The Rhapsody Way: How One Fitness Community Used Empathy to Grow During the Pandemic

4 min read


Fitness Community Growth Pandemic

Rhapsody Fitness in Charleston, SC celebrated their two-year anniversary on July 14th. While this type of milestone could have felt dampened in the midst of COVID-19, Rhapsody Fitness leaned into the heart of their business, hosting a celebration with their fitness community. Recognizing their essence as a community-building entity, co-founder and co-owner Alan Shaw intuitively built a COVID strategy for Rhapsody that shifted practices to better fit a new normal.  In their coaches’ seemingly infinite connections to members, Rhapsody saw minimal membership attrition, and in fact, gained 10 new members in May and June.

Building connections with the community through workouts is not a new thing at Rhapsody. The Rhapsody Way has included a full month of mentoring for new members, as well as quarterly check-ins for all members. These check-ins open opportunities to reassess fitness goals and address difficulties and roadblocks. These types of connections have created an open dialogue of support at Rhapsody.

During shutdowns and quarantine, this foundational philosophy has translated to a variety of group and 1-on-1 virtual class formats. Alan commented that early in quarantine, it became clear the “…coaches’ job was not to make sure your squat was below parallel or that your get your chest all the way to the ground for a full-motion pushup. It was: how is it going being inside your house multiple days in a row with your kids? How has it been being on Zoom calls all day, every day? People needed that in order to stay sane. They had a connection outside their home as a sounding board for any frustration, anger, or sadness.”

To connect even more broadly with the community, Alan created Rhapsody Weekly Challenges that served as a quick pick-up and way to map the week. In tandem with SugarWOD, these challenges intended to engage the community and focus on what can be controlled at the moment. These challenges included digestible workouts like 7 minutes of burpees throughout the week. Connected to these prompts was an invitation to reflect and find gratitude, allowing the activity to “transcend the fitness and dig deeper with the community.”

Rhapsody Fitness adopted an attitude early into the COVID-19 pandemic that “empathy is essential.” In Alan’s words, “You train for the unknown and unknowable in the gym. This is one of the testing moments.” Alan’s attitude of extending fitness from a physical exercise to an exercise of community played a key role in maintaining Rhapsody’s member base. Ultimately, these lessons are intertwined at the core of fitness. “If your life is fit, then ultimately you’re going to live the best life you can.”

And that “fitness of life” is an unstoppable force, even in the face of COVID-19 uncertainty.

Community building is key to retention. Check out our free guide for tips on member retention!

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