Peter Hartman’s home gym was set up before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
Hartman doesn’t have a crystal ball. He also doesn’t sell used fitness equipment, an industry that’s booming now with gyms and fitness centers forced to shut down twice since April in Minnesota.
Hartman is a social studies teacher and assistant football coach at Prior Lake High School. He’s also a coach for Laker Performance, a weight and fitness training program for Prior Lake athletes.
“I got lucky with the timing of COVID-19,” Hartman said. “We moved over a year ago (to Lakeville), and outfitting a home gym was part of the negotiation with my wife about the move. In other words, the home gym was setup before COVID-19.
Hartman said the home gym has become “invaluable” for his family. His wife Heather was a regular Life Time Fitness class-goer before the pandemic and has still not returned to her usual routine. She gets in workouts via online classes with friends in each other’s garages and has started using her husband’s home gym equipment.
“I’ve used COVID-19 as an excuse to get some additional equipment recently,” Hartman said.
Hartman is not the only one bulking up their basement gyms. The used fitness equipment industry has benefited from the pandemic, even more so now that the winter months are coming.
Jay Fotso, manager at the Johnson Fitness & Wellness in Burnsville said there’s been a lot of foot traffic in his store and sales have been way up since the summer. Johnson Fitness & Wellness is one of the largest specialty fitness retailers in the U.S. with 12 stores in Minnesota, including locations in Chanhassen and Edina.
“There’s definitely been more demand,” Fotso said. “Winter sales are usually good and could be even better this year.”
According to the NDP Group, a market research company, sales of fitness equipment has risen by 130% since the pandemic began compared to last year. Stackline, an e-commerce data company, recorded a 307% jump in online sales of weight-training equipment back in the spring.
“It’s been a good time for people to try something new,” Fotso said.
According to the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association, the health club industry lost roughly $14 billion in revenue since the pandemic began, and an estimated one-fourth of the country’s 40,000 fitness facilities could close without financial relief by the end of the year.
For Hartman, the home gym has also allowed his two young children to stay active during the pandemic.
“Fitness has truly been a saving grace for me and my family throughout this pandemic,” he said. “It provides a healthy outlet that I can control. So much going on throughout the world recently has been out of our control. It’s comforting to know that I can head down to my basement and get a solid workout in anytime my schedule allows.
Hartman said he regularly sets up routines for his kids and others in the neighborhood.
Staying fit has also been a challenge for high school athletes. Spring sports in the Minnesota State High School League were canceled last April.
Summer activities were played but were limited, and this fall the MSHSL had abbreviated seasons for high school teams. Winter sports have also been paused.
Hartman said the Prior Lake football and track coaches got together to give athletes some direction with their fitness needs and goals, as well to bring a sense of community.
The coaches posted CrossFit-style workouts for all teams. There was video direction and workout strategies on the team’s Schoology pages. Athletes could post their results along with doing a video and share ideas on the discussion board.
And many of these workouts were done in home gyms.
“Our athletes are pretty self-motivated and dedicated,” Hartman said. “This was a fantastic way for athletes to compete with one another, hold each other accountable, and most importantly, connect with one another.”