coping with covid

Living Through Lockdown: A Club Perspective

Health club owner Mel Tempest, shares her first-hand challenges from COVID-19 and the tips that others can take away from her experiences.

What does it take to be successful through a lockdown? No live clients. Closed until… who knows?


And an attitude that says “I will win this, no matter what!” Shutting the doors to my club on 22nd March was gut wrenching.

I opened my club in 2003 to create my own destiny and forge my own path; to be a catalyst for change in an industry that I love and am deeply passionate about. Now, all of a sudden, I’m turned into what feels like a puppet on a string at the mercy of a government trying to contain a highly infectious virus.

Ultimately we are all facing the same challenges, united by the fact that none of us were ever likely to have been prepared for what’s eventuated.

So here we are, six months later and in Victoria we’re into Lockdown 2.0, just six weeks after opening after Lockdown 1. Following are some insights as to how things changed in our club.

Lockdown 1

We rented out group fitness equipment. Some people paid and some didn’t.

Lockdown 2

Everybody paid!

Lockdown 1

We delivered free group fitness classes via Facebook Live. We uploaded them to a web-based app and the whole community got active.

Lockdown 2

We set up a closed members only Facebook group for classes and sold online Facebook memberships to non-members. We charged everybody $5 per week for the web-based app. We only leave the classes on the Facebook group page for 48 hours.

Lockdown 1

We texted and rang members consistently, and did video updates on our social media platforms to stay in touch with our members. We ran silly updates and random question posts to create some light-hearted conversations. And it worked – our members remained engaged with our club.

Lockdown 2

Repeat the above!

On opening after Lockdown 1 we gave our members 25% discount off their current direct debit membership fees for a month. And, of course, all members who had paid upfront received an extra 13 weeks on their membership
63% of our members returned after lockdown. The rest stayed on hold and participated in our free weekly Facebook Live classes. With only 10 people per in-club class allowed, we had to figure out a way to stay connected to the rest of our paying members who couldn’t get a spot, as well as the non-paying ones who weren’t ready to return. The large majority who did return to the club were “gym” members (and WOW, they sure did love the wipes!).

The longer we were open, the more members returned. Primarily because they were seeing online our extensive efforts to make the club safe, sanitised and social.

Some members rang and said they weren’t ready, which was understandable. Many members offered to pay for their membership while we were closed, but I refused to accept their money. Some members moved out of the region, to support or be supported by their families, so we had to say goodbye.

The thing I noticed in the lead up to lockdown 2.0 was the grieving that was taking place in our club. Our members were visibly heartbroken but not just for them, for us! Their club family.

For many people life will never be the same again. For some, the mental anguish, the loss of control, and the financial devastation simply cannot be repaired. While the future may look very different compared to our past, the key to our success is to focus on what we can control, and to continue to do the very best we can with what we have.

We all love what we do; it’s why we do it. We’re all navigating these unchartered waters differently but remember, passion won’t pay the bills. The best thing we can all do at this time is be honest, realistic, innovative and open to change. ®

Here are a few tips for my fellow club owners, managers and instructors.

  1. Don’t give up your digital appearance. Even when you reopen your face-to-face / bricks-and-mortar business again, you must retain an online component of your business.
  2. If you haven’t already, sit down and look at your expenses. Remove all unnecessary spending. Be brutally honest with yourself and for now, cut out anything that isn’t directly helping to generate income.
  3. Recognise that this situation is a unique opportunity to reinvent your business. Where possible, give yourself permission to think laterally about what you need to do for your own physical and mental health. It may be that you want to move on and do something else for a while; Maybe you want to work for someone else or clock off at a reasonable / regular hour for a change. Let your mind explore all the opportunities and be open to change.
  4. Be the consumer in your business and ask yourself “would I buy from me?”
  5. Leave your ego at the door and ask for help if you need it. Some of the greatest relationships and career successes have come from taking this very step. Asking for help demonstrates great leadership and great leaders are great role models.


Mel Tempest

Mel Tempest

Mel Tempest is a club owner and an innovative thought leader who turns conceptual ideas into tangible results. She’s been doing this instinctively since she was a kid, and now Mel has carved out an award-winning career of applying her superpower to help businesses, organisations and individuals acquire unforeseen levels of success. Mel is the founder of Ignite Fitness Business events, and the founder and podcast host of the Gym Owner’s Fitness Business Podcast. She’s also the founder of the Gym Owner’s Business Network, founder of the Women Leaders’ Fitness Business Platform, and a Brand Ambassador for FITREC, the Healthy Ageing Summit and FIBO USA. Learn more at