Omicron worries about gym owners in Columbus during the COVID wave

Personal trainer Jill Will keeps an eye on her students who attend both in person and virtually at 614Fitness on the north side, where trainers are equipped to teach virtually while leading a group within the facility.

Most years, Italian Village fitness studio Ohio Strength sees an increase in membership in January, even though owner Ryan McFadyen doesn’t offer a New Year’s Eve discount.

But McFadyen isn’t sure what to expect this year with the ommicron variety spreading through Ohio.

“The business cycle has not been normal with COVID for the past two years,” McFadyen said. “I feel like some of the New Year’s pressure is being suppressed.”

The uncertainty drove him to change his usual business plan for after the new year.

The layout of the group exercise room at 614Fitness on the north side has been modified to maximize social distancing, reducing the number of people able to attend in-person classes

“I’m not going to spend that much on advertising,” McFadyen said. “If people don’t want to come in, I’m not going to waste money on that.”

Will Omicron derail New Year’s fitness plans for many?

The latest strain of the potentially deadly disease hit Franklin County, just as gym membership and attendance usually soar with New Year’s resolutions.

“January is traditionally the day Americans say, ‘I’m going to lose weight and exercise more,'” said Michael Levin, a professor of marketing at Otterbein University. “But (omicron) is not expected to peak in many parts of the country until mid-January.”

That could mean a slow start to 2022, just as gyms are rebuilding their membership numbers.

Miles Rush, 15, of Worthington, exercises while trainer Justin Cunningham cleans equipment at 614Fitness on the north side.  Employees of 614Fitness wear masks, while those who are exercising have the option to wear masks.

“March, April, and May 2020 absolutely crushed us,” said Teresa Moore, the corporate wellness director of the Fitness Loft at Schumacher Place. And January last year was unusually slow.

Moore, McFadyen and others in the industry are nonetheless optimistic in light of the latest wave of coronavirus. Moore said the Fitness Loft saw steady membership growth in 2021. Customers are used to the gym mask and social distancing policies and are ready to return to a sense of normalcy, she said.

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