To our subscribers and clients, we just want to say a quick thank you from all of us at Vital, for a year that didn't turn out the way we expected, and thus a year full of growth.
Hopefully you're reading this while you're enjoying time with the ones you love the most, and that you postpone reading this until you have some free time after the holidays. Sadly, with the current restrictions, many of us will have to skip this holiday with friends and family, and spend it in smaller cohorts or alone. Next year, when we are able to celebrate together again, I'm sure we will cherish the time we get to spend face-to-face even more.
I wanted to quickly summarize our year, with some of the accomplishments we've made, and some things that set us back this year. We will call this our "Year in Review" - First Edition!
The first month of 2020 looked starkly different from the last one. Rewind back to January of 2020, and we had just added Nicholas Simpson to the team. What a great decision that was! Nick started with Vital while renting space from MOST Physical Preparation in the south of Calgary, while Carla (me!) was working up in the northwest, renting space out of Peak Power at SAIT. We tried collaborating at weekly meetings at the University of Calgary or at the Odysee Coffee shop at SAIT, but we found it hard to fully integrate our ideas and for our clients to feel like we worked together. We even lost a client out of their shear frustration in trying to find us. That wasn't our highest point in 2020.
At our meetings, we would brain storm what we could grow Vital into, and some side projects we were already passionate about building outside of our 1-1 work with clients. Nick was also working with the Dino's Swimming team while I was with the Dinos Women's Hockey Team (update - we're still with these teams!). Their seasons were going great, and little did we know they wouldn't even get to make it through to Nationals due to COVID-19.
In February of 2020, I traveled to Phoenix Arizona to spend the week at the Apprenticeship Coaching Program (ACP) at ALTIS. The week in Phoenix was amazing, not only because it would be the last sunny vacation I would be taking for the rest of 2020, but also because I felt completely energized and inspired when I returned to Calgary. This ACP was especially special because it was an all-women's ACP, and meeting 18 other women from around the world was something I will cherish forever. If you're a coach and on the fence about taking this program, I would highly recommend it.
March 15th, 2020 was the last day I was in the gym at SAIT, and on March 19th, Nick's gym space was also forced to close, as most businesses shut down and employers sent their employees home to work from the couch for many months to come. We didn't know how long this shut down would last, so most of our clients put their memberships on hold and probably enjoyed the break initially.
In the meantime, myself and Brendan Hauptman, another contractor we were planning to hire for our in-person hockey development sessions, were forced to pivot during this time, and find out a way to train young hockey players via Zoom. Our philosophy for training players under the age of 15 is essentially to get them exposed to as many sports, while having as much fun as possible. So, sitting at home with no equipment, no sports, and no one to "play with", was not exactly the definition of fun for these kids. Along with Brendan, we brought on Grace Dafoe, one of Vital's long time skeleton athletes, to run these online training sessions 3-4x/week.
Between April and July, Vital's clientele moved in increasing waves to accepting the reality that was Zoom training. By the time the gyms were reopening in late June, our schedules were almost fully filled again from these online Zoom training calls. For that, we are thankful that our clients trusted us to pivot, and to try to continue to provide a high quality product without the "human touch".
One thing the pandemic allowed us to do was a lot of catching up, and a lot of online creating in the meantime. While we worked from home, Nick and I created a new way for people to access our Remote Movement Assessment online. We also created an online video assessment service called Vital Video. We launched Vital Video around April, and that was successful in allowing clients to send in their movements from home to help get suggestions on how to improve form, and decrease pain. Furthermore, our $20 Strength Club grew by over 200% as people shifted to either the "No equipment" or "Equipment" version, and trained using our programs on their apps.
By this point, we felt like we were working as much or more than we had been prior to the pandemic. We were feeling pretty motivated by the extra time the shut down was allowing us to have. Clients slowly were unpausing their memberships more and more, and Nick and I were getting the hang of being productive from our respective couches.
Our friends at Coalition Calgary told us they were moving spaces during the pandemic, and that they had found an awesome training facility to partner with. Because Vital is still super small, we decided to piggy back with Coalition and to change spaces to our current location on 4th St in Calgary. At that time, and currently, we decided to rent space from Method YYC's beautiful training studio on the 2nd floor of the Trolley Building in mission. While we can't drop weights (too loud for the tenants below us), we have continued to adapt. Thank you to our power athletes who have not been able to drop their Cleans! We have always preached the importance of the ability to eccentrically control the weights you lift, but now its part of the testament of training with us!
We filled up quickly once we returned to work on July 9th, and we were so happy to be taking clients in person again. We developed a New Client wait list soon after August, brought on Jenna Rauch to help us with current and new clients as she continued to teach our Rollax classes online.
We returned to training at the gym on July 9th, and despite having to wear masks on our faces and sanitize like it was our full time job, we were so happy to be back face-to-face with clients. Things really started to pick up from there, and we actually had to start our first WAIT LIST! That was a highlight of 2020 for us.
More good news was that we received some new testimonials that are posted HERE, if you, like us, needed to hear some more good news about the 2020 year!
As I write this blog for later release in December on Christmas, Calgary has just announced another 2 week shut down of some gyms, fitness classes and facilities, and restrictions on restaurants. It seems that we are now in a "second wave" of the Covid-19 pandemic, and as many small businesses in Calgary continue to close, I can't see this trend improving at least for the rest of 2020 (but I hope I'm wrong).
Update: As I update this blog on Dec 16th before posting it, Alberta has now gone into another 28 day, more strict shut down, and our gym has closed once again. This second closure severely affects our livelihood, and in some cases becomes much harder to help with rehabilitation and training of clients. Though this shutdown is out of our control, we thank our clients for being so adaptable, for opting to switch to Zoom training or to leave their memberships open, as these acts will help us get through the rest of 2020. We can't wait to welcome in a new year!!
I want to reflect on the importance of community, perseverance, and reaching out to others to ask for help. If it was not for the amazing community we have surrounding us, we would likely be in the graveyard of small businesses closing in 2020, aka the "C of Dead". Back in 2017, I found myself in a similar dead end when the company I was working for dissolved. I was 1 year post acquisition of my Master's degree, and here I was, jobless and feeling like a complete failure. That failure forced me to grow, to rethink what I wanted to do for work for the rest of my life, and forced me to learn about how to run a business. I hesitantly reached out to almost everyone and anyone in my network, sheepishly created an instagram and Facebook account for my business, and started creating momentum. (Special thanks to Jodi Toews Design, who then convinced me I needed a strong logo, brand, and needed her help. I see now that that was a very smart move!).
Fast-forward to now - I have 3 fantastic contractors that work alongside me at Vital (thank you Brendan, Jenna and Nick!), 3 interns (Chantelle, Alison, and Erika - I know your experience has been mostly virtual this year, but I'm so thankful you're willing to adapt and learn!), and hundreds of loyal clients (thank YOU). In closing, this year might seem like the worst thing since sliced bread, but thanks to you, we will make it through to see 2021. Feel free to reach out to ask for help if you need it, be resourceful (use your community), and find ways to grow. This community is here for you if you need us!
Merry Christmas and thanks for reading!