Despite the coronavirus — or perhaps because of it — Joop de Groot is doing some heavy lifting these days.
On a mid-morning in early March, de Groot, whose first name is pronounced “yope,” takes a phone call while a truck pulls up to his Power Fitness store to deliver more workout equipment from a Tennessee manufacturer, and a customer walks in — by appointment; most businesses remain closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“For us, it’s literally been Christmas in March and April,” says de Groot, president of the company he founded 16 years ago in Greenville. “If I had a dollar for every time somebody said to me now, ‘Hey, I need this for my mental health…’”
He doesn’t go on to add up those dollars, but suffice to say his business is getting quite the workout these days. On Woodruff Road, his 3,000-square-foot store — jammed with elliptical trainers, state-of-the-art stationary bikes, multipurpose home-gym contraptions, weight benches and more — is pumping with sales of items such as dumbbells and weight plates.
Since sheltering in place became all but mandatory, business has jumped 30% to 40% this month over March 2019, says de Groot, who echoes other exercise execs currently experiencing fiscal fitness.
The Simpsonville-based 9Round home office, which has muscled its way to more than 790 franchises, normally charges upwards of $100 a month in its corporate-owned Greenville locations. With the pandemic, Shannon “The Cannon” Hudson, who with his wife, Heather “The Hero,” founded the kickboxing studio chain in 2007, says the company has dropped its monthly membership fee to $30 locally.
“Now if the customer reaches out and says, ‘Just freeze me,’ then we’re happy to do that,” says Shannon Hudson, the company’s CEO, “but we’ve been very happy. We’ve had about 90% of our customers stay on board.”
The gyms, with their 30-minute circuit training, are equipment-heavy, but Hudson says 9Round is beginning to push online sales for its gear. At the same time, the company is creating “workouts of the day,” giving paying members access to an online portal.
Even without the ability to strap on 9Round’s signature boxing gloves, Hudson points out: “What we’re saying is, ‘Hey, you don’t need any gear.’ During this crazy time, it’s more important than ever to take 30 minutes for yourself and to move. It’s so easy, especially now because everyone’s working from home, to sit and be stagnant and get depressed. I mean, even kids.”
The Greenville area’s extensive YMCA network, which includes five exercise facilities, has seen an explosion in online exercise, says Jeff Knox, district executive director and association director of wellness at Prisma Health Family YMCA.
The Y’s YouTube library, which Knox estimates sports some 150 group-exercise videos, drew more than 20,000 views in 22 classes the first week of the launch, with slightly less than 1,000 per class session, he says.
“It’s very important to maintain some semblance of your health and wellness journey during times like this,” he says. “Physical activity, in really whatever form you can do during this time, is a tremendous stress relief.”
Knox, who once trained horses and acknowledges that nobody can force a 1,200-pound animal to drink, adds: “Everyone is responsible for their own health journey. We provide guidance and opportunity, but like the horse, you can take him to the trough, but drinking, that’s up to him. So, therefore, the best form of exercise — and this is something we teach — is the one you’ll do.”
Likewise, Hudson, ever the salesman whose company “Entrepreneur” magazine ranked No. 20 on its list of 2019’s Fastest-Growing Franchises, continues to throw his weight behind the importance of serious exercise in such serious times.
“Just spend 30 minutes with us and do the best you can, and we promise you’ll feel better after it,” says Hudson, the International Kickboxing Federation’s 2011 Light Middleweight Champion of the Year. “No one has ever said, ‘I wish I wouldn’t have worked out today,’ but they always say, ‘I wish I would have worked out today.’”
Especially now. As Knox puts it, framing his comments in the context of the pandemic, “At some point, every individual has to take personal responsibility for their journey.”
Stay-at-home exercise tips from a veteran marathoner
Wally Dunn, a Clemson University grants coordinator and leisure skills instructor who teaches a marathon-training class, has run 49 of the 26.22-milers, including 25 of the last 26 Boston Marathons.
He offers some advice for exercising through this coronavirus marathon:
- Do what you enjoy doing: “You’re more likely to stick with something — and exercise, a routine, a machine — if it’s fun … or, at least, tolerable.” Likewise, if a particular exercise is misery-inducing, don’t do it.
- Consistency: “The most essential element of successful fitness training.”
- Time and place: “Make it part of your day, make it part of your routine, just like brushing your teeth.”
- Journal: Keep a log or exercise diary. “A written record is a great accountability tool and the best way to track your progress/improvement.”
Try these at home
Okay, so the gym and yoga studio are closed, and you can’t use the equipment at your office, and you don’t have access to your normal workout gear. Jasmine Townsend, assistant professor of recreational therapy at Clemson University, offers these suggestions instead:
- Walking, jogging or running: Nature’s own treadmill in the great outdoors.
- Yoga or chair yoga: Stay flexible and combat stiffness from sitting at your computer for long periods. Yoga also helps combat stress and anxiety.
- Weightlifting: If you don’t have weights at home, just grab some bags of rice, canned goods or books.
- Body-weight exercises: Resistance exercise, pull-ups, push-ups and burpees can also take the place of weightlifting at a gym.
- Bicycling: If you have an exercise bike or stationary trainer, spin. If not, try sitting and pretending to pedal to your heart’s content.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services provides general guidelines for everyone from preschoolers to older adults:
- Children and adolescents should get 60 minutes of physical activity per day.
- Adults should get at least 150 minutes to 300 minutes a week of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes to 150 minutes a week of vigorous-intensity physical activity.
- Exercise activities can be scaled up or down to reach various levels of intensity.
- Types of activities may differ dependent on one’s functional abilities.
Source: Jasmine Townsend, assistant professor of recreational therapy at Clemson University
Y? Because you can
The YMCA, along with other fitness-centric outlets, offers plenty of online videos and suggestions for getting exercise during the novel COVID-19 pandemic.
“If you enjoy walking the mall with your friends, well, you can now walk outside, it’s beautiful out there,” says Y exec Jeff Knox. “You just have to walk alone. It doesn’t mean you can’t do it. If you like to lift weights, well, that may not be available to you unless you have a nice home gym.”
Encouraging folks to find “substitutions and modifications,” he mentions, for instance, that a gallon of liquid weighs 8.35 pounds — a simple, virtually free DIY dumbbell.
Here are just a few of the Y’s online resources:
- Greenville YMCA on YouTube: The wide-ranging catalog offers what Knox calls a “huge library of opportunities,” from workout playlists to motivational and inspirational videos.
- Flex Fit: Download the app the Greenville Y developed. With an extensive catalog of tutorials, the app lets you scale workouts to your fitness level and your goals and track your progress.
- Virtual Group Ex: YMCA instructors lead you through a variety of exercise on this part of the Y’s YouTube channel.
- Facebook Live: Classes are happening live on social media. Check out the schedule of online workouts that run from 8:30 a.m. to a 7 p.m. Instructors lead participants through everything from yoga to high-intensity interval training, with special classes for the older set, such as the Silver Sneakers program and the Silver Sneakers GO app.
- Virtual personal training: Check in with the Y for availability of one-on-one training from considerably more than 6 feet away—from the comfort of your own home. Y trainers will customize 45-minute sessions to complete on your own schedule. Contact Brande Yarborough at [email protected] or Samantha Sanders at [email protected].