The future of Gyms, PTs Jobs and the Fitness Industry now UK Government has shut us down

Posted 21-03-2020 | Updated

The future of Gyms, PTs Jobs and the Fitness Industry now UK Government has shut us down image

What’s in this position statement?

  1. The state of play now gyms are closed
  2. Why this action is being taken
  3. How we all play our role
  4. Solutions for gyms and the self-employed during this time
  5. Support and guidance to navigate your future and income 

This position statement will continually be updated with the most up to date advice. Last update March 22nd 2020. If you see errors in this statement due to new government updates, please notify us ASAP and we shall change it.

Why are gyms closed due to Coronavirus?

As you know, currently a global pandemic has led to unprecedented measures being taken by the UK Government designed to dramatically slow the spread of the associated condition, SARS-CoV-2. These measures are not in place in order to eradicate the virus, but instead to reduce the peak of the curve, resulting in a more manageable strain on the health service.

Image credit: Livescience

This ‘flattening of the curve’ would ideally be in place until herd immunity is achieved – hopefully through an effective vaccine (which could be some time).

Included within these measures as of March 20th, 2020, is an order to close all non-essential businesses that encourage congregation including the below, taken from gov.uk *emphasis ours*.

Coronavirus closures

Gyms are closed, but can coaches still coach?

This has led to a large amount of confusion within the fitness industry as the specifics are not quite clear. Does a 1-2-1 indoor facility count? What about outdoor fitness classes?

On the latter point, EMD UK, the UK Governing body for group exercise had the following to say:

This leaves only private, 1-2-1, outdoor coaching as a potential grey area, but given the blanket recommendation by the Government to stop all nonessential travel, and restrict all contact with people outside of your family to as close to zero as possible unless you need to go buy food or medical supplies, our advice at this time is to halt all face to face contact with clients until the situation changes.

Yes, that means no more in person training of clients, no bootcamps, no group runs, nothing. No unnecessary contact.

Why the extreme measures?

We all need to collectively act to avoid spreading the virus in any shape or form. Even small amounts of contact with an infected person, or something infected by an infected person puts people at risk. This can happen extremely easily: someone who doesn’t have symptoms yet may cough on their hand then touch a door handle, then someone else touches that then scratches their face. If this happens regularly things could get drastically out of control, meaning that the health service gets overwhelmed. This means we have a duty of care to advise anyone we can to act as we’re being asked to. 

Ultimately, our role is to be leaders in the health space, and trying to find workarounds and loopholes so that we can ignore the strong advice and rules that have been put in place to literally protect the lives of the nation goes against all that our industry should stand for. Much like other health professionals, we should first do no harm, and that means we need to reduce our risk of assisting the virus in affecting someone more vulnerable.

We should, as a result, minimise all non-essential contact as advised. We will never know who our client last saw, and who our next client could go home to. Would you be responsible for someone getting infected then heading home to an elderly or immunocompromised relative.

We should close gyms. Stop training clients. Stop all training meet ups.

This is not, however, the end of you or your business. And now more than ever communities need to come together to support each other and maintain social connections – without doing this, we could be heading towards a mental health disaster.

Where do I find help from the government?

The first thing to do is to get in touch with HMRC and find out exactly what you’re entitled to. There is no shame in this because this situation has nothing to do with anything you did – it’s out of your control and if you can stay afloat you can go on to help others improve their health in the future. It’s your duty to protect yourself.

Find out how to apply for a mortgage holiday here:

https://www.which.co.uk/news/2020/03/coronavirus-how-to-apply-for-a-three-month-mortgage-payment-holiday/

And to get help if you rent:

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/complete-ban-on-evictions-and-additional-protection-for-renters

Also consider contacting your utilities providers/other debtors to find out if they can work with you.

Then read thoroughly through this page to find out what other assistance is available, including deferring VAT payments and a potential grant for gym owners:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-to-employers-and-businesses-about-covid-19/covid-19-support-for-businesses 

If you are employed by your gym or are on a company PAYE scheme then up to 80% of your salary will be covered by the government if you are furloughed (off work due to being laid off / can’t work).This could provide you with up to £2500 per month…but this is of course little help to the self-employed.

If you’re a self-employed personal trainer (or similar profession), you are eligible to claim universal credit of £409.89 per month which, alongside the above reductions in outgoings, may be very helpful. Find out how to apply for universal credit and the rules around that below. For many the key rule is that you must have under £16,000.00 in savings:

https://www.understandinguniversalcredit.gov.uk/coronavirus/

After this it’s time to look forward.

Right now, the country is reeling, but in as little as 72-96 hours for many this will become the new norm. People are at home in isolation, with many receiving 80% of their wages or their wages working from home. This means there are a lot of people with disposable income, no real way to spend it, and very little to do/little contact with the outside world. The UK population are about to be in dire need for a break in the monotony, craving some community, support, and for something to aim for.

So, given the above, the big question is how long will this last, and in that time, what can we all do?

Solutions for gyms and trainers we can think of:

A trainer must do everything they can to keep their clients together. You have trust and respect from them, so what can you do to keep them on board and bring them together (metaphorically)? Think of your current business model and what you can do. Level with them, talk openly and honestly about the current situation and create an online solution for/with them.

If you have a facility, consider renting equipment to your usual clients in return for their typical membership fee. This is of course a risk, but a gesture like this will almost certainly be repaid with loyalty and honesty (only loan things to longer standing clients and you’ll definitely get it back!). If you do decide to do this, do your best to stagger collection appointments and make sure people know when to turn up – you don’t want to create an unnecessary gathering or queue and inadvertently cause significant social contact. 

For example, a gym could give their weight plates and bars to clients and stream online workouts with them. A body pump class owner could give their bars and plates to clients and recreate their sessions online. A powerwave instructor could get bags to clients and get them training in a Facebook group.

But we stress, organise these pick up and drop off times so contact is minimised. If you can pull this off it means your client’s fitness and wellbeing (and your income) can be supported as well as possible.

Online coaching could be extremely helpful in this time both for you and those you coach, and while attracting new clients may become something you can do down the line, your first aim should be to look inward at those you already have and to support them as best you can with online coaching, video workouts, mindset coaching, cooking classes, and more. For ideas about how to do this be sure to look through the free resources and discussions in this Facebook group we’ve set up by when things started going South last week:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/1551145595035789/

Another idea, you could run a digital timetable. If you usually coach runners, keep a membership with people and do running classes where you all go out for a run solo and post your time / distance / scores. Do SOMETHING to digitally recreate your current coaching set up. Radical times need radical ideas, and gamifying and bringing together the community might be a simple way to ride out these coming 6-12 months (the government say 12 weeks, I think we need to be aware and savvy and plan for it being far longer, as many medical professionals hypothesise. Better to plan and not need than need and not plan). 

You could coach your clients 1-2-1 online, then they still get to train 1-2-1 with you. If you can get 40-60% of your clients staying on, you could keep a respectable income for many months, especially if the government are also delaying mortgage and rent payments. This takes the pressure off you, and also ensures you’re able to keep the people you’ve been helping so far to keep some semblance of normalcy.  

What apps can you use to train people online?

Apps to help with online training are: Remote Coach, My PT Hub, Zoom video conferencing, Trainerize, Skype, and a simple Facebook group (which we have done). Many of these have offered extended free trials in our FB strategy group, so use the search function there when you join.

Again, if you would like specific strategies and more ideas, walk throughs of how to get online, how to use certain software etc, join our personal trainer and gym owner Coronavirus Facebook Strategy group where we are all helping one another get through this, creating income for now and the future: 

https://www.facebook.com/groups/1551145595035789/

What if this is all too much?

For some it might mean you decide to find a new job and consider coming back to the industry when the time comes. This is not ideal and we want as many of you as possible to continue doing what you do, but the bills need to be paid and we should all have the humility to never consider any job – especially the kind of essential jobs that are still available – ‘beneath’ us.

The government is under increasing pressure to help self-employed more, so you might find things change in the coming weeks, but at the moment that is an unknown, but I for one am hopeful of more help for the self-employed.

Are companies hiring right now?

Many supermarkets and other similar places are under extreme strain and so are hiring. Those stocking shelves and running checkouts are on the front lines keeping the country afloat, and if you are feeling the financial strain there are few more respectable ways of solving that problem than by applying for temp work if available. This is something you could even do part time on top of training some clients online to supplement your income. I wouldn’t be surprised that the NHS and other services need help from healthy young people able to work hard at cleaning and similar tasks when this gets worse, so chipping in part time might be needed and an option if you fall into this category.

Will gyms be shut for a long time due to Coronavirus?

Gyms could be shut for 1 month, 3 months, 6 months, or 12 months - the government have said they don’t know when things will be ‘back to normal’. But right now there are solutions, there are options, there is opportunity, and if you are feeling optimistic (which I hope you are) we should create and take the opportunity. In the same breath, however, we have to be honest about how long any strategy can last and whether there is a life pivot some must make.

We don’t say this lightly and we don’t want to discourage anyone from trying, but we do want to be the first to say that pragmatically it can be worth keeping all options open where needed.

Have you contacted your current clients?

We would suggest you send an email to current clients informing them of the situation and asking them to allow you to continue supporting them in return for supporting your income. Again, the country is reeling and so many clients are likely to ask to leave you for the time being. This is not a decision they might be glad they made in a week or so, however, and so it’s for their benefit as well as yours to try to retain and continue to help them. At the very end of this article you’ll find a template/idea of how this message could be structured – feel free to use and edit it however you feel is appropriate.

Looking to the future

Above all, however, do not let this ruin your spirits. This is a major setback, but you can rest assured that you are doing the right thing and taking part in a collective effort to save the lives of the nation. Staying home isn’t something you’re forced to do (as of yet it’s not clear how this will be policed/enforced), it’s something you’re choosing to do because it’s the moral and ethical road to take to protect your fellow humans.

You’re literally helping to avoid unnecessary deaths, and while the months ahead could be rocky, we should be very proud of playing our part in that. That we are still able to work by coaching online to improve the nation’s physical as well as mental wellbeing is just a bonus.

This blog and statement are designed to be both positive and hopeful, but also honest. There are a lot of unknowns, and some are in better position than others to go online and create solutions. Please see the opportunity, but please also see where a realistic future is for you and your family. We hope that’s online coaching, assisting your current clients, and working to keep people fit, healthy, and in good spirits, but we also want to emphasise the fact that there is literally zero shame in parking this for a short time and looking for other options if you find that this approach isn’t working out right now. 

We REALLY do hope it’s not a long wait to get back to normal, but the reality is that is a complete unknown at the moment, and ‘normal’ might not be as we know it out the back of Covid-19. Whatever happens, though, in 5 years’ time you have the opportunity to look back and know you did the best you could for yourself, your family, and the broader community at large.

Take care out there – this will not be forever, and where we can help, we will.

Ben Coomber & Team.

 

A letter template to send to clients (copy and paste)

Good morning/afternoon client(s),

As you know, the advice from the UK government to reduce the spread of COVID-19 is to self-isolate, close all nonessential businesses, and avoid all social contact that isn’t absolutely necessary. This is to ensure the NHS workers have a fighting chance of helping those who are affected to make a full recovery, and ultimately to avoid deaths that are avoidable.

Because of this I will be doing the right thing and ending all face to face coaching until the situation changes and more advice is given. At that time, I’ll be straight back to normal, but until then I will not be stopping doing what I do…

In the meantime, I will be moving my services online where I will be able to provide individualised, bespoke home exercise programming, nutrition coaching and support alongside keeping our awesome community sane!

At this time, it’s critical that we as a nation stay in the best health possible and the evidence is clear that movement and proper nutrition play a large role in that. Not only that, but by making sure that you and I stay in touch with the rest of the {INSERT BUSINESS NAME} crew we’ll all help each other avoid cabin fever.

Of course, to be completely transparent, this also means that you will be supporting my income. Because I’m self-employed I’m not eligible for as much financial support as employed individuals, and I really appreciate you considering continuing your payments so I can keep food on the table until things start getting better.

I’ll be charging {PRICE} for this service, and will be providing you with the below:

{DETAILS}

Let me know if you think this might be something beneficial and we’ll grab a phone call to chat it over, as it would be awesome to continue to work together in these turbulent times.

Thank you for supporting me so far, I hope that my support to you has been valuable. Let’s keep this going while doing the right thing, and hopefully we as a nation can be back to normal before we know it!

{Coach}

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