On Sunday, March 15, Washington state issued a mandate for gyms to close to prevent further spread of the novel coronavirus. But three days before that, as many fitness facilities remained open, Alyssa Royse made the difficult decision to temporarily (and indefinitely) shutter her gym, Rocket CrossFit in Seattle. It meant that she and her husband-slash-co-owner, Brady Collins, would likely lose weeks' or even months' worth of income and possibly have to shut down—but she felt it was the right thing to do.
"We cannot, with a clear conscience, operate a gym right now," she wrote on the CrossFit box's blog. "So we closed. Why? Because social-distancing is the only thing that works."
To make the most medically-informed decision possible, Alyssa had consulted a team of doctors who are also members. “First, their advice was as simple as ‘start bleaching, remove cloth towels, move to paper towels, limit class sizes, and no sharing equipment,'" says Alyssa. "Then, they started saying we have to close.”
Alyssa says she and her husband were initially panicked. "We are small business owners, and when you talk about closing, our revenue is 100 percent member-based," she says. "If members quit or ask for refunds or a hold, we have no revenue, so we lose our business. What stressed us out the most was whether we would be able to pay our coaches. What if we couldn't pay them? Then they might not be able to feed themselves, pay rent, buy medication. That’s what made us sick.”
But Alyssa and Brady didn't have to worry for long. Almost immediately after Brady announced Rocket CrossFit's closure on Facebook, Alyssa was bombarded with dozens of supportive messages from members. “There was a literal flood of sweet emails saying ‘Don’t worry, we got this.’" Client after client told her that they would continue to pay their membership fees.
Of Rocket CrossFit's 225 enrolled members, just under 99 percent have volunteered to continue paying their membership fees in full (Alyssa notes that this number represents everyone who can afford to continue paying). Some have offered to contribute even more.
"I was literally sobbing," Alyssa says. "I realized we’d be okay and that our members would support us."
In the past, Alyssa has allowed members who are sick or struggling financially to forgo payments when needed. "You reap what you sew," she says.
One message from a client read, “I’m happy to double or triple or even quadruple my monthly dues for a few months to help you two out and to help others out who will have a hard time paying. That can start immediately. All in this together and will all come out of it together.”
Another member wrote, “I am not going anywhere. And if there is a discussion about increasing current memberships to help cover the cost for those in financial stress over the coming months, I want to be a part of that, too. As this (coronavirus, election season and whatever else Universe decides we can handle) plays itself out, we are all going to need this sanctuary even more.”
One client, who had previously frozen her payments due to chemotherapy treatments, offered to reinstate them even though she still can't do CrossFit routines (Alyssa and Brady are offering members various forms of home workouts via routines posted on Rocket CrossFit's Instagram account and Zoom meetings).
“This is terrible and terrifying, but it has the power to bring out the best in who we are and what we do," says Alyssa.
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