Sports

After weeks of online training, Cedar Rapids gym owner makes plans to reopen

Zach Koch found a way to keep working with C.R. Performance Training athletes

Zach Koch
Zach Koch

HIAWATHA — Zach Koch currently works with 75 athletes at his C.R. Performance Training facility.

His clients range from eighth grade to professional athletes.

He had to find a different way to serve them after Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds issued a State of Public Health Disaster Emergency on March 17 that closed numerous businesses, including fitness centers, due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“There are so many kids that use me with their high-school facilities or college kids that come back,” said Koch, a 2011 Cedar Rapids Kennedy who opened his business in August 2017 after a five-year stint in the Marines. “I have a couple of pro athletes who come in when they are back in Iowa and depend on a place to operate.

“I have to operate. When they join the gym, they sign a contract that they are paying for this. At that point, I was like if I stop I’m not doing my end of the deal. The online training was put together.”

Koch had to adjust on the fly, connecting with athletes online as they continue to train with hopes their respective sports will resume in the near future. He has prepared for his members to return after Reynolds announced gyms were allowed to reopen Friday.

“We’re trying to minimize any chance there is for an issue,” Koch said. “We’ve only had two kids who are not ready to come in when I start training on Monday. The majority of kids have been signed up and begging to come in.”

Koch, 27, of Cedar Rapids, recalled the whirlwind when the initial decision was announced. He was at a photo shoot to commemorate his son’s first birthday when he learned of the mandatory closing. Koch had a mere four hours to create an action plan and notify parents and athletes before his first session of the day.

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“I got this news and everything came to a complete halt,” Koch said. “I had to react. It was hard to be proactive at that point.

“That night it was going to the drawing board. I had the first day of online training posted by that evening.”

Koch reached out to athletes, providing them with workouts via Google Slides. They can access a link with normal warmups and the suggested routine. He posted a new one daily and had to be flexible due to weather and the fluid circumstances.

“I check in as much as I can,” Koch said. “They send me questions about what they need to do this or college kids ask about things their coaches tell them to do.

“I’m trying to give them stuff in a slide that can only fit so much verbiage and thank goodness for YouTube and other tools. We complain about kids being on their phones normally, but this is the greatest time to have all this social media stuff. They can get the help they need.”

The situation demanded ingenuity. Not everyone had the same access to weights and equipment, so Koch attempted to provide some with tools. Others used what was available.

“I have video of kids using water jugs, backpacks, books and stuff like that,” Koch said. “I don’t know exactly what they have. I gave the option to a lot of kids to come in and grab stuff so they can take it home.”

Athletes had to show independence, completing the workouts on their own. Koch tried to check in with athletes regularly, gauging their progress through videos and social media polls. It doesn’t compare to face-to-face interaction.

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“The worst part is the lack of constant communication with athletes,” Koch said. “When they come in every day, I can tell how they’re feeling. I can tell everything about these kids. Some of these kids have been with me for about three years. Now, I have to get everything from a message.”

Koch said most of his clients are ready to come back to the facility. He holds 1-on-1 sessions and never has a group larger than eight.

Squat racks and other stations are already 6 feet apart and waiting room chairs have been rearranged to adhere to social distancing recommendations. Signs are posted reminding members to go home if they have any of a list of symptoms or have been exposed to someone with COVID-19.

Koch said they have stocked up on sanitizer and disinfectant. He has asked parents to remain in their cars to limit the number of people in the facility. Drinking fountains will be taped off and athletes will need to bring their own water.

“We’re trying to be as proactive as to what is going to happen,” Koch said. “I extended training sessions 10 minutes longer, so kids have time to get in, grab their stuff and get out. It also gives me time at the end of each session to disinfect the whole area that they were at.

“We’re trying to be as prepared as possible and not have to be on the fly. I know there are times I will need to react.”

Comments: (319) 368-8679; kj.pilcher@thegazette.com

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