Gym owner: ‘We cannot have that pandemic fatigue’

Jen and Marcus Wilson are opening True Grit Society
Jen and Marcus Wilson

The Southwest Journal is documenting the coronavirus pandemic by recording the personal stories of Minneapolis residents and workers whose daily lives are in a state of flux. As the outbreak evolves, we will be checking in with the participants regularly. Read all of the stories here.

All interviews are conducted over the phone, and conversations are edited for length and clarity.

Jen Wilson, co-owner, True Grit Society gym

We’ve successfully been open for five months. We try to be really mindful that it’s COVID time and there’s never a simple answer. We’ve had to be super diligent about telling people to wear your mask in, wear your mask out, keep social distance, really clean off your stuff. We’ve started using bacteria-killing oil and more air filters and keeping windows and doors open. We are very lucky that we’ve had the ability to help people feel safe.

Heading into the winter, it’s a little confusing because we’re being held to standard on many different levels — from the state, the city and just personally, with ourselves, our instructors and our members. 

It’s a little difficult because there hasn’t been additional communication from the city about what the standards are. Have protocols changed? Because cases are growing and we haven’t heard anything. We’re seeing people eating in restaurants. We haven’t been out to restaurants or anything and we mask up when we go out. 

We wonder what the guidelines are. You watch the NFL and it’s two guys from a team sitting out, not even to mention the mess with the president. It’s very confusing to run our business and keep the guidelines we’ve been following and, all the while, to see opposite things on TV. They’re saying cases are going up because people are exhausted and have pandemic fatigue, and that’s understandable, but we cannot have that pandemic fatigue. We’re holding a higher standard because if we start letting people do what they want, people will start getting sick and our business will go away. So it’s exhausting on our level because we have to be so vigilant about everything. 

We’re worried because cases are increasing. We feel like we need to be at a high level over communication, really stressing that if you’re not feeling well, please think about everyone else that could be in the room with you. Don’t feel like you need to get your workout in. We tell people if they feel off at all to stay home and we will freeze your membership for the week you miss. It affects our bottom line, but we need to keep people safe. We need to do what is best not for our business right now but for people. 

We still don’t have a ton of people. Probably a sixth of our members have reactivated. The people who do come in, they’re really happy we’re open and they’re glad they have a safe place to work out. We are concerned about our instructors keeping safe and managing everybody. What Marcus and I have talked about is that there has to be a level of trust. Our members have to trust we have their best interest in mind and they have to trust each other — that people will stay home if they’re not feeling well. But these aren’t things you can assume people will know, so we have to send emails every week and remind people. 

We’re also having a problem with cancelations. It’s great that people cancel their class and we’re not going to charge them for it. But at the same time there are limited spots and if people cancel late and we have a space open that someone was in line for and they don’t get registered in time, that’s a big loss. We only have six spots in a class, and if someone cancels late and you can’t fill it, you’re out of luck.  

This is hard stuff and it takes up a lot of time to think of these minute details that impact your business. It’s exhausting. 

On a personal level, Marcus’ mom passed away a few weeks ago. She was ill, and it wasn’t totally unexpected, but it added another big challenge. I was feeling a little depressed. It’s so easy to get overwhelmed. I couldn’t find any kind of rays of sunshine, which is not normal to me. I literally went on a detox cleanse because I was eating cake every day for like two weeks. (Wuollet is really good, for the record.) I was just feeling like something was wrong, and I know I’m not the only one not feeling myself. I took out sugar, I took out caffeine. I needed to control something. After doing that and talking to my therapist, I feel better. But it was a good reminder that everybody is kind of feeling like this — overwhelmed or downtrodden. 


VOICES FROM THE PANDEMIC

 You can read all of the stories here.