Surviving COVID-19: some thoughts about small gyms as small businesses and your new "bizarre" coaching clients

1. POST COVID EXERCISE

A silent new syndrome or even a collection of syndromes will be part of your reality as a coach from now on. A new class of people will knock at your door. Nobody knows what to do with them. One thing is certain: they need to be active (again or from now on) or they will fuel the complex collection of health disruptions with the crushing effects of inactivity. Some will seek the physical therapist. Most will end up in your hands.

They are the people who never recovered from COVID-19 or are taking forever to recover, along a sequence of phases with bizarre new symptoms.

It will be a learning curve for you and your client. Unfortunately, science and medicine have very little to contribute right now. Maybe in a few years, they will. Your clients can't wait that long. You two will have to figure out what, how much, and how frequently physical activity works for them. A big problem will be possibly having their physicians working against you since hyperinflammatory responses are frequently triggered by exercise. You two will have to balance the pros and cons of exercising or not. Not exercising will send your client into the rapid downward spiral of decay and illness. Exercise is uncharted territory.

I will share with you my experience to the tiniest detail but remember: I have been an elite athlete and I spent decades experiencing "iron hunger" and "iron satisfaction". That's an important guide for me: how much iron hunger do I have today? No iron hunger? That's bad. It means I'm sick. But even with no iron hunger, sometimes I lift and keep hoping the iron hunger/life hunger will come back. Eventually, they do.

2. THE QUEST FOR SURVIVAL OF SMALL GYMS

Most small gyms with good lifting equipment are small businesses / sole proprietor businesses. This is the economic category that took the hardest blow during the pandemic. Stimulus money was provided for individuals, unemployment to formally employed people, and more stimulus to big business. That can't go on forever. The long term consequence would be an even higher share of the market by large chain gyms and the death of the neighborhood gym. I got my PPP loan because of my main occupation: writer and independent scholar. We have associations and unions. There are a few organizations for "fitness business owners" but they are mostly geared to the franchise studio.

I have no idea about what will happen with the pandemic and whoever says they do is lying. I am a health professional and I am part of the WHO community. We really don't know: there might be a second COVID wave and there might be an even worse economic impact.

Crushing the small neighborhood gym (and the majority of strength gyms are exactly that) may feed the other, long-lasting, and lethal pandemic: the inactivity pandemic. And that, in turn, fuels two other epidemics: the obesity epidemic and the suicide epidemic.

What are we going to do about that? We know the determinants of the last three: suicide, obesity, and inactivity. Poverty, social isolation, and loss of autonomy.

Perhaps it is time to deconstruct the social perception of reopening small gyms as satisfying a futile and childish desire to play with heavy toys and substitute it for the essential need for:

1. caring for the chronically ill with motor disabilities;

2. serving the at-risk groups (at risk for everything): the elderly, the obese, the cardio-vascular illness patients and the racial and gender minorities;

3. counteracting the lethal forces of abandonment, lack of a place of belonging, trauma, and despair;

These are just some thoughts I am throwing at you and hope you have more and better ideas. What we don't need is the small but loud crowd that minimizes the COVID-19 threat, calling it "the coughs", ridiculing patients, and also minimizing the needs of the racial minorities, of the chronically ill patients, of women and of the desperate.

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