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Business owners in the health and fitness industry are relying more on telehealth and social media to continue connecting with their clients and patients.

April 16, 2020

While many businesses have experienced adverse effects of COVID-19, the health and fitness industry is especially vulnerable. Social distancing orders by the state of Maryland have created a challenge for business owners in the physical activity sector since they rely heavily on contact with their patients and clients. Gyms, physical therapy practices and fitness studios have had to tackle the existential threat of COVID-19 and provide physical and mental health solutions remotely for their clients.

Several businesses have halted or adjusted their memberships to retain clients, while others have converted their classes and/or appointments to a completely online format. Creative thinking and adaptation of their normal practices have allowed these businesses to continue serving their clients. Here we highlight two University of Maryland Kinesiology alumni business owners who are remaining resilient through COVID-19 and continuing to promote health and wellness in new ways.

Bryan Woodard (BS ‘18): Maryland Strength and Human Performance

The biggest impact COVID-19 has had on my business is the ability to provide personal training services in person. Personal training is my largest form of revenue for my business. Due to the government closures of fitness centers and social distancing guidelines, we can no longer offer personal training the way started out. To adapt to these changes, we have had to move our services to 100 percent online personal training. We can still provide the same accountability but now reach twice as many people. My biggest takeaway from this experience so far is that the gym was just a tool to deliver my personal training service. I'll always be able to connect with my clients, online or in-person, to provide a fitness experience that is personal to them.

There were definitely challenges moving online and there wasn't a 100 percent conversion of all clients. We retained about 90 percent of our in-person clients, converting them to online training. The biggest challenge was getting clients convinced that the workouts could be effective even without all of the equipment they had access to at the gym. It was more difficult to convince my strength-based clients because they now lacked the heavier equipment but helping them understand that during times like these, they just need to focus on movement. We have had to adapt some workouts for some and loaned out equipment to others that wanted more intensity in their workouts.

 

Angie Prescott (BS ‘06): ACRO Physical Therapy

Pictured below, Angie shares what it's like to deliver physical therapy via Telehealth.

ACRO Physical Therapy & Fitness is a small manual therapy physical therapy practice located in College Park, MD. With the COVID-19 outbreak, I voluntarily closed its doors to in-person physical therapy sessions on Tuesday, March 17th. While Governor Hogan listed Physical Therapy under "essential businesses/services," my practice utilizes skilled hands-on work and I felt that there was no way to safely treat our patients without increasing their exposure or our risk (or taking valuable personal protective equipment out of the hands of emergency medical professionals). The first rule of medicine, "do no harm," resonated with me and I refused to put ACRO Physical Therapy's financial success ahead of the health of its patients and staff. 

This meant a huge change to the business and adjusting to digital options for care quickly posed quite a challenge. By March 19th (2-days later), I rolled out our Telehealth physical therapy sessions through ACRO's online booking/patient portal website. The goal was to ensure continuity of patient care and keep revenue coming into the practice so employees could stay on the payroll. 

Two weeks later, these sessions have proven to be an amazing asset for ACRO's patients and have allowed me to keep all of my staff (many of whom are Maryland students & graduates) on payroll and employed. The sessions challenge me (and my other physical therapists) to think critically about movement and visually assess dysfunction. Patients gain a great deal of understanding from their experience—and most have mentioned that they feel empowered by the information and excited to be able to "fix themselves" using the myofascial releases, stretches and strengthening prescribed during the session. This week ACRO Physical Therapy has also added online personal training, online fitness assessment/program design and is selling clothing through our website as further services to allow patients and clients to stay connected—and us to stay employed!

These moments of the extreme challenge also represent opportunities for creativity, growth and ingenuity. I'm grateful that those skills, among others that have made me successful in my field, were developed during my time at the University of Maryland as a Kinesiology major and a member of the University of Maryland Gymkana Troupe! Stay Fearless!