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Toledo, Ohio (AP) – Going to the gym has always been part of Kari Hamra’s routine, until last year’s government-ordered shutdown replaced training with a daily ride on a bike. Peloton apartment.

It was then that she discovered something incredible – she did not miss Jim. At least I don’t go back and forth, I put water in a water bottle, I change and above all, I take time with my husband and my two boys.

She slowly returned as her gym in Springfield, Missouri reopened. But when she finds a more convenient exercise schedule at home and sees an increase in COVID-19 cases in her hometown this summer, she wonders how much she needs a gym. She thinks that if there had never been a coronavirus outbreak, “I would still be a Jim mouse.”

The pandemic has reformed the way Americans exercise, disrupted the fitness industry, and accelerated the growth of a new era of high-tech home workout equipment and virtual classes.

Thousands of small fitness centers and studios Forced to close a year ago Now it’s gone forever. Others struggled to float, redesigned the space, turned to more personal training, and added online training.

The question is whether they can survive the onslaught of expensive apps, bikes and treadmills, or hit the path of arcades, video rental stores, and bookstores.

Peloton, a manufacturer of interactive fitness equipment, is confident that the trend in home training will continue. Construction will begin Monday at the first US plant, just outside of Toledo, Ohio, to begin production in 2023 and employ 2,000 workers.

Due to the surge in demand during the pandemic, some Peloton customers had to wait months for their bikes. According to the company, sales continued to rise 141% in the first three months of this year, although backlogs have declined.

Company founder and CEO John Foley believes tech-driven home fitness will inevitably dominate, as streaming services have changed watching movies, and the idea of ​​going to the gym is “We call it the” broken pattern of the past. “

The next steps are to bring more equipment to hotels, apartments and gyms on college campuses and start new training through the app. Late last year acquired Precor, a company with manufacturing and product development sites in the United States.

“Fitness is one of the few remaining categories to be heavily disrupted by digital experiences,” Foley told The Associated Press.

During the first few months of the pandemic, most small independent gyms and studios were the only way to connect with members, so look to zoom in and other video platforms for yoga classes and workouts and of Pilates. I shot it.

Michael Stack, CEO of Applied Fitness Solutions, which owns three fitness centers in Southeast Michigan, said:

A small gym can’t match the production quality and visual appeal of a tech company, but it can compete with online services that offer personal attention and a closer relationship between members and staff.

“I think that’s the way even our stadium is,” Stack said.

Not all gym operators are convinced that they will play an important role in providing virtual training.

Jeff Sanders, CEO of Apex Athletic Health Club in Penfield, NY, said, “Digital is great, but I’ve seen research showing people want to stay active, but miss interactions and are around others. “

His company plans to open a third small location near Orlando, Florida that offers a more intimate experience. He said that such a kind of boutique studio could be a wave of the future.

The pandemic has changed the way the fitness industry assesses itself and “now makes decisions just so everyone survives,” Sanders said.

According to the International Health Racquet & Sportsclub Association, around 9,000 health clubs (22% nationwide) have been closed and 1.5 million workers have lost their jobs since the outbreak of the virus began.

Professional associations are urging Congress to approve a $ 30 billion bailout fund for the fitness industry. Indeed, many clubs are struggling to recover from months of lost income and reduced membership and are still forced to repay their rent.

More closures could occur this year, with thousands without government support, but the emergence of home workout trends are not affecting the fate of the fitness center. said Helenderkin, executive vice president of public policy for the Association.

According to the company, many fanatics of the movement will always do both, she said. 40% of Peloton users are Jim members.

Michelle Segar, director of the Center for Sport, Health, Activity Research and Policy at the University of Michigan, believes digital fitness is well established.

“People integrate their lives with technology. This is where the company exists and it will be even more integrated, ”she said.

The biggest benefit of virtual workouts is that you have more flexibility in maintaining your workout routines and can attract more people to your fitness, including those who can’t keep up with tight schedules. .

“That’s why people don’t stick to it,” she said.

After years at the Pittsburgh gymnasium, Cindy Cicchinelli, who has become an avid Peloton user, said convenience was what sold her.

“I can get out of bed and not have to worry about running to the gym,” she said. “And you don’t need to add an extra 30 minutes to get around.”

Fitness industry leaders say research shows health clubs are less at risk of spreading the virus than in other public places. However, San Francisco gym owner Dave Karaker believes it will take a long time to get into a large, dense fitness center comfortably.

“They will think about ventilation and air purifiers, and how long this equipment has been disinfected,” he said.

He restructured two small studios in MX3 Fitness to create a personal training space. It’s so popular that he’s looking for a third place.

He’s not surprised people are coming back, despite the security concerns.

“They no longer want to experience this lonely being,” he said. “There are all kinds of motivations. Face the facts. Jim is a great way to meet new people, especially if you are single.

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Follow the AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic.


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