Profiles December 15, 2020

Surviving the Shutdowns


When Solv CrossFit in Worcester, UK first shut down in the spring of 2020 they switched to a live Zoom model, offering multiple classes a day.

Owner Michael Macleod said everyone enjoyed the classes at first, but he noticed people quickly got fed up with the Zoom model. Solv CrossFit tried offering more specific classes, like a gymnastics class, and that performed better, but Michael said they never really hit their stride during the first shutdown.

Once they opened up again, Michael signed on with Zen Planner to manage his memberships and payments and SugarWOD to handle the workouts and community engagement. 

When Solv CrossFit was forced to shut down again in the fall of that year, Michael was ready. 


Michael opened Solv CrossFit in early 2017. Before the first lockdowns, he had about 120 members following various programs, from CrossFit to HIIT to nutrition challenges. The gym used SugarWOD for two and half years, and left before SugarWOD integrated with Zen Planner, because they wanted an integrated system. 

“We went to another company that said they integrated their own log-in stuff with a membership system and we went with them for about three months and it was just a nightmare,” Michael said. 

Once Solv CrossFit opened after the first lockdown, Michael switched back to SugarWOD and signed on with Zen Planner. Michael said the combination of the two software solutions makes it easy to help new members feel comfortable working out in a new gym — they can go right from the membership information in Zen Planner to the workouts in SugarWOD.

“The fact that it’s seamless, you can literally go from the Zen Planner app right into SugarWOD, you can give members the exact direction and show them exactly what they’re gonna get for their money, which is priceless — that’s incredible,” Michael said.

When new members sign up their first question is usually, “What do the workouts look like?” Using Zen Planner and SugarWOD, Michael and his team can tell them to open their app and check out the workout instantly. 
The video demonstrations within SugarWOD mean the Solv CrossFit team can easily show new members how to do any type of movement, either in person or remotely. 

“It’s easy to be like ‘Hey you don’t know what that is, so pull this up.’ Within five seconds they go, ‘Bloody hell, this is exactly where I need to be.’ So that’s been great,” Michael said. 

Even better, Michael has used Zen Planner and SugarWOD to convert leads. When someone comes in who has been following or another app for their workouts, he can show them Solv CrossFit’s app — via SugarWOD — and the experience feels similar. 

“So when they come in, and we’ve got that same thing — it’s almost been able to convert people right then and there who maybe haven’t heard about us, it’s really cool,” Michael said. 

The Second Lockdown

When Solv CrossFit shut down a second time, Michael was prepared. He knew he didn’t want to rely only on real-time Zoom workouts, so he immediately began building up a library of pre-recorded workouts. The instructors are mic’d up, and members can choose from HIIT workouts, strength workouts, or CrossFit workouts.

“If we didn’t have SugarWOD I don’t know how I would do that,” Michael said.  

The app also helps the coaches at Solv CrossFit keep track of their members’ participation in everything from nutrition challenges to workouts. 

“We’ve been commenting on everyone, if they hit one of our home workouts, we comment instantly, saying ‘Hey awesome job.’ And obviously the amount of fist bumps — we screenshot how many fist bumps get given on a daily basis, then throw it on our Instagram story on Solv CrossFit, and say ‘Hey, if you thought you had a supportive online community, check this out, 500 fist bumps from 100 people.’ That ratio is massive,” Michael said. 

Michael said they also use the information available through SugarWOD to see how many workouts their members are doing and announce a “Committed” member each week. He said it helps keep the community accountable and helps the Solv CrossFit team keep track on their most active members — and make them aware of those who are fading away.

“That kind of information for business owners really helps shape how we service people, how much we charge, and how we identify our best clients so we can hope to replicate them,” Michael said. 

Retention and Life After Lockdown

Michael said using SugarWOD and Zen Planner in the second lockdown helped him retain members. Three of his members who initially didn’t sign up for any of the online workouts changed their minds after a week of seeing the level of community engagement and how easy it was to access from their phones. 

The Solv CrossFit team hosts a live workout every Saturday and then pre-records a entire week’s worth of workouts a week in advance, uploads them to YouTube, and pastes them into the SugarWOD app. The members can then pull up the workout, which is customized to fit Solv CrossFit’s branding. “It looks like our stuff, rather than just some any old thing, so that’s been great,” Michael said.

He’s gotten great feedback from his members about the experience, and he said SugarWOD has helped set them apart from other gyms in his area.

“This time around, we’re actually offering a service,” Michael said, “that’s the massive difference here is we’re offering something really good.”

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