What I Learned from the COVID-19 Shutdown

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Marc Coronel

 Marc Coronel, B.A. (from Whittier College), is a Senior Master Course Instructor (one of 9 worldwide) and conference presenter for TRX and TriggerPoint Therapy, as well as a Master Instructor for LifeFitness/HammerStrength/Cybex and ActivMotionBar.

// Stepping Up to the Challenge as a Gym Owner

It’s nice to see so many uplifting social media posts in the fitness world, and to hear about the kind things people in the industry have been doing for one another during the COVID-19 shutdown. I’m a naturally positive and optimistic person, so I can buy into this “let’s come together” spirit. But I also need to be real and tell you that as an extroverted person, these past few months have been a real struggle for me. Some days I haven’t felt like posting Pollyanna-ish messages of hope, but rather venting my frustrations. On others, all I want to do is scream. In this post, I’ll candidly share my experiences as a coach, small business owner, and family man, in the hope that you can find something beneficial in my words and story.

On March 15, my in-person coaching stopped instantly and I lost 75 percent of my income overnight. I don’t care what profession you’re in – that’d be a big blow for anyone to absorb. And I’ll be honest – it knocked me on my ass. My usual positivity was replaced with confusion, anger, and rage, and for a while, I couldn’t push past that. I’ve always been a hard worker, but you cannot simply outwork a global pandemic because the situation is far bigger than any one individual or company.

It’s okay to not be okay

In the end, I had to tell my wife that I was going to take a “shit day.” No, this has nothing to do with going out and buying a Squatty Potty. Rather, I had to create a situation in which I gave myself permission to stop working and fully experience the tornado of emotion that was encircling me. I cried, I hit the heavy bag, I ran until I felt like my legs were going to give out. That afternoon, my wife asked me, “Are you done yet?” I wasn’t, and took another couple of hours to process the volatile feelings that had welled up and were threatening to consume me. 

Then the next day, we got out a big white board and some markers, started scribbling ideas, and got back to business. Fortunately, we weren’t starting from zero, despite being down to a quarter of our pre-COVID income. In October, I’d started dipping my toes in the remote coaching waters via a French company, and my good friend and TRX performance director Chris Frankel asked me to do some online sessions for him.

Find the right Energy

Yet I had to reckon with the reality that many of my clients were gone, at least temporarily. Because I have a family to feed, I had no choice but to get creative and win new business. This meant conducting a lot of sales calls to replace that lost income. For a while, I really hated it. But then I realized that I didn’t have to play the role of the used car salesman and do a hard sell. Rather, if I was simply myself and let my passion for movement-based functional training shine through, the kind of clients I wanted would become inspired and come on board. This was a crucial epiphany that allowed me to stop pushing back against something I don’t like doing and am not very adept at. 

I also thought back to some of the lessons my mom used to teach me as a kid. She was all about cultivating the right kind of “energia,” which is Portuguese for “energy.” I used to get frustrated when she’d remind me over and over to only surround myself with positive people, but as a husband and father, I’ve come to realize the power in this. Energy never truly dissipates, but you can amplify it in a good way if you have those kinds of people with you, and diminish it if instead they tear you down and discourage you. So I’ve tried to focus on putting out the right sort of energia in my community and have directed what little free time I’ve had since the shutdown began to talk with close friends who are additive rather than subtractive.

Remember your worth

This camaraderie lifted my spirits (and hopefully theirs in return) from a friendship perspective. I’m also blessed to be part of a TRX coaching community in which we freely share ideas, knowledge, and expertise. As my wife and I were spit-balling ideas to rebuild our business, I toyed with the notion of lowering my coaching fee. Yet every single coach I talked to advised me against it, reminding me of all the years I’ve put into this and, as a result, my value. They also discouraged me from offering the kind of “buy eight training sessions, get two free” model that you’ve probably seen many coaches putting on their social media feeds.

Sure, we need creative ways to entice new clients to replace those we’ve lost due to COVID-19. But again, it comes back to how you define value. If you devalue yourself and your services too much, you’ll be working 24/7 and will set a bad precedent among your athletes. From that point on, they’re always going to be expecting a “bro deal” from you, and if you don’t give it to them, they might well leave and find a coach who will. At the end of the day, this is not a game I’m willing to play.

Takeaways

If you asked me for three pieces of advice for your own post-COVID-19 coaching business, here’s what I’ve got.

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First Takeaway

Do the hard things you don’t want to do or find someone else you can outsource them to. This takes some self evaluation. Understand what you are good at and lean into it even when it is hard. Also understand that you are not great at everything so find people you trust that can help.

Second Takeaway

Be real with people in your inner circle about your frustrations, fears, and concerns. Don’t be afraid to ask for their advice. This may feel like a sign of weakness, but it is far from weakness. Understanding your short comings are a sign of self awareness and wisdom.

Third Takeaway

Give yourself the chance to have a “shit day” like I did, or even an hour or two per week. You need time to blow off steam and to sit with some of the anxieties, doubts, and fears that we’re all facing for a little while. Then get back to what you do best, having full confidence that the same tools that have brought you this far are those that will serve you well going forward.

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