So, he told members to come pick up equipment from his gym – and take it with them, free of charge.
“We don’t want anything left in here,” Whitted said he told members. “If our members can’t come in and train, we want you to take it home and keep training.”
Whitted is among the many across the US who had to close his business’ doors amid the coronavirus pandemic. He shut down Be Strong Gym, in Bloomington, Illinois, last month.
But, he knew many of his members were missing their regular workout routines – so he told members they could sign up to check out items to use at home while the studio is closed.
About 80 members of Be Strong Gym took Whitted up on his offer. In total, the gym distributed about $40,000 worth of equipment, including barbells, weights, exercise bikes, rowers and mats.
“It was awesome,” Whitted said. “We cleared the gym out in under two hours.”
Whitted and his staff helped people pick out what they’d need. The gym has been holding online training sessions every day, so members can work out together virtually.
“I really encourage members to take things home that they loved, and they knew they were going to use every day,” he said.
Currently eight people work at the gym, and Whitted said he plans to keep paying them for as long as the shutdown lasts.
“My staff will not miss a single dollar for their paycheck for as long as it takes,” he said.
Paulette Cocco, who before the pandemic hit worked out at Be Strong three or four times a week, said the online workouts have helped keep the gym’s community spirit.
“So you see people posting their pictures and their workouts and makes you feel … pressured, almost like ‘I gotta get my workout in because, you know, Judy got her workout in I need to to,’” she said.
She was able to borrow a barbell, some weights and a heavy wall ball.
Cocco had gone to a sporting goods store to buy some equipment when she heard that gyms were shutting down – but the store had already closed.
“He (Whitted) had recently put in a lot of money into getting new equipment the gym’s been growing and we have such a great community,” she said. “I mean his equipment is really beautiful, so it was a big sacrifice.”
Whitted said the gym offered members a free month to make up for the time that the gym has been closed. But he said he got calls from several members insisting the gym still take their dues.
“I personally don’t want to take that (offer) because he’s been so generous,” Cocco said.
Cocco said her oldest daughter and her husband have started working out with her, and they might join the gym when it reopens.
Whitted said one pro of people having to stay at home is that many are getting their families involved in their workouts.
“Now I see a whole family, getting through this shelter in place, getting through this tough time doing these workouts together, bonding together, becoming healthier and happier together as a family unit,” he said.
Whitted said he expects the equipment will flow back in once he can reopen because members will be excited to workout together again.