Yet despite trying times, the gym is not letting uncertainty stop it from supporting the city at the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States.
Last Thursday, Force Fitness hosted its first “Front Line Fitness” live virtual workout fundraiser. All proceeds from the donation-based session will go to “Feed the Front Line,” an initiative that is providing meals to health care workers and emergency responders in Queens and Brooklyn.
“We have to do what we can,” said Mike Romer, co-owner of the gym, “and what we can do is give people a great workout.”
Romer and his partner Vinny Ruddy, an FDNY firefighter, opened up Force Fitness on Fresh Pond Road in 2008. Having survived launching a business in the midst of a national financial crisis, the duo are no strangers to confronting obstacles.
“The mindset has to be about determining what is the challenge and what are the routes to succeed through it,” explained Romer, a recent graduate of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program. “If you think about failing, then failing becomes an option.”
Anticipating a shutdown, Force Fitness began preparing to transition online days before the governor-mandated gym closures on March 16. Two days later, the club initiated a free daily email chain, which goes out at 9 a.m.
Each morning, more than 7,000 participants receive an email that includes a workout routine with an accompanying video, healthy recipes to try out at home, and other motivations to stay in shape.
The gym also offers live workout classes such as Zumba, yoga and CrossFit, as well as personal training sessions through Zoom.
At Force Fitness, the virtual arena is yet another medium through which the gym can foster a safe place for the community, even in the absence of a physical gathering point.
“Everyone was stuck at home and losing their minds,” Romer recalled. “Working out increases the ‘good feeling’ hormone that can mean the difference between being depressed and anxious or feeling good, motivated and ready to tackle the challenges of the day.”
Initially, he says, the goal was to keep remaining members happy, the gym open and staff paid. Now that the business is on more stable ground, Romer and Ruddy can focus on continuing to make an impact on the community.
“I’m pretty proud of how fast we transitioned,” Romer said. “We were forced into going online in this way, but it was something we always wanted to do. The business relies on social media pretty heavily, and we’ve had to amp that up now.”
After teaming up with Matt Lebris and Phillie’s Pizzeria in Middle Village to support Feed the Front Line, Force Fitness is looking to expand its “Front Line Fitness” program.
Romer has been reaching out to other local organizations that are helping to feed New Yorkers during the pandemic, such as the North Brooklyn Angels and the Hungry Monk.
At the end of it all, Romer says he is just looking forward to feeling the energy of a full gym once again.
“When we reopen it’s going to be weird,” he said, “but things are going to be better. Through this time, we’ve been able to make a real connection with our members and the community. We’re in their houses daily.”
To check out the online offerings, visit forcefitnessclub.com.