Since VIDA Fitness Ballston opened on June 27, about 500 members have had the 30,000 square feet to themselves.
The regional, high-end fitness chain usually sees up to four times that many people join before opening day and in the first three months. But the coronavirus has hurt the boutique gym’s ability to attract members.
After overcoming construction and pandemic-related delays earlier this year, VIDA Ballston’s biggest challenge is getting people to walk in the door, VIDA Fitness Director of Operations Aaron Moore said.
The rate of new memberships is lagging compared to other locations, since many are not comfortable with going to the gym. In response, the company has spent “tens of thousands of dollars” on cleaning equipment and takes state regulations a step further to keep the space sanitary and to follow precautions.
“Our primary motivation is how are we going to keep people safe, because if they feel safe, they’re going to feel confident keeping their memberships and telling their friends about it,” Moore said.
Typically, about 1,400 people will sign up before opening day, and another 600 to 700 will join within the first 90 days, he said.
At VIDA Ballston, 420 members signed up before June 27, and by Sept. 29, membership grew to 511, Moore said. Memberships cost $140 a month, and grant access to group workout classes and studios, personal trainers, individual equipment, a proprietary high intensity interval training studio called Sweat Box, a spa and smoothie bar.
Once people experience the check-in process and see what precautions the gym is taking, Moore said patrons feel comfortable.
The state permits gym patrons to take off their masks while exercising, but VIDA requires masks stay on. Double-layered cloth masks and 3-ply disposable masks are allowed, but gators, bandanas and masks with valves are not.
Members reserve a time on the gym’s app before arriving and go through the gym’s check-in and check-out process for record-keeping. If patrons alert staff that they tested positive for COVID-19, staff know who to contact.
“There is some honor system involved,” Moore said. “If someone doesn’t tell us they tested positive, then disappears, we’re not going to know.”
The gym has not yet had a positive case, but has told several people to stay home because they came in contact with someone who later tested positive, he said.
At check-in, patrons receive a sweat towel as well as a microfiber towel and bottle of sanitizing solution to wipe down machines. Cleaning crews use the same spray in an electrostatic cleaner to disinfect the space, which they do before opening and after closing each day.
The gym cycles outside air through the facility every three minutes, and hospital-grade purifiers in each studio clean the air.
“It’s a little overkill, but better safe than sorry,” Moore said.
The yoga and barre room has a UV-light mat cleaner attached to the wall, and studios with bikes and machines have certain stations blocked off for social distancing and are set up so that class attendees do not break social-distancing to get equipment.
Since patrons must keep their masks on, fitness instructors have modified their workouts to rely less on cardio, which tends to intensify breathing, and more on strength training, he said.
Only the Ballston location — the lone VIDA outside of the District — has opened its showers. D.C. officials oppose showers, saying the service extends the time spent inside and creates additional surfaces to disinfect, Moore said.
For those still not comfortable inside a gym, VIDA launching a new virtual fitness and nutrition program. The eight-week “Evolve” program starts tomorrow (Oct. 1), offering a weekly virtual session that includes “a 1-hour nutrition seminar with our Registered Dietitians and a 1-hour exercise class with a Top VIDA Fitness Instructor.”
“It’s once per week from Oct. 1 to Nov. 19 and fully covered under most CareFirst health insurance plans as preventative care,” according to Moore.