Local gyms are livestreaming workouts and using video conferencing apps to coach their clients.
Bike stores are delivering sanitized bikes to the doorsteps of their riders via employees wearing gloves and masks.
And running-shoe shops are selecting footwear for new runners by asking customers to e-mail them a photo of their feet.
Although many fitness-related retailers and businesses have had to lock their doors as a result of Gov. Tim Walz’s stay-at-home order, Twin Cities exercisers and the companies that cater to them are still finding ways to connect and get the gear, instruction and motivation to keep moving.
The SweatShop, an independent boutique health club in St. Paul, is one of many closed gyms in the city that is offering free videos or online streams of instructors leading workouts after the studio shut its doors March 15.
But owner Gayle Winegar said paying clients have also been able to access more extensive group classes and one-on-one workouts with trainers using remote conferencing programs like Zoom.
Her gym has been selling gear to clients and suggesting substitutes so they can continue their workouts at home. For barre class, Winegar said, “you can use a kitchen chair.”
She also said the gym has been providing a type of training for clients that has nothing to do with strength or aerobic fitness: “We’re doing a crash course on Zoom which is included in our membership,” she said.
Claudia Root, a Pilates instructor at the SweatShop, said interaction between the clients and the trainer and between the clients and each other is a key part of the gym class experience.
“That sense of community can still be fostered online,” Root said. “It’s not just about the exercise.”
Max Kafka, owner and head instructor at the Grappler Station, a judo, jiu jitsu and wrestling gym in St. Paul, has also turned to Zoom to conduct classes with students at their homes.
Kafka has sent students home with extra judo uniforms so that instead of grappling with a fellow student, they can practice their moves on a parent or a sibling acting as a surrogate opponent.
Running and biking
Some people, however, are hitting the road after being shut out of their gyms.
Jeff Metzdorff, owner of the Mill City Running in Minneapolis, said business at his running-shoe shop was “tremendous” earlier this spring.
Metzdorff said new customers were coming to the shop saying, “I’m not a runner, but my gym is closed.”
But in-store sales “came to a screeching halt” when he had to lock his doors on March 18.
Metzdorff said he has continued to sell shoes online, trying to find the right shoe and fit using FaceTime calls or asking customers to text or e-mail photos of their feet.
At the Run N Fun store in St. Paul, customers can still order shoes over the phone and an employee will deliver them to your car, said store co-owner Kari Bach.
Because they provide a form of transportation, bike stores in the state have been deemed an essential business and are able to stay open during the stay-at-home order.
“We’ve had a couple of people come in and say, ‘I have to repair my bike because I’m laid off and can’t afford to drive my car,’ ” said Jeff Hagen, manager of Now Bikes in Arden Hills.
“It’s been busy,” said Jake Helmbrecht, general manager for the nine Freewheel Bike locations in the Twin Cities. “We’re probably seeing more new riders than we’ve seen in years.”
He said the store has had to limit the number of customers who can be in the store at one time, and it cleans every bike after every test ride.
Freewheel also offers a “black glove” delivery service, where your purchase can be dropped off at your doorstep by a driver “wearing nitrile gloves, a respirator mask and sanitizing the touch surfaces of your bike upon delivery.”
Hagen said sales have also picked up for “smart trainers” or “smart bikes.”
These are essentially high-tech stationary bikes or trainers that can be paired with an interactive cycling game like Zwift, that take you on a virtual ride through London or New York, where your avatar races with your friends or cyclists around the world.
It’s sort of a sweaty version of a multiplayer online video game. “You can all sit on your bikes and trash-talk each other,” Hagen said.
Richard Chin • 612-673-1775