Capacity. It’s the topic all fitness studios and gyms are thinking about. Long gone are the days of packed fitness classes and gym floors. Instead, we need to rethink our spaces and adjust to a new normal of less staff, smaller class sizes, and unoccupied treadmills. Our members will have to do the same.

As the co-owner of a studio myself, I’ve had a variety of questions spinning around in my head. I’ve asked:

  • How many clients will we allow in our space at any given time?
  • How can we ensure six feet of distance (or more) between each client and staff member?
  • Will we need to reorganize our space and equipment?
  • Will we need to restructure our fitness classes?
  • How will this impact our revenue?
  • Is there some sort of calculation for this? (Help!)

As we think through these types of questions, we’ll need to research government guidelines for occupancy. Keep in mind some state and local guidelines may require certain amenities remain closed (e.g., pools, saunas, showers, daycare, etc.), too.

Thankfully, many fitness facilities are leading the way as they reopen. Here’s how they’re managing the capacity challenge post COVID-19.

Minimizing the Number of People in Your Space

Whether you’re a class-based studio like ours, an open gym, or a combination of the two, as you reopen, you’ll most likely have to reduce the number of clients and staff in your space at any given time.

To do so:

  • Start with members first. Threshold Climbing and Fitness in Oklahoma City, OK, provided access to active members only during their initial reopening. This helped minimize the number of people coming to the business and served as a special perk for those who continued their support during its closure.
  • Require members to pre-book. For many class-based businesses, this isn’t new. For now, say goodbye to walk-ins and require all members sign up for fitness classes online. (Be sure to adjust your class capacity in Mindbody first.) For gyms, consider offering a limited number of open-gym appointments. Require every client to sign up online and be strict with enforcing appointment times (i.e., make sure each client is in and out within their designated slot). That way you have plenty of time to clean in between and can minimize client overlap.
  • Stagger staff schedules. Your facility’s reduced capacity includes staff members, too. Consider having your staff work in rotating shifts to minimize the number of people in your business at any given time. Check in with your team to confirm when they’ll be available to work. Many of your staff may have children at home due to school cancellations, some may have gone out of town, some may have found new work, and others may not be comfortable returning to the workplace. Find out as early as possible so you can schedule accordingly.

Ensuring Proper Social Distance

In this new world of social distancing, all fitness facilities are adapting. Here’s how you can too:

  • Create “zones” within your facility. Threshold Climbing and Fitness has a large facility. When the business reopened, though, it enforced both an overall capacity limit as well as a maximum capacity per specified area. Outline these zones with signage, markers, and/or barriers. Be strict with how many clients can be in each area at once to make sure clients don’t congregate too closely. To account for the CDC’s 6-feet of recommended separation, calculate the area of a circle with a radius of 6 feet. This equals approx. 113 square feet per person.
  • Set up personal workout stations. Not only has Solid Rock Training in Norman, OK, restructured the format of its circuit training classes, it also measured out space to create personal workout stations—six feet apart—with individual equipment at each. With the FitMetrix Pick-A-Spot feature, Solid Rock clients pick their individual station when booking a class. Measuring your space and putting up placards or tape will do the trick to keep clients six feet apart, too.
  • Outline one-way walking routes. Throughout your facility, have clients follow the yellow brick road, or in this case, one-way walking routes that promote social distancing when entering, moving about, and exiting your facility. Mark where clients can walk with stickers or tape on the floor and signage with arrows.
  • Temporarily close communal areas. You may have an area with chairs or comfy couches where clients previously spent time together before or after class. For now, close these areas to avoid groups of clients gathering too closely.

Maximizing Efficiency

With less staff in your facility, efficiency is more important than ever. Rethink your processes and implement streamlined versions and/or automations where you can. For example:

  • Rethink your check-in process. Previously, you may have had multiple people checking clients in at your front desk. Now, you’ll need to streamline. Have a single person at your front desk at any given time. This person can check in clients individually within the software or using the Mindbody Class Check-in app. For now, avoid having your clients check themselves in by touching a shared phone or tablet—have a designated staff member do this.
  • Update your payments process. Again, to keep your front desk safe, adjust your payments process. Ask all clients to update their Mindbody profile with an up-to-date credit card. That way clients looking to purchase a retail item can be charged with the card on file—and can get in and out of your facility as seamlessly as possible.
  • Consider what processes you can automate and/or have staff complete from home. Before the pandemic, you may have had a dedicated salesperson at your front desk or a marketing assistant in an office. For now, look at your current processes and see which elements you can automate (think Marketing Suite’s Intro Offer Upsell automation) and/or what can be done in a work-from-home setting.

For example, you can do all the following from home:

  • Schedule social media posts
  • Make sales calls/send sales emails
  • Pull financials and reports

For now, limit the number of employees in your facility to keep everyone’s safety and health in mind.

Getting Clients on Board

As with everything COVID-related, over-communicating is best. Many of your clients will feel uncertain about coming back to your facility. Reiterate your new policies as much as possible to put their worries at rest. Make sure to:

  • Update your website. Add a page specifically dedicated to your reopening policies, including how you plan to adjust capacity and allow for proper social distancing. You’ll want to cover any new check-in processes and sanitation policiesand share your continued virtual offerings. Think about updating imagery on your website to showcase your new social distancing protocols, too.
  • Send an email—or a few. Email your clients about your new processes. Include a video showing how you’ve adapted your facility (think workout stations, spaced-out equipment, disabled machines, etc.) and put new procedures into practice. Add a link to your new COVID-19 policies page, too. The Welcome Back template in Marketing Suite makes this simple.
  • Share on social. Right now, your clients want to see how you plan to welcome them back safely. Use the social channels you’re active on—Facebook, Instagram, etc.—to give them the details. This is a perfect place to share your welcome-back video, too.

Protecting Your Revenue

Let’s say, previously, you offered four classes a day with a 40-person capacity. Now you can only have 15-20 clients in each class. How will you make up for the difference? Will you increase the number of classes per day? Will you increase your prices?

Pull the Attendance with Revenue report in Mindbody to find the average amount earned per client visit and the Average Revenue Analysis report to see how much revenue each of your pricing options is generating. Decide if your current pricing needs to be adjusted and if it makes financial sense to add more classes to your schedule.

Mindbody Certified Business Consultant Josh Biro offers a simple equation as a starting point. He recommends calculating dollars per square foot per minute of time. In other words, find out how much you’ll make, given your adjusted capacity, per minute/hour of time. Compare that to your overhead to determine what you’ll need on your schedule to be profitable. For some businesses, offering virtual offerings that serve a greater number of people makes more sense than smaller in-person sessions—at least until it’s safe to increase capacity.

You may also want to think of new ways to generate additional revenue. Here’s how:

  • Ramp up retail. Now’s the time to promote branded apparel, at-home equipment (yoga mats, blocks, suspension trainers, etc.), and more. You may need to rework your retail section, too (you don’t want to invite hands-on browsing) by putting products behind your front desk or in a locked case. Even better? Set up an online store and offer drop shipping.
  • Continue with virtual offerings. Have clients join in from home with a virtual drop-in class package, or membership. Another option: Make more up front by offering a 6-week virtual training series or a 3-part virtual workshop. Sell access to an on-demand video library, too.
  • Offer virtual 1:1 training. 1:1 training packages sell at a higher price point than classes or general memberships. Plus, trainer and client don’t need to be physically present in your facility to work together. With personal sessions, you’ll benefit from additional revenue and your clients will benefit from a personalized experience in the comfort of their homes. It’s a win, win.

No one said reopening your business would be easy, but with a plan in place, you’ll be ready to welcome your clients and staff back safely—and efficiently.

And whatever you do, be confident in your new processes. Sierra Tarkington of Threshold Climbing and Fitness says it best: “If you’re confident in your process, the customer who’s coming in is also going to feel that confidence.”