By Brandon Walker EBS STAFF
BIG SKY – In mid-March the fitness world was required to put down their dumbbells and turn off the treadmills when Gallatin County imposed a directive requiring fitness facilities of all types close their doors to in-person workouts in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
On March 18, the Gallatin City-County Health Department elected for the closure of fitness facilities, forcing workout enthusiasts to turn to virtual, at home workouts and running routines. Jolene Callahan, the owner of Big Sky Fitness Fusion & Pilates who relocated to Big Sky 15 years ago, decided to lead a variety of virtual fitness classes for the Big Sky community as a result.
Callahan, who purchased and expanded Big Sky Fitness Fusion & Pilates six years ago, offered virtual classes during the quarantine period. She was able to bring back five instructors on June 1 when Gallatin County allowed fitness facilities to function at 75 percent occupancy with social distancing guidelines in place, while continuing to offer the virtual attendance option.
Callahan said that roughly a quarter of participants in her fitness courses are choosing to do so virtually, while a majority of people choose to attend classes in person. She recently exchanged emails with EBS to discuss the status of the fitness world amidst the pandemic.
Explore Big Sky: In your opinion, what is the greatest key to operating successfully during a pandemic?
Jolene Callahan: “Making sure that everyone feels safe and comfortable in the environment that you create and maintaining a clean, healthy and positive atmosphere.”
EBS: What advice would you offer to new business owners currently?
J.C.: “Understand and know Big Sky. Make sure there is enough demand for your product.”
EBS: As an owner, what will you remember most from when you were able to welcome patrons and reopen the fitness facilities?
J.C.: “How good it felt to have “real” people back in the studio. We offered virtual classes during the shutdown, and that was a nice way to still be able to interact and socialize, but it was not the same as having everyone’s energy in the studio.”
EBS: How do you believe the virus will continue to affect your business in the next year?
J.C.: “I believe the virus will continue to affect my business over the course of the next year by keeping class size limited in order to maintain social distancing and safety protocols. We will keep researching and following the latest updates of how to maintain a safe workout environment. During the shut down, we offered virtual classes, and we are still offering those for people who do not feel comfortable coming into an indoor environment. This way, people are still able to socialize and interact with their friends from the studio, get a workout created by an instructor that they know and trust and their instructor knows them, and maintain a consistent workout routine.”
EBS: What has been your biggest operational challenge as you adhere to COVID-19 health and safety protocols?
J.C.: “The biggest operational challenge is keeping my classes running with fewer participants, in order to maintain a clean and safe environment. We have been following all of the safety protocols since we reopened our doors and we have not had to shut down. So we have been taking care of our clients by creating a really safe haven for people to come and work out.”
EBS: How would you characterize the feeling of hosting classes with fewer participants in attendance?
J.C.: “At the moment, hosting classes with fewer attendants makes the studio feel safer and makes it easier to keep our doors open, because we are able to maintain social distancing.”
EBS: Have you noticed a difference in the tendencies of patrons as they utilize the fitness facilities?
J.C.: “I have not noticed a big difference in the tendencies of patrons who are utilizing the fitness facilities, because we always disinfected and sanitized all of the equipment that we use, after every person is finished with it. I have noticed people being more conscious of their spacing and hygiene when interacting with others. We have always provided hand sanitizer in the studio, and all of the patrons were really good about using it before, and now everyone is using it more regularly.”
EBS: From a business perspective, what will come to mind when you reflect on the pandemic 10 years from now?
J.C.: “Ever since we were children, we’ve learned how to have good hygiene and manners, and over the course of the years, people have gotten out of following these good habits. So in 10 years, I will remember what I learned during this time.”
EBS: What’s the best business advice you’ve ever received?
J.C.: “To always be honest, and to treat people the way that you want to be treated.”