Train Like A Girl Studios in Visalia, run by Nikki Scholl, has grown 327% in the last year. Photo via Facebook
Written by Breanna Hardy
Forced gym closures have undoubtedly changed the fitness industry, but as businesses slowly reopen, gym owners are finding what clients missed most — their community.
While some fitness studios have faced challenges keeping paid members through closure, Train Like A Girl Studios in Visalia has seen a dramatic increase.
“We have grown 327% in the last year. It’s been pretty wild,” said owner Nikki Scholl.
Her growth is attributed to her focus on gaining strength, not losing weight — a pressure that she says is growing among teen girls.
Scholl cultivated community in her studio with the Inspire Project, a project that introduces 10-to-18-year-olds to working women in male-dominant fields.
The Inspire Project couples introductions with a workout class, typically strength training. Scholl desired to bring young girls out of isolation during the pandemic, and she’s reaped the benefits of an encouraging and motivated community of women.
“They love being around each other. They do stuff together outside of the gym now,” Scholl said.
Body positivity is what brought the community together. High schoolers especially were stuck at home without space to be active and be around other kids. That took a toll on mental health as well as fitness.
“Instead of being like, ‘How much weight are you losing?’ it’s ‘How much stronger are you?’” Scholl said.
The gym was fully closed for six months, then operated online only.
Part of the pandemic was dominated by live Zoom classes three times a day, but now the majority of Scholl’s clients are back in person.
“I think people are starting to value health a little bit more, but I also think people are starting to value movement in general,” Scholl said.
Terry Mumby, co-owner of F45 Training in north Fresno, said the community built around workouts is supplemental to physical health.
“Whether they’ve gained weight or they feel unhealthy, they’re going to seek ways to maintain their fitness goals,” Mumby said.
F45 Training opened March 2020 just when businesses shut down, and never got to launch an official grand opening.
Business regulations were to blame for pandemic woes, and “indoor activities were frowned upon for a while,” he said. While F45 Training offered classes on Zoom, it was difficult to engage members online. The studio is slowly increasing its membership more than a year after opening officially.
The training studio specializes in high intensity interval training, which Mumby said is essential for joint health, injury prevention and ligament health.
He said the gym is very social in terms of support. Members have shared goals and they motivate each other.
MetalMark, a rock climbing gym, has reopened three different times throughout the year, said Manager Marie Garringer. Most people had their accounts frozen, but some chose to pay their membership fees to benefit the gym.
“It’d be great if we were at a higher capacity, obviously, because we bring in more income,” said Garringer.
Members are starting to unfreeze their accounts and come back cautiously.
Garringer has heard sentiments of members losing strength, gaining weight and missing the community.
“This is really some members’ second home. You know, they call it a home away from home. The community is very close here,” Garringer said.
Garringer said that going to the gym helps people’s states of mind.
“People’s mental health is just as important as physical health,” Garringer said.