Forced to close due to coronavirus, owner of Coventry Group Fitness looks for ways to keep helping members

Members of Coventry Group Fitness are pictured working out last month. Due to coronavirus concerns, the state has closed health clubs and gyms. CGF’s owner says she's trying to remain optimistic about the situation. 

COVENTRY — Since opening her fitness studio three years ago, Cassandra LaPlante has striven to create a space that her patrons look forward to coming to. 

“It’s really about them,” LaPlante said Monday. “We just want to keep them happy, keep them moving and keep them healthy.”

Coventry Group Fitness was one of many close-contact businesses ordered by Gov. Gina Raimondo to close last week because of the coronavirus pandemic. Losing control over her business has been difficult, LaPlante said, but she’s chosen to remain optimistic. 

“It was very hard for me to close my doors, and to tell the participants that we had to close,” she said. “But like I tell them all the time — learn to love the challenge. Just don’t let it get you down.”

Located in the Coventry Shoppers Park, Coventry Group Fitness opened in the summer of 2017 primarily as a Zumba studio. Today, the studio’s offerings have snowballed into a wide range of classes, from kickboxing and pilates to yoga and spin.

“You name it, we offer it,” LaPlante said. “We really try to offer a variety so that we have something for everybody.”

While it’s been hard for her to have to shutter her business, LaPlante said it’s also been tough on those who regularly attend classes at Coventry Group Fitness and who have come to consider the studio a “home away from home.”

“When you find a studio that’s kind of like your home, your outlet, and that’s taken away and you don’t have a place to go to release the stress, that’s tough,” she said. “For them, right now, they’re really bumming.”

Without access to their regular exercise routines, LaPlante said she worries about both the physical and the mental toll this time away could have on her patrons. She said she’s working on streaming classes online, although that’s something that prior to the coronavirus outbreak she’d never thought of doing. 

“Every business should do one thing really well,” LaPlante said, “and what we do really well is in-studio classes — being there, face-to-face, with these participants.”

Virtual workout classes, on the other hand, offer a completely different experience for both instructors and participants. Those ids of classes don’t allow for the same sort of personalized attention that LaPlante has built her business on.  

“They’re with us and we give them all of our time and attention,” she said of in-studio classes. 

At a small studio like Coventry Group Fitness, instructors have the opportunity to get to know participants individually, LaPlante added. Instructors have been able to learn about participants’ goals and limitations, she said, and through regular interactions a sense of community has taken shape. 

“We’ve learned about them, specifically,” she said, “and we tell them, ‘please let us know what you need so we can do it for you; we can keep an eye on you; we can help you in your own personal way.’ It’s a different experience being separated now. It’s not the same.”

Still, for those who rely on her studio for their daily exercise, LaPlante said she’s “willing to give it a go.”

“They really deserve it,” she added. 

It’s a step-by-step process to create virtual exercise classes and to find the right platform for delivering quality at-home experiences, LaPlante said. 

“The sound quality has to be good,” she said. “And if we’re live-streaming, do they have internet that works for them?”

While she hammers out those details, LaPlante has been urging her patrons to try recreating at home some of what they’ve picked up from their various classes. 

“What they’ve learned in-studio, we’ve been telling them, ‘do this at home,’” she said. 

LaPlante has also been posting daily exercises on the studio’s social media accounts. 

“It may not be a 50-minute, crazy, sweaty workout,” she said. “I’m just trying to give them something to take their minds off of being stuck at home, yet still keeping them active.”

Posted down the Coventry Group Fitness Facebook page are all kinds of exercise ideas and challenges. A morning workout incorporating exercises like squats, planks and butterfly crunches was posted Sunday; last Wednesday, a bedtime yoga routine was shared; a run, walk or bike ride was suggested for the following day. 

And on Monday, rather than posting a work out, LaPlante asked her followers to focus on “eating for their needs.”

“Sometimes, sitting at home, you’re going to stress eat. Or you’re not going to care about eating healthier, because you don’t have that exercise motivation to go with it,” she said. 

For those trying to squeeze in a workout while stuck at home, LaPlante recommends finding a room that’s unoccupied and away from distractions, following a plan, and staying hydrated. 

“All of those things that we tell them in-studio, they need to take that discipline and instill it in themselves at home.” 

Another key factor in a successful home workout, LaPlante added, are the beats. 

“Music definitely matters,” she said. “It’s a huge motivator. Don’t do a workout in silence.”

And soon enough, LaPlante added, Coventry Group Fitness will reopen for business.

“Like anything else, this is temporary,” she said. “The studio’s doors will open again soon, but that’s not number one. Number one is everybody’s health.”


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