A New Wave: CFLS Goes Online Full-Time

Dear Community: 

After much reflection, we have decided that we are not going to continue offering group classes after re-opening is allowed for gyms in Ontario. 

We will be transitioning our training to online-only, with the possibility of personal training (1:1, 2:1) once that is allowed and for as long as 12 Main Street North remains under our care. As this shift in business model no longer requires such a large space oriented to group training, we will also be entertaining options to release our financial liability over the facility through sale or lease.

We are naturally disappointed in the turn of events over the last few months. This isn’t our first bout with immense disappointment in the face of what we thought would be, as we surely will be again. But we have, and will continue to, believe that our days are mapped and valuable. That we can joyfully continue to care for our family and others, even if it looks different than we originally planned. So, in all things we ask ourselves, “How can we serve God, our family, and others,” while also remaining healthy and whole ourselves? These are the questions that drive our decision making day-by-day, and how we have arrived at our decisions about the ways CrossFit Lambton Shores will and will not move forward through and beyond the COVID-19 closure. 

Coaching with a smile has always been a part of our philosophy. In that spirit, this letter won’t be full of boo-hoo’s and if-only’s. In the effort, though, to help each of you understand what you reasonably should, we’ll include some details about the business and personal reasons that have contributed to this decision.

Why We’re Changing Course: Business 

To be very clear, this decision isn’t political and it isn’t being made in anger or grief.

We don’t blame anyone, government or individual. We understand that some people want businesses to open and others want them to stay closed longer. We know that some have thrived under our current operating model, while for some it has been a near-impossibility for motivation and action. We respect everyone’s opinions and circumstances. 

We also aren’t completely out of money or in dire straits, but math is math and when the numbers stop adding up, we need to pivot in order to do what’s right for our members and our family.

Reopening plans are ongoing in Ontario, but the latest news does not point to the inclusion of gyms for quite some time. Reopening plans in other places, which we can use to predict what that will look like in Ontario, change our entire business model. We support public-health measures to keep people safe, but the reality is that the old plan doesn’t work anymore. The economics and logistics of staffing, particularly running more classes at less capacity, simply don’t work at present given the fixed costs associated with 12 Main Street N. We would also be devoting our out-of-class time to staying in constant contact with members who chose to stay online in order to ensure they have everything they need to train.

So many have said that they can’t wait to get back to the gym, but it simply would not have been business as usual in any way. In fact, many of the things that made the gym special would have changed. Limitations on class size, spacing requirements, cleaning procedures, screening at entry, discouraging congregation—all of that has been declared necessary for public health. But that would not be the business we opened.

We don’t want to be security guards. We don’t want to be cleaners. And we don’t want to send someone home because he or she has an allergy flareup with COVID-like symptoms.

We want to be fitness and nutrition coaches. And we can still do that. Over the last months, we proved to ourselves that we can still help people get fit online. We know it with certainty. In fact, we realized that in some cases our online coaching is actually better than our in-person coaching.

Since March 17, we’ve connected with some members in a more meaningful way almost daily, as well as new members who had never before considered working with us in the facility. And we realized something: Online training solves many issues. It removes barriers to entry related to travel, time away from loved ones, strict scheduling, and self-consciousness.

The industry has changed, and CFLS will evolve as a business to find a place in the new landscape. It may seem like we just started out, but there is no wrong time to make a pivot that allows you to continue to serve others. Now is the time for us to make a change.

One other reason stands above all this business talk.

Why We’re Changing Course: Personal

We have now been closed for almost as many days as we were able to have the doors of CFLS open. Getting to that point, even, was a long-fought battle for our family. Relocating, fighting for support from banks, leveraging on the grace of family for places to live and child care. We are thankful for all of these things, and to have found such a beautiful welcome in Forest. But when we ask ourselves if we can do it all again in exactly the same way, the answer is no.

Our boys deserve more than more months of long-hours and instability. We owe more to each other than only talking about the gym – when to clean it, how to fill it, and who sent what email. Working together on this business has been beautiful, but a married couple running a business entirely together leaves very little margin for error when it comes to supporting a family. The error of the last 2.5 months was not ours, but it holds consequences for us to face head-on.

We know we could get through the re-opening. The success of CFLS so quickly blew our minds in the winter, and we completely realize that all signs point to gyms exploding when the world rights itself a little more. We are workhorses, and we don’t have off buttons. We know how to put our heads down and grind to do what needs to be done.

But life is about more than the hustle. Our kids deserve more of us and we know that we can keep serving people the way we love while also spending time with them and giving them the childhood they should have.

We’ve decided that the most precious thing we have is time, and we want to spend more of it with each other. With COVID mashing the reset button, we have the perfect opportunity to decide how we can help people get fit and spend more quality time as a family.

What Happens Next

CFLS will be offering the same services we have been at the same rates through June 22nd.

Now, and into the future, we are offering services online. We will also be excited to resume in-person personal training once that option is returned to us. Virtual personal training is available now and going forward. 

We are already offering online services to a few who have joined us since the shutdown, and we will be providing more information about that option in the days and weeks to come.

In closing it is worth saying that this is not a decision we have taken lightly. Tears have been shed, varieties of paths have been tested and run through our mentor and other business owners that we communicate with. It wasn’t a snap decision, but we know it’s the right one for our family, and we feel compelled to share it as immediately and honestly as we can.

We are so thankful for each person who has trusted in us over the last few months. We are honored, and our coaching is not going away. The virtual waves of CFLS roll on.

With love,

Joel & Laura