Located in the heart of downtown Soquel, which is usually logical, Play it Again Sports is a live bomber on a cool, foggy Saturday morning. The steady stream of customers — examining the small selection of new and new golf discs in the store, testing the few spare fitness machines in stock, and looking for the high and low free weights now known — keeps assistant director Josue Diaz on his toes. and in constant motion.

“The business has been uninterrupted for the past year. We have tried to meet the needs of the community, but they treat us hard, ”Diaz said. “When the gyms suddenly closed, everything went crazy. Since the beginning of the pandemic, demand has remained steady. People come to buy equipment and fitness equipment to install home gyms. We’ve been together for a year, and the business has never been better. “

The coronavirus forced millions of fitness fans to adapt tremendously. Without leaving the gym, without classes, and without a coach overnight, many Americans had to completely change their physical condition, completely changing when, where, and how they work. Socially distanced, quarantined, and venturing into a traitorous, relatively sick world, Americans were able to get creative, go outdoors, or bring home fitness activities.

“He scared people. People had to be extremely careful and make an effort to find opportunities that worked in their homes, ”says In-Shape Fitness GM Zach Rankin.

Covid was not at all pleasant with the gym industry. According to the International Health, Racquet and Sports Club Association, the pandemic closed 15% of all gyms permanently. It is estimated that 50% of the members froze or suspended their partners, and the industry suffered a hemorrhage, lost billions of dollars, and eliminated more than 500,000 jobs. Several workout behemoths, including Gold’s Gym and 24 Hour Fitness, sought protection from the failure of Chapter 11.

When the gyms are closed and with more American home bodies than at any time in modern history, you would think that the pandemic era was taking its toll on physical fitness. Not so! According to UnitedHealthcare’s 2020 Wellness Checkup Survey, it actually pushed more than 35% of Americans to increase physical activity. Adopting healthier habits could be Covid’s most bizarre and unexpected side effect.

BE IN APPEARANCE

While members continue to return to the fully open In-Shape, Rankin admits that “a lot of people have doubts at first. It’s a gym with a lot of people and mobiles.”

To calm the fears and nerves of potential partners and former members, In-Shape has made cleanliness a top priority. All surfaces in the gym are cleaned every hour, and sanitary washers are replaced with spray bottles throughout the complex.

“Right now, everything is open now,” Rankin says. “The same amenities are available from the days before Covid.” We are open to a relaxation, comfort and recovery area, as well as our fitness and swimming offerings.

It is possible to provide outdoor physical exercise for club members. Half of the gym’s parking lot is focused on outdoor activities: the plate is loaded with machines, includes free weights and plenty of cardio options.

Everything at the Capitola Gym is based on an application-based reservation system. In-Shape offers regular classes, but in limited capacity. His popular yoga classes, usually attended by 50-60 members, are limited to 30 happy yogis. Participants must make reservations at least two days in advance and respect the 10-meter separation and strict distance. It’s no longer about showing up and hoping for the best.

GO TO DIGITAL

As a sign of the times, all In-Shape classes are also available via online streaming via the club’s website-based app. Members can select from a variety of pre-recorded classes and personal workout routines using a laptop or desktop computer, TV, or tablet.

“The goal is to make people feel comfortable doing the necessary exercises, not just in the physical location of the gym. Our digital fitness platform provides them with flexibility and a way to adapt to busy fitness schedules,” says Rankin.

Launched by Covid’s “dirty globetrotting dances” and driven by regulations to stay at home, physical, digital, and virtual fitness exploded onto the scene. In 2020, gyms like In-Shape completed a complete digital revolution. Fortunately, it is facing a severe decline in membership, now living close to 70% of gyms and offering on-demand workouts. Only 25% did so in 2019, according to fitness research firm Clubintel.

Quarantine and the ordered social restraint reminded Americans that they can do the exercise almost anywhere. Experts believe that the hybrid model — combining digital and personal services — is the way of the future.

Virtual exercise has become the basis of exercise routines for millions of Americans. A whopping 80% of fitness consumers have directed training since the pandemic began, up from just 7% in 2019. to sweat and stay fit from home.

FROM THE SWEAT HOME

The pandemic has created a legion of gym DIY. Spending on things like gym basics, elliptical tapes, and stationary bikes thrown on the roof. And free weights? Good luck.

“This area is different than most,” Rankin admits. “Most people who live here have a decent amount of money. They have been able to buy equipment and set up large home gyms. Many vendors took advantage of the moment and raised prices. ”

The second quarter of 2020 was the strongest ever for Icon Health and Fitness, the health and fitness corporate umbrella that NordicTrack packs in its portfolio. Net sales rose 94% year-over-year to $ 114 million. Bowflex’s sales (yes, the same drug setup you saw in ads as a kid) were ballistic.

“For some products, we had to wait months to refuel. Exercise machines are hard to keep in store. All vendors and suppliers have been away. Prices have risen with demand and limited supply. It’s been hard to get a lot of items, for sure, ”says Play It Again’s Diaz.

Meanwhile, like dumbbells, toilet paper, videos, a hand sanitizer, and Nintendo Switches, it was one of the weird things that became very difficult to find during the pandemic. Experts say America’s year-round dumbbell shortage occurs when colossal demand occurs in a broken supply chain.

“From the beginning, the most popular things, by and large, were dumbfalls. People ran to buy 10, 15, 20 and 25. The weights became very precious. We had to close an entire section of the store. Customers came in soon when we got the shipment. He was busy and chaotic. It’s the one that kept us alive in the beginning. Now we have to wait months to refuel, ”says Diaz.

They squeezed in a lot of fitness junkies and took the plunge, investing in a set of adjustable NordicTrack or Bowflex dumbbells as a holy grail of gym toys. But these favorites cost you $ 4,000 or more.

Appeal? They take up much less space than standard weights, and well-designed connectors and switches can make them as light as 55 pounds or 10 pounds.

Historically, the dumbbells market is cyclical; sales have skyrocketed in the fall, culminating with the New Year’s “I’ll do it this time!” resolutions, and then reduced when the temperature begins to rise. Stores like Play it Again Sports were not equipped to increase the tide of supply.

“I remember when dumbbells were $ 1.09 a pound,” Diaz says. “Now they’re at least $ 1.75 a pound when we have them in stock.”

It has become 95% of all dumbbells manufactured in China, and Covid locks have reduced the supply chain for almost a day’s free weight. With Play It Again Sports on their heavyweight waiting list are Dick’s Sporting Goods, Big 5 and Modell’s. Good luck finding Amazon. And if you find them on eBay, get ready for some serious pricing. A pair of 15-pound dumbbells from the mill will get you back $ 169.

THE FUTURE OF SUITABILITY

If the pandemic did one thing, it made it clear to us all how important it is to prioritize and invest in our well-being, fitness and health. Digital and home fitness have probably had a lasting boost, and gyms are paying close attention to titles about the Delta variant. Will weights, weights, exercise equipment, bikes and shoes last? When will supply chains be normalized? Only time will tell.

But one thing is for sure: things are still changing – fast. Since I began researching this article, California has stopped reopening capacity limits and levels, demanding the reuse of an inner mask, as Covid cases have begun to rise due to the Delta variant. Last week, Bay Area health officials in seven counties recovered an internal mask order.

During the year and a half of quarantine and isolation many people in the previous gym have been left eager for human interaction and social commitment. Some will definitely stick to their home training habits. Exercise at home will become a supplement rather than a direct competitor to health clubs.

“Covid has been awesome for everyone, but we’ve clearly been able to try things we never did. We’ve started to see members come back to us, “Rankin says.” We like to hear stories about what they’ve done over the last year and a half to be fit and active. “