Local gym adapts during COVID to keep doors open and community fit

By K. Q. THOMAS, Four Points News

Julie Leavell and her husband Kirk of Steiner Ranch own Wild Basin Fitness.

The owners and staff at Wild Basin Fitness at Steiner Ranch were stunned when all but essential services were shut down across the state in March due to COVID-19.    

Although they knew that controlling the pandemic was of utmost importance, they also knew that their members and staff  needed continued support for their mental and physical health. 

“Closing was awful. We had to quickly find a way to get out in front of all of it,” said Julie Leavell. She and her husband, Kirk Leavell are Steiner residents and co-owners of two fitness centers.   

Wild Basin opened in Westlake, now on Grace Lane in 1996 and in Steiner on Quinlan Park Road in 2006. 

Once it became clear that the fitness centers would not be reopening soon, Wild Basin halted members’ dues, and huddled with staff to devise a path through the pandemic. 

Staying connected with the community was key to staying solvent. “We wanted to reach out to anyone and everyone to show them how we can keep our fitness levels up together,” Leavell said.  “People were feeling so confined.” A staffer was assigned the sole duty of answering clients’ questions on the phone and through email. 

Kirk Leavell and his wife Julie of Steiner Ranch own Wild Basin Fitness

The answer to staying connected was high tech: live online classes and workout videos. Trainers posted daily video workouts on social media. Virtual classes via Zoom also helped unite teachers and clients.  

These efforts helped foster the sense of community that Wild Basin was already known for. Although some clients did cancel their memberships, others offered to continue paying while the gyms were closed.  

“We didn’t accept their money, of course. It was an odd feeling to not know if we were going to be able to survive, and at the same time feel so loved,” said Amber Janak, trainer and marketing manager at Wild Basin. 

When gyms were allowed to reopen in mid-May at 25 percent capacity, Wild Basin was ready. They hired a disinfecting company, DIS.IN.FX, to clean and spray the gyms regularly and conduct tests for microbial existence between treatments. They hired more staff whose sole job is to clean equipment, weights, surfaces and handles. 

Wild Basin has cardio machines, free weights and resistance machines, various apparatus to use for balance and mobility work. In addition to fitness training, WBF also has a studio for a wide variety of yoga, pilates, cardio and strength classes.  

Members now schedule their workouts ahead of time in order to maintain distancing requirements. Hand sanitizer and antibacterial and antiviral cleansers are readily available to all staff and clients throughout the facility. 

Some Wild Basin Fitness key staff are ready to meet the public. L-R: Amber Janak, trainer, Sherri Tovar, front desk staff er, Julie Leavell, owner/trainer, and Julie Brelsford, front desk staff er.

Since mid-June, gyms are allowed to operate at 50 percent capacity. Summers are traditionally slow seasons generally, Leavell said. 

To help with that, Wild Basin offers outdoor training classes for young people getting ready for the fall sports season. Wild Basin has an outdoor workout area with weight equipment, pull up and push up bars and a sprint track. 

This area is perfect for the young trainers and for folks who feel more comfortable exercising outside of the building, Leavell said.  

Ryan Helms, Wild Basin Fitness general manager at Steiner Ranch and personal trainer

And college students who are not living on their campuses right now are using the fitness centers to keep in shape. “We are seeing a steady flow of clients,” Leavell said. “But we don’t have those crowds we used to have.”

Meanwhile, the online offerings continue to be popular with clients who are still not comfortable coming to the gym. “We developed a virtual class only package, and members are very pleased to have daily workout options where they can participate with familiar faces, in their homes, garages or patios,” Janak said. 

The growth in virus cases, though, is disheartening, Leavell said.  There is the continued threat of another state-wide shutdown if the numbers don’t turn around. 

“I don’t think it will get any better soon,” Leavell said. “But we are really blessed with people who want to continue to support us.”

Wild Basin Fitness has adapted facilities with social distancing and a rigorous cleaning schedule.