How foam wedges and YouTube helped a Traverse City gym survive the pandemic

Jun 18, 2020

Megan Madion balancing on a foam wedge she invented and patented for her Modus workout.
Credit Megan Madion

More than a decade ago, Megan Madion had a severe bike crash that shattered her pelvis. To get moving again, she developed a workout, called Modus. Greek for “the method,” the workout philosophy is: a well functioning core and glutes are the foundation for healthy total body movement.  Since then, she’s opened the gym Modus 45 in Traverse City, hired instructors and grown a loyal following. 

But then COVID-19 struck. And Madion decided to close the gym on March 15th, a day before it was mandatory in Michigan.

Next, she had to figure out how to stay in business.

“My members would shoot me if I had to shut it down,” she says. “They love it so much.”

Madion took 24 hours to think about it, and then it hit her.

“Ironically, I had patented this wedge,” says Madion.

In 2017, Madion had invented a foam wedge, a piece of equipment designed to help with support and stability during Modus workouts. She had planned to market the wedges after she invented them, but three years later, 500 wedges were still collecting dust in a warehouse.

“It's been this weight over me,” Madion says, “like I've got to do something with them.”

So, she went to the warehouse and got the foam wedges, packaged them up with some other workout tools and created a new product called, “Barre in a bag.” In it was everything a client needed to perform the Modus workout from home. But that only solved part of her dilema. Now she had to actually create the workout videos for people to use the wedges.

“I felt like a teenager on YouTube,” says Madion. “I was on YouTube … day in and day out.”

Eventually, she figured out how to get her workout videos online. But they needed work.

Madion says she realized, in the past, when she was in the gym with her clients, she was focused on helping them adjust their form or when to ease up on the intensity.  But on video, she had to work harder to remember they were there.

“Thank God I have really good girlfriends that would comment, ‘That was awful. You got to do this. You were boring,’” she says. “They were just really honest with me.”

Finally, she hit all the right notes, and more than a month after stopping in-person classes, she had 80 people participating online.

Gyms in northern Michigan reopened Wednesday. But Madion says she's not sure if it will still make financial sense to offer in-person classes given that her clients would have to be six feet apart, and her gym is small.

“I really have to put some numbers together to see if I can even afford rent with such small classes,” she says.

Madion says that means online classes could become a staple for Modus 45 as she keeps moving her business forward through the uncertainties of the pandemic.

“We have to look and learn online right now,” she says. “Whether that will change, I think it will change slowly back to normal. Will it ever go back to normal? I don’t know.”