Enable Personal Training Services in Phase 1

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We are writing this letter to urge government officials in VA to consider allowing private physical fitness studios to perform appointment-based personal training services in a limited capacity with strict precautions during Phase 1 of the Forward Virginia plan.

This letter is not proposing leniency on general gym access or large group exercise classes. Our request is to allow facilities to safely administer private training sessions in a highly controlled environment based on the following:

1. Private fitness studios are equipped with the facilities, controls, and knowledge to safely administer strict precautions for capacity, distancing, cleanliness, and safety.

2. Personal training services are critical to many people’s health, increasing their chances of survival against viruses and many other diseases impacting the US population.

3. The economic impact of closure of fitness facilities will gravely damage the individuals that own and operate them, as well as the overall economy.

-- EXPLANATION IN FURTHER DETAIL BELOW

1. Private fitness studios have capabilities in place to administer personal training services safely and securely. In many cases, fitness studios are better equipped than other retail establishments in their ability to provide ample distancing and execute strict measures to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

• Fitness studios have software systems already in place to schedule and manage appointments, provide capacity limits, and track client information.

• Fitness studios generally have large open space areas with significant square footage per patron, high ceiling clearances, and high-quality HVAC systems, allowing for proper air circulation and distancing between patrons and staff.

• Fitness studio professionals have no need to touch patrons or to be within closer proximity to patrons than the recommended 2-3 meters and can utilize facemasks and other safety accessories.

o In comparison, personal groomers must remain in close proximity to patrons for prolonged periods of time while performing their services in confined spaces and require a level of physical touch between patron and staff.

• Private personal training is a highly supervised and controlled environment. In this environment, fitness professionals can fully monitor and enforce activities including cleaning measures, spacing between individuals, use of equipment, surfaces touched, and actions taken (including hand washing or other behavior).

o In comparison, retail stores cannot provide complete supervision against every patron based on the ratio of patrons to staff and visibility into aisle-ways, making it difficult to safeguard all products and surfaces touched and enforce appropriate distancing measures between patrons.

• Fitness studios are accustomed to extensive cleaning measures with scheduled professional cleaning services, staff cleaning policies, sanitizing stations, gym wipe stations and more. These measures can easily be enhanced and increased to accommodate the current situation.


2. Services provided by private fitness studios are essential to people’s health.

Personal training services are intended to (and proven to) promote better health, reduce risk of disease, reduce mental illness, increase immune system response, and enhance quality of life. These services are essential to many lives and protect people against the exact underlying medical conditions that are causing severe symptoms in those infected with COVID-19.

Having individuals responsible for their own exercise regimens has not proven to be an effective strategy for the general public. Individuals can exercise on their own, but the reality is the majority of individual’s either will not or cannot properly adopt and execute an appropriate program for their unique health needs and medical conditions.

Unfortunately, virtual training platforms are not an equivalent substitute to in-person training and come with larger barriers to adoption and execution. In person training provides not only the necessary equipment, space, and environment for a proper workout, but also the accountability, tailored coaching, motivation, injury prevention, and prescription that comes from a certified fitness professional.

In addition to helping enhance individual’s health, professionals such as athletes, bodybuilders, and fitness competitors rely on personal coaches and physical fitness facilities to maintain their ability to compete in their profession and maintain their income. Ultimately, the pursuit of better health should not be considered a lower priority than other business services such as personal grooming and non-essential shopping.


3. The economic impact of keeping fitness studios closed is immense.

The fitness industry in Virginia accounts for $601.9 million in annual revenue; $27.5 million in payroll taxes, $252.8 million in total payroll benefits and approximately 40,000 jobs, according to the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association. Keeping private fitness studios closed will come at a high cost to the individual business owners, the staff, the community, and the economy, and may result in the permanent closure of many facilities.

Retail businesses have high fixed expenses (rent, utilities, equipment, etc.) that cannot go unpaid. With facilities closed, fitness studios cannot obtain the revenue needed to cover those expenses. Virtual programs and outdoor services will be challenging business models for brick-and-mortar facilities and will not bridge the gap. Private personal training is a promising near-term solution for recouping some of the business revenue needed and providing wages to fitness professionals, as the services come with a high payout, and the fitness centers already have the capabilities to administer them safely.

To ensure the physical, mental, and financial health of the people of our great state, we request that officials consider allowing fitness studios to safely perform private personal training services.