On an early August morning in Rosslyn, fast-paced dance music played in the shopping center parking lot outside Good Sweat.
A group of ten, sitting on gray and black stationary bikes spaced over six parking spots, pedaled to the beat while coach Edgar Hernandez gave encouragement through a microphone.
“We’re gonna wake up Rosslyn this morning,” Hernandez said to the group. “Come on!”
This scene has become common for Good Sweat, an indoor cycling studio that now holds all its classes in its parking lot.
Like many other small businesses, Good Sweat has been forced to adapt how it serves customers amid the pandemic. For founder and owner Alessandra “Ali” Hashemi, moving classes outdoors was the only way to safely still conduct group exercise.
“We knew that we wanted to keep the community in the forefront,” Hashemi said. “Health and wellness are our core mission, so we want to honor that by providing people with the safest option possible for in-person group fitness.”
Good Sweat originally stopped all in-person operations in March when Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam ordered non-essential businesses to close.
Shortly after, the studio began offering virtual classes. Customers could buy access to daily Zoom live streams and pre-recorded workouts for both on and off the bike. Good Sweat also started renting out its 30 Stages SC3 bikes for at-home use.
Hashemi said the virtual option had a lot of initial participation, but riders logged off as the realities of a solo workout set in.
“It’s so hard to recreate [the feeling of a group workout],” Hashemi said. “[Good Sweat’s customers] feed off the energy of others… If you’re a group fitness person, and that’s your personality, you’re going to just do much better when you’re around others versus through a screen.”
During this virtual period, Hashemi also began negotiating with Good Sweat’s landlord to use part of the parking lot for classes. Good Sweat, like other Northern Virginia gyms, could open indoors at 30% capacity on June 12 and 75% capacity on July 1, but Hashemi chose to forgo that and have all operations outdoors starting July 4.
“Just because we can doesn’t mean we should,” Hashemi said. “Even though we can be inside, we’re really committed to staying outside as long as possible. We know that’s the safest way to [reopen].”
Good Sweat now holds 2-3 classes a day with ten riders and a coach. A majority of these classes are sold out as regular customers return and a few new ones join each day, according to Hashemi.
Another core part of Good Sweat’s business that has continued despite the hardship caused by the pandemic is its charitable giving.
Hashemi describes Good Sweat as a place where people can “sweat it out while giving back.” The business, which Hashemi said is not currently profitable, donates up to 5% of its monthly revenue to a select charity. That did not change during the virtual period, Hashemi said.
“[Charitable giving] has been something that wasn’t an afterthought and is something that is so consistent and just baked into what we do that it is not something we start and stop,” Hashemi said.
According to Hashemi, Good Sweat has donated to charities like AFAC, A-SPAN and Martha’s Table since March. Following George Floyd’s killing by police, Good Sweat gave to Black Lives Matter D.C. and the Center for Black Equity.
Recently, Good Sweat coaches have organized classes meant to raise money for timely causes. Larger portions of the proceeds go to chosen groups, which have included the Lebanese Red Cross in Beirut and Fair Fight.
“We couple [events] with action. We try to do what we can to give back. Giving money is extremely important, but also what are we doing as a community actively to support these causes?” said Hashemi.
Photo (1) courtesy Good Sweat