The COVID-19 outbreak has been a difficult time for people across the country. We are working hard to do everything necessary to keep our communities healthy by staying inside and following social distancing guidelines. However, as we do that, a major concern remains how to help small businesses stay afloat in a safe and responsible way.

Small businesses are a major boost to local economies everywhere, and they have been some of the best innovators when it comes to serving their customers throughout this epidemic. Now, states should tap into that ingenuity as they devise their plans to begin slowly easing back into a normal routine.

I’m a small business owner myself, operating four Anytime Fitness locations in the Bay Area, and I’m working on developing a fifth. Thankfully, during this time, I have had a network of other franchisees across the U.S. to communicate with over Zoom as we work through our challenges and help each other figure out new ways to benefit our members. These have been important and helpful conversations, and has shown me how dedicated small businesses are to responsibly doing their part during this pandemic.

My staff is working around-the-clock to figure out new ways to reopen safely and responsibly, going so far as to draft a 37-page document detailing all the steps we can take to keep our gyms sanitary and help our members stay safe. We have also had over 100 conversations with members about what they want to see as we plan to reopen our doors.

Every day, we hear from members who are eager to get back. We have been able to offer over 70 classes every week that are open to all, rather than just our members. The feedback has been tremendous, and we routinely have classes with more than 50 participants from all over. If small gyms like mine are included in the first group of businesses allowed to reopen, we will be providing an in-demand service at a time that people need it most. 

Part of the reason I have embraced this industry is because of how it helps people improve their lives. In the past, I have had members come back to me talking about how they are controlling their diabetes, how they can climb their steps again, and how they are able to enjoy vacations with their families. Now, I am hearing from many of my members that they miss having my clubs as an outlet for achieving their fitness goals. 

Helping to keep my community healthy is a major reason why I do what I do. Now more than ever, people need the physical and mental benefits that working out at a gym provides, and exercise will help them bolster their immune systems, as well. 

Safety, of course, is the number one priority. I strongly feel that once health officials give their approval, small gyms can be a vital and productive part of reopening our economy. It will help small businesses to keep people employed and will offer a critical resource for the communities they serve.