News Archives: GPRC alumni adapt parkour business during COVID-19
Tuesday, May 12th, 2020
APE Parkour owners Zach Wiebe (left) and Chad McDonald (right).
Chad McDonald and Zach Wiebe teach parkour students to be agile and nimble. The GPRC alumni have applied those same teachings to running their business during the current COVID-19 pandemic.
The owners of APE Parkour – Alternative Physical Education Inc. – plan to open their new training centre in Whispering Ridge this fall, just a short distance from their current facility. When COVID-19 resulted in social distancing and closures, they quickly pivoted to offering online training, delivering equipment to students at home, to maintain similar operations through trying times.
“We like to follow the philosophy of Bruce Lee as it relates to parkour and how we act to “be like water” through our environment,” says McDonald. “The economy is the environment of a business and those who adapt can stay afloat.”
Wiebe says this means being focused on what’s necessary for the business.
“You definitely need to be flexible and adapt to your audience as a business and that’s what we’ve been doing throughout the years with our coaching, marketing and even public relations strategies.”
Parkour is a competitive sport and is also used in cross-training and for general fitness. It involves participants moving across and around obstacles by climbing, running and jumping. Athletes may use portable structures, staircases, poles, and even the sides of buildings.
The two friends are graduates of the Personal Trainer Diploma program at GPRC.
“Despite having to adjust our entire business model, we were well prepared when it came to adopting new technology,” says McDonald.
Programming was adapted to be applicable for the entire family.
“A family pays a monthly subscription and can join as many live classes as they would like each week,” says McDonald. We have classes to supplement physical education, parkour fundamentals, family fitness and toddler classes.”
Students purchase a basic equipment package that’s delivered directly to their homes. This allows basic drills to be taught such as locomotion, vaulting and landing skills.
“This is probably one one-hundredth of the full scope of what we would be able to teach in our gym but our students are putting on a brave face and we are getting some work done in the meantime,” says Wiebe.
Part of the APE Parkour transition strategy has been dismantling their former facility and repurposing it into the home parkour equipment customers are purchasing for online classes.
This has also created some revenue.
Online training will continue once a new normal has arrived – it was already part of future planning.
“It just got pushed to a priority when COVID-19 happened,” says McDonald. “The world was going this way anyway.”
“The online training would be best suited for older students who are easier to engage,” says Wiebe.
“Half of the appeal of taking our classes is about coming to the gym and jumping on our boxes, at least for our younger kids,” he explains.
APE Parkour began five years ago. At first, McDonald and Wiebe thought in terms of opening a gym – they wanted to do parkour all the time and enjoyed training together.
They began with about eight participants using a course at the gymnastics club gymnasium and Muskoseepi Park during the summer. They had no equipment of their own at first so the focus was on teaching the fundamentals of the sport.
Membership quickly grew and within 18 months, registration was at 150 participants per week. Their first piece of equipment was a portable wall that had to be moved in and out of a storage room every class.
By November 2015, APE Parkour moved into a rented space with equipment they constructed. Growth continued through work with the Grande Prairie Storm hockey team, the Piranhas swim club and GPRC athletes.
Further outreach occurred at community events and numbers climbed with the addition of services such as birthday parties, dryland training, personal training, summer camps and private parkour classes.
“Nobody knew what parkour was when we first started,” says McDonald. “We built our own market through education and persistence.”
At full capacity, APE Parkour has 12 staff. The new 8,400-sqare-foot facility is four times the size of the current venue. Outdoor classes will continue in the non-winter months at a park outside the new location.
The majority of students are in the six to 11-year age range. Some are as young as three and there are adult students. Parkour has become a regional pursuit with students joining from as far away as Hythe and Valleyview.
Connect with APE Parkour here.
Learn more about GPRC’s Personal Trainer Diploma program here.