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For Capitol Hill’s gyms, COVID-19 restrictions a heavy weight to bear as fitness moves online

Osiris, owner of Urban Fit Studios, has overcome the challenges of a rapidly-developing Capitol Hill, but COVID-19 lockdown might be a weight too heavy to lift. (Image: Courtesy Urban Fit Studios)

COVID-19 shutdowns have hit small businesses hard but many have quickly reinvented themselves. That kind of makeover might not be possible for all of us on “stay home” lockdown but thanks to Capitol Hill gyms finding new ways to connect while trying to stay afloat, you can still get a workout at home.

For Osiris, owner of the membership-based Urban Fit Studios at 1500 Summit, the forced closure is even more agonizing given his history of struggling to stay on the Hill. “The sad thing about this is, years ago I got bumped out of my space because of the development of Capitol Hill,” he said. “I was debt-free prior to that, and then I had to take out another loan to move it to another space. Five years later I’m almost debt-free, but now I’m faced with all these forgivable loans.”

Osiris echoes what most small, independent gym owners on the Hill are going through: It’s hard to navigate the landscape of promised aid.

Ben Koenigsberg opened Rain City Fit in 2017, and a second location, RCF Barbell Club on 14th and Pine only two weeks before the stay in place mandate went into effect.

“I’ve applied for three things. There was a Seattle grant, which it looks like they just decided 250 businesses out of 9,000 to get the money. I wasn’t one of those. Then I applied for two of the federal loans,” Koenigsberg said.

“I’m pretty skeptical I’m gonna get any help.”

Personal trainer Rena Bartlett had been operating out of Rain City Fit for over a year and a half.

Her business Uplift Fitness offered virtual training before, but now she’s converted all her clients to online coaching. Bartlett sends out workout programs and schedules weekly check ins, either via text or video chat. She says her clients benefit from the structure of workout plans, rather than just “maybe doing some push ups and then calling it a day.”

According to Bartlett, one of the challenges of online training is, “I can’t know exactly how they’re doing the movement, and as much as I try to check in, I can’t force anyone to do a workout [but] for the most part, everyone’s like, ‘I wanna workout, let’s do this!’”

Bartlett also recommends for free home workout videos.

Andrew J. Saldaña, co-owner of Capitol Hill’s Anytime Fitness franchise location has been able to offer 20 live classes a week through a private Facebook Group for members, though he says anyone can join if they reach out through the email on the Anytime Fitness website. The classes are free, but donations keep their coaches paid.

Noting the parallels between physical, social, and mental health, Saldaña’s overarching goal is to promote not only fitness, but inclusion and connection for the Capitol Hill community. “Keeping spirits strong is the driving force behind what we’re trying to do,” he said.

Links to the classes are posted on the Facebook group a few hours before they go live. Coaches will include any recommendations like, “‘Hey if you have anything heavy to use, it could be a laundry detergent [container] or fill up a backpack with rocks so we can do this kind of movement.’ Getting creative,” Saldaña explained. “The [point] is not to put health on the backburner just because the physical gym’s closed. We want to share the mission that your gym is your body.”

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1 year ago

Mode of Fitness on 14th has offered Zoom classes for its members

1 year ago

We really need to open these gyms. Certainly with some good rules in place (physical distancing, wipes, etc) they can be as safe as any other business.