Gyms are closing over coronavirus. But you may find your next workout online

Adam Friedman of Advanced Athletics in Venice said he was "starting to build an online platform where I can guide people through their fitness routines."
(Ronald D. White / Los Angeles Times)

Southern California gym chains, boutique fitness spots and personal trainers are scrambling to find alternative ways to sweat as their facilities are forced to close because of the coronavirus outbreak.

Some gym operators are taking their classes to the internet, and trainers are hustling to arrange travel times and new schedules to accommodate home visits or small outdoor classes.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti on Sunday night announced the shutdown of gyms, bars, nightclubs, entertainment venues and dine-in restaurant service through March 31 to help slow the spread of the coronavirus, a step taken in New York and several other cities around the nation. Los Angeles County supervisors issued a similar order Monday for the 88 cities under their jurisdiction, and Gov. Gavin Newsom asked all such businesses across California to close, and in the case of restaurants to switch to takeout only.

Gold's Gym on Hampton Drive in Venice closed, hoping to reopen in two weeks.
Gold’s Gym on Hampton Drive in Venice is closed due to the pandemic. Owners hope to reopen in two weeks.
(Ronald D. White / Los Angeles Times)

Some fitness chains are closing gyms even in cities that haven’t yet ordered them.

Harvey Spevak, executive chairman and managing partner for New York-based Equinox Group, said in a statement that “many of our members have been asking us to stay open as an outlet to manage stress and anxiety” but that health concerns were paramount, so “we will temporarily close all Equinox locations effective 8 p.m. local time on Monday, March 16, until further notice.”

The fast-growing Planet Fitness franchise started streaming free classes Monday night on the company’s website, Facebook page and YouTube channel. “We’re bringing the gym to you,” the New Hampshire chain said.

Even small gyms are going online, armed with little more than smartphones, social media and YouTube.

The latest maps and charts on the spread of COVID-19 in California.

Outside Gold’s Gym in Venice on Monday, trainer Adam Friedman watched as frustrated patrons were turned away.


“This is a matter of survival so I’m going to do whatever it takes,” said Friedman, 47, a certified strength and conditioning coach whose roster of clients has included regular folks as well as professional and Olympic-class athletes.

Signs taped to the door at Gold's Gym in Venice tell patrons the place is closed.
(Ronald D. White / Los Angeles Times)

“I had already anticipated asking clients about training at home,” he said. “I’m also starting to build an online platform where I can guide people through their fitness routines.”

Southern California fitness facilities including Actually Awesome Yoga, Open Circles, Theta Pin and True Fitness were already among about 500 gyms and studios that had turned to BurnAlong, which helps them get their workouts online.

The Baltimore company has gotten a surge of inquiries from Southern California in the last few days, said BurnAlong Co-Chief Executive Daniel Freedman.

“We can get some of them online and streaming classes within three hours,” he said.

Freedman said his company aimed to satisfy “the social motivation of group fitness based in the home. It’s that social experience that will hopefully prevent people from feeling depressed and isolated by these restrictions.”

Online fitness company Beachbody on Demand, which relies on an army of 340,000 influencers, has come a long way since it was founded in 1998 to peddle workouts on VHS tapes. It now has 1.7 million subscribers. The Santa Monica company’s influencers have followings of a few dozen to thousands; celebrity trainer Autumn Calabrese, has 780,000 followers on Instagram.

“Our business model is trying to make online classes as effective and gratifying as going to the gym,” said Carl Daikeler, Beachbody chief executive, “and we have seen a real spike in demand for our services in recent days. Some of it is as simple as moms scheduling a morning recess class for physical activities for their kids. At other timesk we can have as many as 200 people on the same Zoom group fitness call.

“This is the last kind of good luck that you want to have,” he said, “but it’s pretty cool knowing we have a catalog of 1,200 different workouts that people can use at a time like this.”

Adam Friedman fears that if the virus continues to spread unabated, a general quarantine could be ordered that would force residents to shelter in place without much in the way of outside contact. “That would really affect my business and everyone else’s,” he said.

In the meantime, he’s backing the decision to close gyms. It “wasn’t an ‘if’ but a ‘when.’ It’s a necessary measure that will hopefully help slow and then stop the spread of the virus.”