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F.C. Gyms Pivot To Distanced & Remote Instruction During Pandemic

By Brian Indre

A SET OF RESISTANCE BANDS are local trainers Kavon Atabaki and Eliot Corwin recommends for those looking to work out at home since they’re just as versatile as dumbbells. (Photo: News-Press)

All businesses have suffered in one way or another due to the impacts of the coronavirus, and gyms have had it especially hard.

Fortunately, two personal trainers in Falls Church were able to use technology during the shutdown, and continue to work with clients over the internet to keep their businesses afloat.

But both are a little uncertain about how long they will be able to survive this way.

Kavon Atabaki, a personal trainer and founder of Functional Fitness VA, and Eliot Corwin, owner of Advantage Trainers, had seen their business drop around 50 – 65 percent in the beginning of the pandemic. Business has slowly come back once they were allowed to open their doors again, but the numbers remain lower than they would like.

Both trainers admit that online classes have been the saving grace for their businesses, but the transition to online is limiting to what equipment can be used, or what clients have access to, and most importantly, how they can help clients that benefit more from a traditional one-on-one instruction.

During the beginning of the pandemic, Functional Fitness had 75 kettlebells on hand (one of their primary pieces of equipment), and was able to rent some of those out to existing clients.

It gave Functional Fitness’ clients something that they could use at home, and was a way for the gym to make a little income, according to Atabaki. But he continued by saying that it’s also harder for people to join their online classes if they’ve never been to the gym in person and don’t already have a kettlebell.

“It’s a double edged sword, because it helps us to continue with what we are doing and keep our revenue going, but growth-wise our classes are dwindling,” Atabaki said. “We have limited the capacity of the gym, so that there are never more than nine people, including trainers, inside at one time.”

This gives enough space between a trainer and a client so that they are never closer than ten feet from each other, he

explained.
Still, trainers are required to wear masks and with multiple large windows lining the facility, Atabaki said they can open them up and get good airflow. And no equipment is shared and all of it is cleaned with virucidal wipes after each session.

“We feel confident that we’re following the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] guidelines and not putting anybody at unnecessary risk,” he said.

For those who would like to take up either in-person or online training sessions, Atabaki said that the kettlebell is their favorite tool, but resistance bands and other equipment can be used depending on the clients needs. “If you can get a 25 lb. kettlebell to start with, you’re in business,” Atabaki said.

Advantage Trainers cater to a lot of clients who tend to be older or may have health risk factors.

“There is a certain population that is never going to come back until everyone is vaccinated, and that makes up a good 20 percent of our people,” said Corwin. “We have regular gym memberships, but the bulk of our work is with personal training,”

He explains that although some clients have switched to online workouts, the majority prefer coming into the gym and working with a trainer in person.

Corwin described two primary categories of clients.

The first are people who have some limitation and want extra help from a professional to make sure they don’t further hurt themselves; and the second are clients who want accountability — in other words, they want to work out, but they are not going to do it on their own or they don’t know how to.

For people interested in what equipment would be best to get started, Corwin recommends a set of resistance bands because they are much easier to use at home, don’t take up much space, and are less expensive and almost as versatile as dumbbells. You can easily get a complete workout with a set of bands, he said.

Corwin mentioned that working with clients online can be challenging for the trainer, but it has its upside, for example, three clients who had moved away from the area reached back out during quarantine to start working out again with their former trainers.

“We are offering a new year promotion called ‘Project Reset’ that will involve a month long workout at home, which will be free and no equipment needed,” said Corwin.

Although online training sessions may not be what these personal trainers prefer, the coronavirus has most likely changed how gyms will be used from now on, and making online training much more common.