Jan 21, 2021 - News

How Charlotte’s fitness industry evolves amid the pandemic

Jen Dufresne

Jen Dufresne

As gyms all over Charlotte close and lay off employees, other workout studios are adapting and new ones are opening.

Driving the news: Months after the cycle studio where she once taught closed for good, local personal trainer Jen Dufresne is opening a fitness studio for her workout program called Cross Conditioning Training this month at 2935 Providence Road.

  • The studio will offer a blend of strength and conditioning classes from Dufresne and eight other trainers.
  • Classes will be as small as four people and no bigger than 10.

Yes, but: Not everyone is growing. At YMCA of Greater Charlotte, one of the city’s largest gym networks, more than half of members have either canceled or frozen their memberships since the start of the pandemic began, says spokeswoman Heather Briganti.

That’s about $40 million in lost revenue.

  • 15 Y facilities remain open in some capacity, whether it’s as a gym, as a COVID-19 testing site, or for blood drives.
  • “We are thankful that because we are more than a gym, unlike traditional gyms, we have been able to pivot our efforts to serve the community more than ever before,” Briganti says.

Why it matters: Charlotte’s fitness industry has had to evolve to survive the pandemic.

  • People want more options on how and where they work out, Dufresne says, and they want a personalized experience.

Because of the pandemic, Dufresne decided to specialize in small group training sessions as well as virtual classes, which she says are both here to stay. “It will have more of a local feel. People will get more one on one attention,” Dufresne said of CCT.

Zoom out: The pandemic has forced once-popular fitness studios to close for good, including Yoga One, CycleSouth, Tread Happy, and Flywheel Sports, where Dufresne and two of her trainers taught before the studio filed for bankruptcy. With ongoing capacity restrictions, studios have had to adapt.

  • Several Charlotte yoga studios started offering virtual classes, such as Charlotte Yoga, Om Charlotte, and VIBE5 Yoga & Fitness.
  • Other new fitness studios to open during the pandemic include Orangetheory Fitness (coming soon to Park Road Shopping Center) and Charlotte FIT (in University City).

Hilliard Studio Method, which specializes in Pilates-like workouts, started offering both outdoor and Zoom classes during the pandemic, in addition to their traditional in-person sessions.

Hilliard Studio Method (photo is pre-pandemic)
  • The Zoom classes (called “HSM at Home”) are taught live out of HSM’s Myers Park studio and give participants a personal experience. Instructors call out everyone’s names and provide corrections and encouragement throughout class.
  • The outdoor classes (HSM Outdoor) take place in HSM’s parking lot.

“The positive side of this quarantine has been the discovery a new and more efficient way to run my fitness business,” HSM founder Liz Hilliard said.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect the current number of YMCA branches open (15).


Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Charlotte.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More Charlotte stories


Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Charlotte.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more