership has grown steadily since day one and it hasn’t been any different in recent months,” said Kristen Brause, who is responsible for the nutrition side of the business. “We continue to see more and more walk-ins, scheduled consultations and new members. There hasn’t been a week in the past two months that we haven’t welcomed several new members.

Brause agreed with trends and surveys that people just want to get back to the gym, caring less about masks and Covid policies. Thanks to vaccines and the clubs’ focus on cleanliness, members can focus on their health.

“I think part of the continued increase is because the first questions people ask are no longer, ‘What are your policies on masks and vaccines?’ but rather, ‘What is your philosophy and approach and how can you help me achieve my goals?’ Brause said. “We can now discuss directly what we are doing here and how we can help.”

People are now basing their decision to join on what Hungry Hearts offers. While health and cleanliness are still a priority, it’s nice to be able to focus on basic services again, Brause said.

“That was one of the hardest parts of opening our business when we did that,” she said.

This article is shared by the partners of the Granite State News Collaborative. For more information, visit collaborativenh.org.

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