October 22, 2021

Gyms stretched financially by pandemic

Seven Valley Crossfit, Anytime Fitness close; other operations struggle to stay afloat

S.N. Briere/staff reporter

Laurie Greene, left, a fitness instructor at the YWCA in Cortland, shows her group exercise class how to do a stretch on Wednesday. The YWCA has found a way to let people participate in a few morning classes, but like many other gyms has lost funding from not being able to open its facility.

The group of about 15 adults planted their weight on their right feet, their hands on their right hips and reached their left hands high in the air as they stretched, reaching for the sky Wednesday morning.

“Now, we’re not going to throw the head back, this is not an ‘80s Jane Fonda video,” said Laurie Greene, a group fitness instructor at the YWCA in Cortland, to her Boomer Nation class, as they focused on low-intensity aerobic movements and balance, coordination and strength exercises.

The class is operating, as is the YWCA, but the five-month coronavirus-inspired shutdown is hurting. At least two gyms in the greater Cortland area have closed. Another gym owner says he can last only so long, and even those places, like the YWCA, that can operate report reduced income.

“I’m just so happy to be back doing what I do,” Greene said after the class, which takes up about 15 parking spaces in the YWCA’s lot.

The YWCA, like all gyms across the state, is still closed. But it brought some classes outside to offer people the opportunity to exercise. The classes, which run 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. Monday through Thursday, aren’t a moneymaker — in fact people aren’t charged, just asked to donate.

The loss in revenue is affecting the organization though, Greene said, noting she’s never seen anything like this in the 32 years she’s been there.

Other gyms are really struggling, too.

Dana Murdock, owner and CEO of Seven Valley CrossFit, spent Wednesday morning informing clients that her doors on Main Street, Cortland would be closing after 17 years.

“It was a really tough decision,” she said in an email. “But ultimately, I was tired of waiting for someone else to make a decision about what my future would be like and if I was allowed to earn a living or not. So I made a choice, for my own mental health, stress levels and future.”

Waiting for information from the governor’s office for the past five months has been stressful, she said. It tried online and remote coaching and outdoor workouts, but they weren’t viable.

“That helped us hang on for five months, which is longer than I ever thought we could go,” she wrote. “The outdoor workouts have a shelf life in NY as winter approaches and personally, I’m not excited about online coaching — five months of it and I’ve found I don’t love sitting behind a computer all day — and neither do my staff.”

She said that she’s very disappointed in the state’s lack of communication and “complete disregard for us as taxpaying, small town, honest and hardworking business owners.”

She said they had heard nothing about when gyms might reopen until Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Aug. 6 that gyms would be closed indefinitely, leaving her wondering what exactly indefinitely means.

“Are we closed until there’s a vaccine?” she said. “Until the virus has been eradicated? Until after the upcoming flu season? Until there’s a cure? What? Until summer of 2021? I don’t know about anyone else, but that amount of stress is not something I want in my life.”

Anytime Fitness on Route 281 in Cortlandville is also no longer in business.

An inquiry for comment on whether the closing was related to the coronavirus was sent to a provided email on the franchise’s website but there was no response.

Harold White, owner of Fitness Gap, located in the J.M. McDonald Sport Complex in Cortlandville, said he has lost around $50,000 since the shutdown.

Unemployment benefits help with the cost of living, but it doesn’t support the business costs — electricity, rent and other bills.

White said he’s reached out to some state officials to see if they can help.

“I’m hoping to stay open,” he said. “I was hoping in the fourth phase we’d be open. I could probably survive a few more months.”