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HUNTINGTON — Brown Dog Yoga owner Katrina Mailloux says one of the hardest hit industries during the coronavirus pandemic is fitness.

“The pandemic has been very hard on us. Our revenues are way down,” she said. “I hate to look at the numbers because it makes me want to cry.”

The difficult times began after being closed down by the governor early in the pandemic. In May, it was allowed to reopen under strict guidelines. However, on the day after Thanksgiving they made the difficult decision to close the brick and mortar location at Heritage Station in downtown Huntington.

“Being in the wellness business, it was hard to ignore the ever-increasing COVID numbers,” said Dr. Richard Mailloux, partner and staff physician at Brown Dog Yoga. “When we made the decision to close at Thanksgiving, the infection rate was 60 per 100,000. Last week, it was closer to 80 per 100,000. Considering that the weather no longer facilitated that the majority of our classes be held outdoors, we felt it imperative to protect our staff and clients from the potential risks.”

Richard Mailloux said wearing a cloth mask or a regular surgical mask does not protect you from getting COVID.

“It protects you from spreading COVID to those around you,” he said. “The only mask that protects you from getting COVID is an N-95 mask, which in my opinion is not conducive to wear during exercise.”

To survive, Brown Dog Yoga had to reinvent itself and start offering live classes through Zoom. This new offering essentially transformed the student’s experience from studio to living room.

Makenzie Callicoat, manager and director of operations, said those who signed up for live classes get an email link before the start time.

“On Zoom, for example, we will all be in the same Zoom room,” she said. “Those are only available for the time they are live versus the on-demand option.”

Then, Brown Dog Yoga took it a step further and created an on-demand platform.

“We have switched to a partially virtual platform with a state-of-the-art on-demand video library at bdyonline.vhx.tv,” Katrina Mailloux said.

Pre-recorded workouts, cycling and other fitness classes are filmed by Callicoat in a lighted studio at the Heritage Station location.

“We offer cycling classes, Barre classes, fusion classes, adult and kids’ yoga classes and specialty classes, like meditation, and more that is uploaded to our on-demand platform where people can have access anytime they want,” she said. “The response has been overwhelming. We now have hundreds of clients from all over the world that have purchased the BDYONLINE subscription.”

While virtual workouts were in existence prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, data show that use has increased. Mindbody data showed a jump in consumers accessing virtual content since March of 2020. It showed 73% of consumers are using pre-recorded video versus 17% in 2019 and 85% are using livestream classes weekly versus 7% in 2019.

The data also showed that since March 2020, consumers are actually working out even more than before, with 56% of respondents exercising least five times per week.

COVID-19 has created more digital fitness classes and pushed much of the health and wellness space online, but what’s in store for the fitness industry?

“I think future strategies of fitness will be a hybrid of digital and in-person fitness classes and workouts,” Katrina Mailloux said. “However, while digital classes have made exercise more accessible for many, there are still certain aspects of in-person fitness that digital fitness has yet to replicate. I don’t think there is any way you can replace the live experience being in the room with your teacher, your instructor, with your colleagues and with your tribe. There is nothing that will ever replace that.”

While Brown Dog’s future will include both in-person and digital fitness options, she said the changes have elevated their brand.

“Now we have brick-and-mortar studios and we have online platform,” she said. “The pandemic has been a humbling experience, but it has given us the opportunity to transition, transform and evolve.”

Follow reporter Fred Pace at Facebook.com/FredPaceHD and via Twitter @FredPaceHD or email him at fpace@hdmediallc.com.

Follow reporter Fred Pace at Facebook.com/FredPaceHD and via Twitter @FredPaceHD or email him at fpace@hdmediallc.com.

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