‘Stronger than ever before’: Trunk Trainers evolves operations amid pandemic

  • Trunk Trainers has thrived under owner Kelsie Wehren, converting to a mostly online approach during the pandemic. (Courtesy photo/West Hawaii Today)

  • Kelsie Wehren leads a socially-distanced workout at Trunk Trainers. (Tom Linder/West Hawaii Today)

Kelsie Wehren takes pride in being a problem solver.

When the coronavirus shut down gyms around the world, Wehren, who owns of Trunk Trainers in Kailua-Kona, got to work, confronting the problem to ensure her members’ workout routines remained intact and her business endured.

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“We do one-on-one training, we do group sessions and we also consider ourselves fitness educators,” said Wehren of Trunk Trainers’ primary objectives. “We teach people why they’re exercising and make it so they can stick with it. … We’re big on accountability and creating a community.”

In late March, the state-mandated lockdown forced gyms to pivot to an entirely online service: a move that made business tough for Trunk Trainers. Within days, however, Wehren’s team implemented an online workout regimen to keep members on schedule.

“We were using Skype for personal training; some of my clients, over the past 12, 13 years have moved back to the mainland. I had probably been 10% online and 90% in-house,” Wehren said of the split between Trunk Trainers’ online and in-person business before coronavirus hit. “Because I had that, and I know that it works, the team just said, ‘Ok, let’s do this.’ We started with Facebook Live, we added Zoom, we made as many things available: FaceTime, Google Meet — anything the client preferred.”

Wehren has kept her clients involved by creating a number of different series of online workouts. Her latest, the Big Island Series, included workouts filmed in outdoor themes from all around the island featuring names including the shaka, the hibiscus, ocean, snorkel and volcano workouts, among others.

“We’re featuring the Big Island so that people on the mainland who are literally locked in their houses can have something better to look at than just the same gym,” added Wehren. “We’re trying to create an experience of being in Hawaii for people online.”

In an unexpected twist, Trunk Trainers has actually grown throughout the pandemic, reaching people as far away as New York and multiple other spots on the mainland. With the lockdown lifted on the Big Island, Wehren has welcomed back some in-person members, albeit with reduced numbers, strict social distancing and cleaning requirements. The majority of Trunk Trainers’ clientele, however, still remains online.

“In making these changes, I was able to retain all of my employees and create a new online department that makes fitness education and coaching more accessible than ever before,” said Wehren.

Most importantly, the community Trunk Trainers created online has succeeded in keeping people involved, despite most of them not making regular trips to the gym.

“It’s amazing how effective online is for not feeling isolated, and you can still be safe,” said Wehren. “It’s really important as accountability coaches, we need to make it as easy as possible to keep people sticking with it.”

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Wehren was quick to spread the credit around for keeping Trunk Trainers afloat during a tough time. From her team to the gym’s members, she credits trust and determination to enduring through the pandemic.

“I’m super humbled by the fact that the community, as always, has taken care of Trunk Trainers,” said Wehren. “The team has pulled together and pulled off an amazing accomplishment; we’re stronger than ever before.”

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