5 Things That Will Kill Post-COVID Recovery (and How to Avoid Them)

A woman swimming in the ocean

“If you care about people’s lives, you should close your business.” —Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo

Ambiguity hurts business.

Gyms that reopened with government permission are doing better than gyms that reopened with an unclear mandate.

In Part 1 of this series, I told you that the best gyms in the world are seeing a “Surge” of new, higher-value clients. But not every gym.

Here’s what stops the Surge effect:

1. Government Ambiguity

When governments say “it’s safe for gyms to open!” clients return far more quickly.

How to beat it: Stick to guidelines as aggressively as possible. Meet outside, train people 1:1, meet in your parking lot. Adopt a Flex model of online/in-person while you ramp back up. (Read about Flex training here.)

2. Owners Jumping the Gun

Look, some gym owners had to open in secret. They simply couldn’t afford to stay closed. I understand.

The problem is that their undercover opening probably hurt them in the long run.

First, their most cautious clients just had their worst fears confirmed: that the owners of the gym will prioritize the health of the business over the health of the client.

Now, before you start typing that angry email, think for a moment: You’re not evil, but some clients think you’re wrong. Perception is everything. If they think you’re taking a risk or breaking the law, then the truth doesn’t matter.

Second, there will probably be some consequences. Your insurance company, your landlord, local authorities, your payment processor—none of them will back you if you reopen illegally. And all of them have long memories. If you’re willing to break the law with your business, you’re a high-risk client.

Finally, some gym owners reopened very publicly to make a statement about their legal rights. They went on TV and made social posts about civil liberties. Again, I understand the temptation to do so. But 50 percent of your clients will not understand and will look for another gym.

How to beat it: Communicate about your plans and your reasons for those plans. Tell people what you’re doing and why. Tell them again. You’ll get sick of hearing yourself before they will. Just don’t make them guess about your plans and your intent—or your values.

A painting of an encroaching wave
The post-COVID Surge is real. But it won’t happen if you don’t take action.

3. Lack of Excitement

I get it: You’re totally exhausted.

You probably shouldn’t be coaching people right now. But you have to because COVID left you broke.

So you drag yourself into the gym at 5 a.m., you coach people with as much energy as you can fake, you dose up the caffeine over and over, and you wonder if you can play the long game here.

Your clients see it. Your neighbors see it.

People want you to share their enthusiasm when they’re excited and stoke their enthusiasm when they’re not. That’s hard to do when you’re broke and tired.

How to beat it: Put your most energetic coach front and center. Listen to comedy shows on the way to the gym. Hit an easy five-minute workout before the clients arrive. Switch to espresso. The face your clients see must be absolutely thrilled to see them and excited to get coaching. If that’s not your face, put a fresh one on stage.

4. Doubts About Safety

Your gym is probably cleaner than their house, but they don’t know that.

And fear of COVID is emotional, not rational; you can’t argue anyone into attending if they’re nervous.

How to beat it: Show pictures of your staff cleaning. Publish your cleaning process and demonstrate with videos. Talk to your clients about how clean your gym is every day and share all the steps you’re taking. Over-communicate about hygiene. Literally every day.

5. The Same Old Thing

Your clients are ready for a return to their routines, but the same old thing will get you the same old problems.

This is your greatest chance to re-engage former clients, excite your current clients and appeal to strangers who weren’t really convinced before.

This is the best opportunity you’ll ever have to change your:

  • Intake process.
  • Rates.
  • Schedule.
  • Staff.
  • Coaching model.
  • Everything.

How to beat it: Listen to “Your Gym 2.0.”

Evolve—and Win

COVID served as a forcing function to make gym owners pivot to a new model, communicate more and learn to lead better.

But this was the direction anyway; COVID simply sped up the evolution of the industry.

The gyms that are crushing it right now were probably going to crush it within the next year anyway because they were already doing these things.

Are you doing them now?

Other Media in This Series

“The Surge: Why Some Gyms Are Thriving After COVID”
“Hosts of New Clients: How to Trigger the Surge at Your Gym”


One more thing!

Did you know gym owners can earn $100,000 a year with no more than 150 clients? We wrote a guide showing you exactly how.