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Fitness in COVID-19: GrindHouse, LLC

Wesley Samuels, right, disinfects fitness equipment as Rakayle “Rock” Brown, looks on . Both are certified personal trainers, and co-owners of GrindHouse, LLC in Homewood. (Marvin Gentry, For The Birmingham Times)
By Erica Wright
The Birmingham Times

Those who have resolved to work out and become more healthier in 2021 will find a new world awaiting them at area gyms and fitness centers. Amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, in-person classrooms, dining, shopping, workplaces, family gatherings, and more have been disrupted—and gyms are no different. The Birmingham Times recently spoke with area trainers about fitness in a COVID-19 world.

Like many other training and fitness businesses, the Homewood-based GrindHouse LLC switched to online training when the pandemic hit in March 2020.

“I wouldn’t say we were in a panic mode because we have faith. We had our down moments, but we were just like, ‘How can we survive this, and how long will it last for us to be able to survive it?’ When the city shut down, we switched to virtual training on Zoom,” said Wesley Samuels, 28, who co-owns GrindHouse, with Rakayle “Rock” Brown, 28.

Samuels and Brown, both of whom have been certified personal trainers since 2014 and 2013, respectively, had been training clients at different places—gyms, parks, their homes—before coming up with GrindHouse. They originally got a spot in Hoover before opening the Homewood location in June 2019. Sometime in January 2021, they plan to open a new Homewood facility, where they will offer equipment similar to that available at large fitness chains that clients will be able to use at specified times without a trainer, said Brown.

When the pandemic caused widespread shutdowns, the duo started conducting Zoom classes, primarily to help clients stay fit during quarantine.

“Everyone was at home, but they still wanted to meet their goals,” said Brown. “And we still wanted to help people meet their fitness goals, even though we were at home, too.

“We started to pick up on people who wanted to do in-person training, as well as some who wanted to stick with Zoom, which we still offer just in case there are people who don’t want to be around the groups or around the others in the gym.”

Todd Crenshaw, 47, who has worked out at GrindHouse for a year and a half took advantage of the Zoom classes.

“I did both Zoom and in-person classes,” said Crenshaw. “I still go to the gym to workout, and it’s been great, especially during this time. … Just seeing [the GrindHouse team] and knowing they are in tune with what you’re doing in your personal life provides such a release for that one hour or so. It’s really like being with family; … they pour into you. My son and I have been doing Zoom with [Samuels] at 6 p.m. … When he comes on, he pours into you, which is just what people need during times like these. … It’s just been great.”

Crenshaw was also pleased by the precautions taken at the GrindHouse facility.

“Initially, when the gym opened back up, we were outside,” he said. “[The trainers] did a great job of keeping us safe, as far as keeping us spaced out in the parking lot. … We were always safe. [When we moved inside], several people wore masks or whatever they needed to do to stay safe. [The GrindHouse team] keeps everything sanitized, [using] a fogger machine and always wiping things down. … Between the Zoom classes and limiting the number of people attending each in-person class, they have been very helpful and done a great job making people feel safe.”

Like others in the industry, when Samuels and Brown reopened in June, they changed how they provided services to meet CDC guidelines.

“We started out having two classes a day, and then we switched to four classes. We’re now at five classes, and plan to have six classes again after the start of the new year,” said Samuels. “We started out by having 12 people come in for classes, whereas we used to have 15 or 20 people per class.”

In addition to reducing class sizes, GrindHouse has increased its cleaning efforts.

“We try to clean as much as possible,” said Brown. “We make sure anything that anyone touches—all the equipment, like the bands and cardio equipment, the doorknobs, the bathrooms, everything—is as clean as possible. We also put hand sanitizer at every entrance and bathroom so people can see and use it.”

Samuels’s wife, Bria, who has been a trainer at GrindHouse for about six months, said training during the COVID-19 pandemic has been “smooth sailing” for her.

“I’ve capped myself at a certain number of clients, so I can focus on each person,” she said. “I like to look at training as quality over quantity. My goal isn’t to have the most clients, but instead to have a small group of women I can give my all to and help them make healthy lifestyle changes because that’s what fitness is. … It’s not a quick fix, it’s not about the money, it’s about health—and that takes time for one to adjust to.”

GrindHouse LLC is located at 135 W. Oxmoor Rd. Suite 315, Birmingham, AL. 35209. For more information, visit www.grindhouseal.com, or follow on Instagram at grindhouseal or Facebook at GrindHouse.