August 19, 2022

Omicron worries Columbus gym owners amid COVID surge

Most years, the Italian Village fitness studio Ohio Strength sees an uptick in membership in January,…

Most years, the Italian Village fitness studio Ohio Strength sees an uptick in membership in January, even though owner Ryan McFadyen doesn’t offer a New Year’s discount.

But McFadyen is unsure what to expect in this year with the omicron variant spreading through Ohio.

“The business cycle hasn’t been normal for the past two years with COVID,” McFadyen said. “I feel like some of the New Year’s rush is suppressed.”

The uncertainty drove him to change his usual post-New Year’s business plan.

The layout of the group exercise space at 614Fitness on the North Side was adapted to maximize social distancing, which reduced the number of people who could attend in-person classes

“I’m not going to spend as much on advertising,” McFadyen said. “If people aren’t willing to come in, I’m not going to waste a bunch of money on that.”

Will omicron derail New Year’s resolution fitness plans for many?

The newest strain of the potentially deadly disease struck Franklin County just as gym membership and attendance typically rise with New Year’s fitness resolutions.

“January is traditionally when Americans say ‘I’m going to lose weight and I’m going to exercise more,’ ” said Michael Levin, a professor of marketing at Otterbein University. “But (omicron) is not forecasted to peak in many parts of the country until mid-January.”

That could mean a slow start to 2022 just as gyms are rebuilding their membership ranks.

Miles Rush, 15, of Worthington, exercises as trainer Justin Cunningham cleans equipment at 614Fitness on the North Side. Staff at 614Fitness wear masks while those working out have the option of wearing masks.

“March, April and May of 2020 absolutely crushed us,” said Teresa Moore, the corporate wellness director for the Fitness Loft in Schumacher Place. And January of last year was uncharacteristically slow.

Moore, McFadyen and others in the industry are nevertheless optimistic in the face of the latest coronavirus surge. Moore said the Fitness Loft saw steady membership growth in 2021. Patrons are used to the gym’s mask and social distancing policies and are ready to return to some sense of normalcy, she said.