Pandemic shrinks New Year's crowds at gyms

The New Year is typically when gyms see a rush on new memberships, but the crowds have shrunk this year due to the coronavirus pandemic and gym owners are trying to balance their needs for business with keeping their members safe.

For Tommy DeCanio, the owner of Powerhouse Gym in Bayside, Queens, which reopened in September, some people are better than none, but the numbers are far below the usual expectation of 75-100 new members each January.

"It's a lot slower," DeCanio said. "There hasn't been the influx of members that we were expecting."

DeCanio says the 25% jump in membership is vital to the gym's business.

"We rely on the spike," said DeCanio, who has not paid himself a salary since the gym reopened. "It's been horrible."

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The International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association estimates that the pandemic, whenever it ends, will have forced as many as 25% of the gyms and fitness studios in the nation to close.

Association of Fitness Studios founder and CEO Josh Leve says he expects that the people now working out at home to return to gyms and studios when they feel comfortable.

"What members want in their new normal is not going to be about the best workout, the most equipment or the most classes. It will be about whether or not I trust my health to you and your team. Clean, sparse, sterile, almost antiseptic will sell the client. The next years in the business will belong to those that can individualize the workout process," Leve said in a statement.