COVID-19 has been grueling across the board for businesses, but few sectors have been harder hit than group fitness. Gym and studio closures and capacity caps that started early in 2020 continue to this day in some parts of the country. Owners and instructors were forced to scramble for ways to keep their members and students engaged, some virtually for the first time in their careers. What becomes of the group fitness industry if people decide not to come back in large numbers? Can a business built on bustling studios, branded workout gear, and waitlisted special events survive if the new order is oriented around Zoom classes and video-on-demand? In part four of our series The Road Ahead, contributor Suzanne Krowiak talks with two women who spent the last year pivoting, planning, and producing. Alkalign’s Erin Paruszewski and Tune Up Fitness’s Jill Miller share lessons from the trenches on surviving 2020, and positioning their companies for growth in 2021 and beyond. The interviews have been edited for length and clarity.
First up is Erin Paruszewski. Erin is the founder of Alkalign, a functional fitness brand based in northern California. She spent twenty years in investment banking, corporate finance, and marketing before opening a franchise of a national barre studio twelve years ago. In 2015 she developed her own proprietary format, blending elements of yoga, physical therapy-based exercises, High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), and functional strength training to create Alkalign. Alkalign was well on its way to franchise success itself, with three franchises and more on the way at the beginning of 2020. Then COVID hit, and everything changed. Paruszewski shares advice for studio owners wondering if and how they can stay afloat after this brutal year.
Suzanne Krowiak: This has been a tough year for studio owners. What’s it been like for you?
Erin Paruszewski: It’s been hard in all the traditional ways, but I think there are definitely silver linings. I’m grateful I run the type of business that doesn’t depend on a lot of equipment. The most people need to be able to continue with our community is a yoga block, a light set of weights, some Roll Model therapy balls if they’re going to do any rolling, and an internet connection. Thankfully they don’t need a bike for indoor cycling or anything like that. So we’ve been able to pivot a little bit better than some, but it’s still hard. My biggest thing is that I believe human beings need human connection, which is the whole reason I got into this business. I want to make an impact, and be the best part of someone’s day.
SK: Are you still able to make that human connection in an online format?
EP: I do believe we’re still able to do that in many ways, but it can be intimidating for some to engage online. Before COVID, even if people were a little nervous to walk into an unfamiliar place where they didn’t know what to expect, they could go in and be welcomed in person and feel more at ease. But if you don’t walk into the physical space, you don’t know. So I do think going online to a new place where you don’t know anyone and aren’t familiar with the language can be intimidating.
SK: You teach functional fitness, which can be very individualized. Have you had to modify your style or what you teach when you’re working with a class or individuals remotely?
EP: We’ve had to really evaluate which exercises we’re going to teach, and how we’re going to teach them. I evaluate everything through a risk versus reward lens, and there has to be more reward to do it. You and I are doing this interview on Zoom, and if you were doing a plank right now, I’d be like, “Oh, okay, lift your hips up a little bit. Your left hip is a little higher than your right.” I can give you all that verbal feedback, but I can’t 100% see you from all angles like I could in a studio, and I can’t touch you to adjust you the way I used to. Some things just don’t translate. There’s some stuff where I’m like, “It’s just too much risk, not enough reward.” I always joke that Alkalign’s all about safety and sustainability, which is exactly what people don’t want to buy in fitness. They want the bikini body, and the promise of the six pack abs and all this crazy stuff. At one time, that’s what I wanted, too. But it didn’t do me any favors, mentally or physically, so I wanted to offer something different.
SK: You were franchising Alkalign when COVID hit. Tell me how it impacted your plans.
EP: That was a big part of our business before, but it’s not now and I’m okay with that for the moment. In good faith, I wouldn’t want to encourage anyone to open a brick and mortar business right now. I just don’t think it’s a good idea in the current environment. We had a few franchises. One closed in Michigan at the very beginning of COVID and another in July. So for now we are focusing less on expanding through franchises and more on how to we provide a high quality experience and share authentic connection with our current community. When one door closes, another opens. Part of resilience is picking yourself up, dusting off and forging ahead.
SK: What are your expectations for 2021, now that people are starting to get vaccinated? Do you think it will have an impact quickly?
EP: I think I’m pretty good at anticipating what to expect— I’m practical in that way. When COVID hit, I thought to myself “This is going to be at least 18 months.” I knew, because I know human behavior. That’s why I’m in this business— I enjoy talking to people and understanding what motivates them. I just knew that behaviorally, there would be a huge hangover. We’ve always been planning for a two-year impact. At the very beginning I said “I’m pregnant with a COVID elephant,” and the gestation period of an elephant is 22 months. Every week I’m telling my clients, “Oh, it’s week 15, it’s week 32. The elephant is the size of an avocado.” So I consider this to be a long-term thing, and my goal is to find ways to keep people engaged and invested in their self-care and in community for at least another year.
SK: Is all of your programming virtual?
EP: Virtual and some outdoor classes that meet public health guidelines. We’ve also launched special programs for people who have a passion for specific sports like skiing, golf, tennis, things like that. We’re working on a program for expectant moms. We’ll be doing a lot of small group series programming. So, something like shoulder rehab for people with those issues. We regularly consult with several physical therapists and we’re collaborating on how we can reach and help those people. Really just trying to help people find community digitally.
SK: Do you do your online classes from a studio?
EP: Sometimes I can be in the studio. But a lot of our classes are done from our instructors’ homes. Part of our manifesto is real, raw, and human, and I think there’s something so real, raw, and human about that. The instructors all have a nice Alkalign banner, and we try to make it look professional. It’s interesting because at the beginning of quarantine we got feedback from quite a few people when Peloton was doing their classes inside their instructors’ homes. People would say “Your space doesn’t look like Peloton.” I would think to myself “They spent a hundred thousand dollars per instructor to curate those spaces.” They just raised 2.2 billion dollars in their IPO last year. They have more money than they know what to do with. For the first four months of COVID when we couldn’t leave our houses at all, my classes were done from my bedroom. “Hey, everybody, welcome to my bedroom.” What are you going to do? That’s not ideal, but it is what it is.
SK: What is the community of boutique fitness owners like? Do you all share information and resources?
EP: I hear all sorts of things. I think there are some brands and franchises much bigger than ours that aren’t collaborating with each other at all. I’m part of an entrepreneur group that’s not all fitness people, but it’s all women business owners, and a lot of them are in the fitness industry. They’re all over the country and we collaborate and share ideas. It’s really interesting to hear what people are doing in West Virginia or Tennessee. They’re having the same challenges we are. And I think it’s comforting just knowing that you’re not alone. It’s easy to get in your own little silo and think you’re the only one who’s struggling. That’s true of entrepreneurs anyway, but with COVID, I think people are talking and sharing their experiences more. Instead of posturing and saying “Oh, no, my business is doing great,” they’re being more real and authentic. And the thing with COVID is that it’s this external thing. It’s not like, “Life is hard because you’re failing, or you’re not good enough.” The universe just sucks right now. I think it’s good for any business owner to seek out a community of people where they can talk about some of the struggles and the challenges. Figure out a way to collaborate instead of just compete. Businesses are closing left and right where I am. In an earlier version of myself I might have felt some relief to have one less competitor. But now I just feel sad when I get those emails. I know what it takes to invest so much and build a business. I’ve worked at it for 12 years. After all of the energy, sweat equity, money, and everything else, it’s tough to watch something out of your control have such an impact.
SK: Do you ever fear that it will be an extinction-level event for everyone except big companies like Peloton?
EP: I think it’s going to be Darwinian, and I honestly don’t know which side I’ll end up on. I’m such a fighter and so determined, but then I also think about how much of this is out of my control. You asked earlier about franchising. I came from a franchise world, and when I started Alkalign my mission was always to be able to help as many people feel better as I can. I thought the way to do that was to build brick and mortar businesses— to have these communities all over. What I’ve come to realize is that I can still accomplish my mission, just in a different way. I can potentially reach many more people virtually. It took me a while to wrap my head around that, but once I had a full-on pity party at the beginning of COVID and spent time crying and saying ‘It’s never going to be the same,’ I actually understood it could be better. I can actually build things and make them more accessible to the masses.”
SK: What have you seen with your clients during this year? Is there a similarity in what many are experiencing and sharing with you?
EP: I would say it’s been a roller coaster, probably more dips than anything else. I’m seeing a lot of depression and anxiety. The hardest part is that you don’t see most of it because you just see what people post on their Instagram. There is the carrot out there now with the vaccine, but that could take a while. I do think people are holding out hope for spring. But I believe the behavioral impact is going to be more devastating than the physical. I think people have forgotten how to leave their house, or go somewhere, or be with people. I think bars and restaurants will rebound. I think travel might even rebound a little bit quicker. But I think fitness could be a slower rebound, because when people prioritize what’s at the top of their list, they might not want to risk it for a workout. They’ll risk it for a trip.
SK: If the industry as a whole moves in the direction of a hybrid or virtual model, do you think you’ll have to change your prices?
EP: I think there’s going to be a lot of pressure for the prices to change. We’ve already lowered our prices for digital. There’s an inherent belief that there’s just not as much value in a digital product as there is for an in-person product. It’s funny, because it makes it so much more accessible this way. There’s no commute time, no excuses. A lot of the things that used to get in the way are no longer an obstacle. But I do think there’s going to be pressure to lower prices. Technically, if you can scale it up you should be able to make up the difference, but it’s challenging. When we created our virtual studio, we wanted to replicate the in-person experience as closely as possible. It was important to me that it was two-way, it was live, we could see people, and they could talk to us before and after class. I wanted them to be able to chat with us if they had a question or needed a modification. There is a recording, and we do a lot on the back end to make sure that if you can’t attend live you can still get access to the content that you signed up for. Doing that requires that I still pay 40 instructors a week to teach 40 live classes. That’s not super scalable. Not as much as “here are all the videos you want for $20 a month.” But you get what you pay for. Anyone can get free exercise classes on YouTube for sure, but if you want connection and community, there’s a price attached to that.
SK: What would that mean for you as a studio owner if you had to drop your prices to $20 a month? Would you still have 40 live classes a week? To do so seems like you would have to commit to a period of time where you’re just in survival mode until you have enough subscribers to make up the difference in the traditional membership income model.
EP: Which is why we haven’t done it yet. We’ve dropped our prices a little bit. And we’re putting additional products and services in place that could potentially supplement some of the traditional membership income. We have a health coaching program, we’re adding all of those sports-specific digital programs I mentioned, and we have an on-demand program that’s at a lower price point. People weren’t as interested in that before COVID, but the pandemic has shifted that behavior. It’s been an opportunity for us.
SK: It’s an enormous thing you’re attempting here when you talk about scaling up the business and building the infrastructure to support it on the back end. You came to fitness from a business background, so you have the experience and language to pull this evolution off that many people in the industry don’t. Some studio owners were yoga teachers or pilates instructors or strength trainers who decided to open their own spaces without formal business training, and when the world turned upside down, they may not have had the tools or resources to pivot as quickly as you did. Do you think it’s possible to learn those business skills as quickly as is necessary to survive right now?
EP: Yes. When I started this business I was teaching fitness, and I wasn’t the best teacher around. But I knew that I had the business background and I could learn to become a really good teacher. You could definitely do that in the reverse. But I am leaning on my appreciation of numbers from my finance and investment banking days. I’m pulling from my experience with operational efficiencies— trying to figure out how to grow, scale, cut costs, and make data based decisions. It’s hard, because you’re always going to have one client who’s like, “Why did you cut the 7 p.m. class on Friday?” Well, because nobody was coming and it didn’t make sense to have it. But I’ve gotten a lot more comfortable and confident in those things. Sometimes you just have to make smart decisions. The other thing I never take for granted is my work wife. Her name’s Lizzy and she has a master’s degree in engineering, which is really helpful in engineering systems that talk to each other, especially in the virtual world. We’re a team of three people. I’ve got a marketing person, my work wife, and myself. We do all the things and wear all the hats. That benefits us, because it’s not a huge ship to turn around. If you’re a big box gym or one of 300 franchises of a small boutique, it takes a lot longer. We can turn on a dime. We literally launched our virtual classes in less than 24 hours. We didn’t miss a beat.
SK: That’s really fast.
EP: It was, but I’m so impressed by people’s ability to innovate, be creative, and come up with some cool stuff. And there are some other businesses that seem to have their feet in cement. They haven’t done anything because they’re just waiting for COVID to pass. From the very beginning, I told my team “I don’t know what’s going to happen or how long it’s going to last, but probably a lot longer than anyone thinks. When I look back at this time, I don’t want to feel like we were just waiting for things to go back to normal. I want to feel like we did everything we could to continue to inspire this community, keep people connected, and provide a little dose of sanity.”
SK: Can you imagine a time down the road when, even if the business looks different, you’re as excited about this new world as you were when you originally launched Alkalign?
EP: That’s a really good question. In the entrepreneurs group I mentioned earlier, I’ve definitely heard people say, “This is not why I got into this, and it’s just sucking all the joy out of it for me.” I don’t feel like that. I do miss certain elements. I miss human connection. But I’m also grateful for this opportunity. The ability to think outside the box is super energizing for me. I like a challenge. Yes, it can sometimes be draining or frustrating because I don’t know what it’s going to look like on the other side, but I’ve come to terms with that. If I can get myself, my team, and my clients through this with dignity and grace, that will help me feel more accomplished and energized than any number of new franchises ever could have.
SK: What sustains you on the really hard days?
EP: I think one of the things that’s kept me going, besides my sheer stubbornness and willpower, is the connection with people. I think it’s really important for people to be aware of how much their actions impact others, including small businesses. I would not be functioning mentally if I didn’t have those people that reached out once in a while with gratitude. It’s like fuel. I’m certainly grateful for my team and clients, and when they give that gratitude back to me, it helps so much. If there’s some person or service that you value in your life, try to support them. It doesn’t necessarily have to be with money. Just reach out, and let them know they’re important. There have been a few days where I’ve been really depleted, but when I’m reminded there’s someone out there I’m helping, it reignites the purpose and passion. It’s something I’m grateful for as a business owner, and I’m doing by best to pay it forward.
Advice from Erin: Four things you can do today to stay connected to your clients and community during and after the pandemic:
- Connect. Human beings need connection. In a time of unprecedented disconnect, clients need us and the community we’ve created more than ever.
- Personalize your outreach. Email, text, video, or invite someone to a Zoom happy hour. I love the BombBomb app as a communication tool. If your clients are local, invite them to an outdoor class, or for a walk or hike. Everyone’s comfort level is different, especially during a global health pandemic; meet them where they are. The less you’ve seen someone, the greater the chance they need to hear from you. It will fill your bucket and theirs.
- Teach two-way. Since day one of the COVID-19 shutdown our goal at Alkalign has been to recreate the in-person class experience to the best of our ability with live, two-way classes. While nothing will replicate the energy, connection, and informal conversation that takes place in a room with other people, being able to see and connect with clients live online makes a significant difference in maintaining a sense of community.
- Be vulnerable. Brene Brown made vulnerability cool. Be honest with your clients; it’s okay to not be okay. Do you want to be Debbie Downer on the daily? Of course not. But it’s A-OK to be real, raw, and human. Share your struggles. It will invite your clients to open up to you as well, and deepen your connection.
Jill Miller is the creator of Yoga Tune Up® and The Roll Model® Method formats, and co-founder of Tune Up Fitness Worldwide. She’s the author of the bestselling book The Roll Model: A Step by Step Guide to Erase Pain, Improve Mobility, and Live Better in Your Body, a book on breath in coming in 2021 from Victory Belt Publishing, and a contributor to the medical textbook Fascia, Function, and Medical Applications. A typical year for Jill is spent teaching classes, training educators, and speaking at conferences all over the world. What’s it like when a teacher’s teacher can’t be in a room doing what she loves most— working with students who’ve been coming to her classes for two decades or training instructors and clinicians in the art and science of self care? She talks about the pain of being isolated from her community, and the unexpected business opportunities that bloomed after years of preparation, even in the midst of global uncertainty.
Suzanne Krowiak: In a typical year you spend a lot of time in classrooms with big groups of students. You had a regular weekly class in Los Angeles, in addition to conducting trainings and speaking at conferences all across the United States and around the world. What was it like in 2020 to have it all come to a screeching halt?
Jill Miller: One of the greatest joys of my life is being in a room and having the class grow and experience things together. A big part of my self-esteem is teaching and taking care of others, and that couldn’t happen this year in one room in real time. I wasn’t sure how it was going to work out as an online experience. Generally I have a lot of confidence in media formats because I originally learned yoga from videos when I was a teenager, and I’ve made dozens of Yoga Tune Up® videos that have changed peoples’ lives. So I know if you want to, you can learn via video. But I’d never taught in a virtual setting where it was live online. Not being around my students, not being around their bodies, was hard. One of the only times that I’m completely able to not feel all the pain of the world is when I’m teaching, because it’s what I was put here to do. It’s almost like being on vacation when I teach.
SK: What do you think is lost from a student perspective when they can’t be in a room together for group fitness experiences?
JM: On a basic, biological schema, there’s a group mind that forms in a classroom. And there’s a positive social pressure when you’re in a group learning environment. The teacher will give cues to somebody else and it will be meaningful to you. The teacher can see so many people and include all these different bodies in the classroom that aren’t you, but are aspects of you. You grow by witnessing other people’s growth, and you’re contributing to each other just by being in the room. One way to think about this is through the lens of Polyvagal Theory where playful, shared, cooperative group experiences engage the vagus nerve and regulate the nervous system. Not everybody is a group fitness person, but the people who are really like to be together. It’s a family thing. I’ve had some of the same students for as long as I’ve taught. So that’s 20-plus years of people who keep coming to class because they love the environment. It’s not replaceable by anything else, so hopefully it’ll come back and people haven’t gotten so comfortable with at-home instruction that they don’t want to join in, or they stay away because they’re afraid of what group air can do to their health.
SK: So much of your work in group fitness experiences is centered around calming the nervous system and helping people understand what their mind is telling them through their bodies. What do you think it will be like the first time you’re in a room full of students when things open back up and groups can be together again?
JM: We really have to remember and acknowledge all the intense feelings that we haven’t fully processed. I’m a yoga therapist, I’m not a mental health therapist. As much as I can, I’m going to be very aware of the additional emotional loads my students have been carrying in the privacy of their own sheltered-in-place lives, in their own house arrest. Even if they’ve figured out pods and see some people, there’s a lack of diversity in that and an absence of community interaction. I’m going to be aware that it may take a while for some people to emerge and to trust. There may be a lot of people who fear being in close proximity to each other. As the vaccines take effect, what are those considerations? Are we going to be comfortable two feet apart again, or 18 inches, or in some cases, 7 inches? What will be the adaptive changes to our ideas of personal space? In our group fitness world, we need to give our students permission to let their grief inform them, and help them be nurtured and supported.
SK: What’s a practical way for you to do that in a room full of students?
JM: We do the practice of sankalpa in Yoga Tune Up and Roll Model classes. It’s a phrase you repeat frequently to yourself during class as a way of joining the cognitive frame and somatic frame so you’re able to hold space for yourself, to know your feelings, and validate them. It helps foster emotional growth along with embodied awareness and belonging. I can make suggestions for a sankalpa in class. Some examples are “I am a home for breath” “I am welcome here” “I am listening” Two I use all the time are “My body thinks in feels” and “I embody my body.” The work isn’t to induce, manipulate, or try to get people to shed tears. That’s not my role. I just want them to be able to support whatever experience they’re having. But I have a feeling that there will be more tears than usual. My favorite sankalpa is one that came from a student during the pandemic. It’s “I am here for you, enter your own name here.” So, “I am here for you, Jill.” It makes me cry every time.
SK: That’s really powerful.
JM: Yes. They’re such simple words, but I’ve found it to be very effective, and it usually brings tears. I call sankalpa the ultimate host. You’re thanking yourself for being the host. You can show up as your best self, for yourself, so you can be a better you for your community and your people.
SK: What’s your advice for people who are so exhausted and worn down from 2020? What can they do today to start to feel whole again?
JM: I definitely think there has never been a better time to commit to learning how to work with your autonomic nervous system, especially with the stressors that contribute to this feeling of overwhelm we’ve all experienced. The challenges are not going to come to a sudden stop soon. And something that’s embedded in our culture as females is that we will be saved. We have to remind ourselves that no one is coming to save us. We have to do the personal work to be stronger for ourselves, so we can be there for other people. It’s not about being stronger muscularly. It’s really growing comfortable with this level of discomfort, and figuring out how you can be present for yourself and others.
SK: What’s one breathing exercise you recommend for those who want to learn how to work with their nervous system to calm their mind and body?
JM: The first thing that pops into my head is a modified vipareeta karani mudra position where you lie on your back with your knees bent, feet on the floor while slighting elevating your pelvis. Stick a Coregeous Ball or yoga block underneath your sacrum, close your eyes, and put your fingers in the okay symbol. In your fingertips, you’ll start to feel your heartbeat and you can use that beat as a metronome while you play around with breath lengths on all sides of the circumference of your breath. This starts a parasympathetic cascade that quiets your body and slows down the world for a moment. Because if you don’t, it’s going to keep spinning really fast.
SK: What about movement exercise? You launched the Walking Well program this year with Katy Bowman, which really drills down on the mechanics of walking. Why do you think this is such an important thing for people to understand, especially right now?
JM: Podiatrists have reported a three-fold increase in foot injuries and pathologies like broken toes and plantar fasciitis during COVID. Why? Because people are not used to walking barefoot, and definitely not used to walking barefoot this much. They’re not coordinated. They’re staring at their screens, they get up from their desk and they’re fatigued so they catch their toe on the end of a desk, table, or chair and break it.
I read a story the other day that suggested the solution is to wear shoes inside. No, the fix isn’t to make our feet less smart by putting them in protective gear; it’s to help your feet become the organ that they are. When you’re walking at your normal pace in regular pre-COVID life, the movement happens really fast. Your muscles fire reflexively, very quickly. They need to, because if the muscles don’t fire quickly, your connective tissue is left to pick up the slack and is overloaded, and that’s when you get something like plantar fasciitis. But when you’re working from home, typically you’re slower, so your feet are actually bearing more weight. The timing of the footfall from heel to toe is slower when you’re plodding around, or if you’re wearing slippers that don’t give your feet any feedback about the ground.
I think this increase of plantar fasciitis from barefoot walking at home is because people’s feet are terribly under-trained. They’re walking slowly, more body weight is going through each part of the foot, and their bodies never adapted to that because when you walk quickly on pavement or in shoes, there’s just a fraction of a moment when your muscles are coordinating that motion. But if you think of increasing that load tenfold by walking slowly, or leaning at the stove if you’re cooking more, it has the potential to cause a lot of problems.
If you can improve your gait and train your feet to work the way they were designed to, it will improve everything from your walk around the house to distance walking for exercise. And one of the most important benefits of walking is the relaxation response that comes from looking at things at a distance, instead of up close on screens. It adjusts the position of your neck and head because when you walk you’re looking around all over— right, left, up to the sky. Those things alter your perspective. Walking can provide a spiritual uplift for people. You connect to nature and our foundational movement, which is walking. That inspires awe and is very helpful for mental health.
SK: Do you see Tune Up Fitness’s role in the world any differently now than you did 14 months ago before COVID happened?
JM: No. What I see is that our tools really work; they work for self-treatment in isolation and they work for self-treatment in group settings. It’s what I’ve known all along, but COVID just reinforced that and it’s opened up business opportunities for us. Companies are looking for tools to give employees working from home smart strategies for stress and pain mitigation. I’m doing recurring events for Google. Major medical and international pharmaceutical companies are reaching out to us. Yes, even the drug companies see the value in “rubber drugs” for their workforce. You have people building vaccines, but the actual people— their hands hurt, their necks hurt, their shoulders hurt. We have been able to serve those communities.
SK: One subject I’ve discussed with almost everyone in this series about the road ahead in 2021 is what we should keep from 2020. As painful as the pandemic has been for individuals and business, what did we learn about ourselves that we should hang onto moving forward?
JM: I think we need to remind ourselves that we’re more resilient than we thought we were. We can take a shit-ton of pain and grow from it. We’ve probably discovered new love for people in our lives we didn’t realize were right there all along, like neighbors we’ve bonded with. These are wartime-like connections we’ll have for the rest of our life. I’ve reconnected with my true old friends in the heartiest way, so it’s really reinforced the real bonds I have. It’s also emphasized the bonds that are unsupportive and draining. Like, “I don’t have the emotional reservoir to call that person. That relationship is no longer viable.” The bonds we’ve made are like a sisterhood and brotherhood. I feel extremely optimistic. And I miss people. I’m really excited to be in rooms again once we can be together.
2020 was hard. The challenges were real and the consequences ran the gamut from brain fog and panic attacks to career pivots and unprocessed grief. But as we learned from our panel of experts in The Road Ahead series in January and February, there is hope. There are resources to access, both within our own bodies, and out in our communities. As the world begins to emerge from this last year of tumult, we hope you’ll return to these stories to be reminded of ways you can support yourself and your business on the path to wholeness.
Re-read author Michelle Cassandra Johnson on the importance of grieving what we’ve lost; group fitness pioneer Lashaun Dale on the opportunities for studios and instructors if they’re willing to adjust to an online fitness model that became essential during the pandemic; brain coach Ryan Glatt on the signs of a COVID concussion and how to heal; Psychologist and breathing expert Dr. Belisa Vranich on harnessing your breath to reduce anxiety; celebrity strength and nutrition coach Adam Rosante on making a health plan and sticking to it; and physical therapist Dr. Theresa Larson on adapting your body and mindset to this new way of life.
Honor your heart. Recognize your strength. Draw on your resilience.
You can do this.
It is so true: “Connect. Human beings need connection. In a time of unprecedented disconnect, clients need us and the community we’ve created more than ever.”
So interesting to read what two women fitness entrepreneurs have done to shift focus during the pandemic to online formats.
very good article
From my observation, businesses that sailed through and survived pandemic are those build to last. It was mind-boggling for me though, that there was an inherent belief that business had to drop prices for virtual classes…because the work needed to create one quality production was A LOT, and just because you could produce it from your home it doesn’t mean it cost less. I myself are truly appreciative for people that showed up and provided virtual contents throughout and after the pandemic. And I know for a fact that there’re clients that prefer virtual contents even after the world is re-open. Human interaction is as important as supporting people and business virtually when physical interaction is not feasible.
I’m inspired by the optimism and perseverance in both Jill’s and Erin’s approach to their health businesses during the pandemic.
While I agree that most people will prioritize a trip over rejoining a studio community in person, I’ve enjoyed being part of vibrant in-person studio spaces in the Bay Area since they’ve gone through phases of re-opening.
I also think the pandemic brought the unique challenge of tech, media formats and online learning platforms to the yoga space. It’s certainly a Darwinian process, as Erin so poignantly stated.
As the world continues to open up, I’ve seen brand new in-person yoga studios open in SF. I think they’ve been successful because of the community variable in yoga & fitness spaces. This studio in particular is operating with a hybrid model, which I think is great for teachers interested in being online. I also believe that a yoga teacher can be successful focusing solely on in-person teachings, and there’s magic in their work reaching students who would have never ventured online either.
I really enjoyed reading the interview with Erin of alkaline. As a one-person yoga business with very small clientele I also pivoted the week before the shutdown and set up my home studio and zoom to teach class. I had no idea where it was going how long it was going to last, or if anyone would even sign on. At first offered my classes to the students who had already paid for the in studio time as a means really not having to refund that money that they had paid for their classes in advance, at the same time knowing that everyone that I worked with was affected I reached out and offered two weeks of free yoga classes to everyone at the community college where I worked. While I did not get a huge participation it was typical for me to have two or three new faces in the two classes a week that I initially offered. It was an opportunity to give the gift of yoga during a time of high stress with no promise of monetary return. As the pandemic wore on many of us continued to adjust and shift gears to seek out the opportunities that covid presented to all of us not just us in the yoga world. This article is now about a year old and she was right it did continued for another year we are still emerging, we saw a lot of businesses close, and that was sad. As we move forward I love the idea of finding the path of most resilience!
Thank you for sharing this.
Inspiring and encouraging read!
The comment Erin Paruszewski made, “The Universe just sucks right now.” Made me think why does the Universe suck, the only thing that sucks about the Universe is human beings that reside in it that think like that. Then Universe doesn’t suck and if you live in truth then you know everything is for a reason and doesn’t suck.
I enjoyed the second interview with Lisa however.