In 2021, I'm Supporting More Small Fitness Businesses - Here's How You Can, Too

Christina Stiehl
·4-min read
Rear View of beautiful young Asian woman listening music with earphone and checking social media on smartphone, sitting on the exercise mat after practicing yoga.
Rear View of beautiful young Asian woman listening music with earphone and checking social media on smartphone, sitting on the exercise mat after practicing yoga.

It's hard to beat the convenience of one-click ordering online and have shampoo, paper towels, and a $20 sweater delivered to your doorstep in two days. But if 2020 has taught me anything, it's that small businesses are the backbone of the community. It's what makes New York City the greatest city in the world: and each week as I watched restaurants, bars, and independent shops close their doors for good, leaving once-vibrant city blocks dark with empty storefronts, it reminded me how important it is to support the local businesses in your neighborhood.

So I ordered takeout from my favorite restaurants, bought to-go cocktails and merch from my favorite bars, and shopped for birthday and Christmas gifts at local boutiques. But it also got me thinking about all the small fitness studios and independent trainers that are struggling to stay afloat during the pandemic.

In 2020, Monster Cycle, the NYC-based small boutique indoor cycling studio known for its HIIT classes and alternative music playlists, launched Monster Live to stream live workout classes during the pandemic. I rented an indoor cycling bike for a few months and took the live classes over Zoom, including my beloved emo night class. One of my favorite Flywheel instructors, Dionne Littleton (@danceloverun), brought her upbeat playlist and positive energy to her Pop Princess ride that I took from the comfort of my living room. I was intimidated by Pilates, but took Ky Digregorio's KD Pilates classes and got comfortable on the mat.

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By the fall, I joined Amanda Margusity's socially-distanced, mask-on outdoor circuit class in Carl Schurz Park in New York City's Upper East Side. And while I didn't get a chance to work out as much as I would have liked in 2020, whether it be a busy work schedule, stress, depressive moods, or a combination of all three, there was something special about working out with a live person, even if it was over a computer screen.

These workouts feel like such a personalized experience because the instructors get to know you by name, add your favorite songs to their playlist, and genuinely try to get to know you outside of class. They correct your form while you're working out and help you modify exercises in real time to accommodate injuries. And when they give an encouraging "you got this, keep going," you know they are talking to you and not an empty room.

I tried my best to support small fitness businesses in 2020, but in 2021, I'm going to make it more of a commitment. I quit my big box luxury gym membership and invested in an indoor cycling bike (the Schwinn IC4 which I highly recommend!). I've been doing cycling and Pilates classes with NuSweat, the online workout platform taught by former instructors at Monster Cycle, who launched their new business on Jan. 1, 2021. The platform offers live workout classes over Zoom and now on-demand video rentals, and I bought an eight-class Sunrise Sweat and Stabilize package to keep me accountable with cycling and Pilates on Tuesday mornings.

"If the last year has reminded us of anything, it's that where you spend your money can have a real impact on our communities."

I'm looking forward to sweating with other small fitness businesses and independent trainers as well. I am going to check out the live-streamed rides and cardio sculpt classes at Harlem Cycle. Harlem Cycle is a Black-owned business and Harlem's first indoor cycling studio - and, based on the looks of its Instagram account, each class delivers quite the ass-kicking. I want to join the Monday night beginner classes at Alt Yoga Collective, which offers donation-based, live online classes taught by certified yoga instructors in order make yoga more accessible to everyone. All funding supports their mat program, which provides free mats for those who need them in the US. And even if there's not a local fitness studio in your neighborhood that is offering live-streamed classes, the best part about supporting small fitness businesses is that you can access them from anywhere you have a screen and the Zoom app. Instagram can be a great resource to find independent trainers and small fitness studios looking for support.

I'm not saying I'll never take a class from a large fitness corporation again, just like how I still order from Amazon or grab a coffee from Starbucks if I truly need to. But if the last year has reminded us of anything, it's that where you spend your money can have a real impact on our communities. In 2021, I'm choosing to support the small businesses and independent trainers who make the fitness community fun, accessible, and welcoming for all.