The coronavirus pandemic had a major impact on many Hunter businesses.
Some were forced to lay-off staff and a number of them shut their doors permanently, while several thought outside the box in order to survive the crisis.
Others, such as CrossFit Horizons at Sandgate, came out the other side so much stronger.
That was mainly due to the resilience and dedication of owner Kristy Johnson and her 18-year-old son Max.
Although most gyms struggled to endure, the pair rolled up their sleeves, coordinating Zoom sessions for their clients and renting out equipment just to make ends meet.
“It’s been a tough time for everyone, especially the fitness industry,” Ms Johnson said.
“When COVID-19 struck, we were shut down for about four months.
“So, we needed to think of different ways to continue to exist.
“Max ran online classes; and we hired out a bit of training gear, too.
“We just had to do it.
“Unfortunately, Max wasn’t qualified for JobKeeper, which was disappointing.
“But, luckily, our supportive members took advantage of what we were offering.
“We can’t thank them enough.”
It is a far cry from the venture’s humble beginnings.
“We started in our backyard about 11 years ago,” Ms Johnson said.
“And, even though we’ve got this [facility] on Wallsend Road, I still consider us as a small business.
“Our membership sits around 75, however it’s very family-orientated.
“Also, there are people [here] who’ve been with us the entire journey.
“That’s pretty loyal.
“Now, as things improve, we’ve just put on another girl (Rylea Venners) and Max is our head coach.
“He’s working here more, even while he’s studying engineering at the University of Newcastle.
“Max is no stranger to CrossFit.
“He’s been doing it since he was a kid and, recently, competed in the men’s division.
“I was a member of the first Newcastle team to qualify for the CrossFit Games (in 2014).
“So, it’s fair to say, it’s our passion.”
One thing Ms Johnson has noticed in the past month or so is the renewed interest in the sport.
“I think most people are inspired at the moment,” she said.
“When it [CrossFit] was taken away, by COVID-19, a lot of them were down and, even, depressed.
“They didn’t realise how much it meant [to them], particularly for their mental health.
“Our members say it’s their ‘happy place’.
“And, because of that, we’ve become a community – everyone has a common interest.
“We’ve got three classes in the morning and another three in the afternoon, plus one on Saturday, and we’re running at capacity.
“We received a $10,000 government grant, too, which allowed us to buy new equipment.
“I know it sounds funny, but it’s not about the money [for us].
“It is more about the atmosphere, friendships and camaraderie.
“As long as we pay our rent and overheads, we invest everything back into the business.
“That’s how much it means to us.
“We couldn’t have had a better start to 2021.”