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COVID19 Documentary Series - Matt Gabriel, Fitness Academy, Ridgewood

I visited Matt at his Fitness studio yesterday as the first of our COVID19 Documentary Series for Small Business owners. One of the most pressing qualities during this pandemic was focusing on empathy: "Every single one of us is going through our own individual journey adapting to this new normal. Everybody will have a different version of how all of this went down. Books will be written. Movies will be made. Stories will be told. So, with that being said our connection to one another is as important as it’s ever been.

"We are, by nature very social creatures. We have now lost one of our most vital resources for communication which is a physical in person connection. Our energy and our vibrations are very real and they do not translate the same way via FaceTime as they would in person.

"I myself, went through my own version of depression when all of this started. I have people in my life currently that have still not crawled out from that depression. People are unaware of why they feel the way that they do. Not fully understanding that this new way of life is not conductive to the human race and that we will never fully adapt to this and be OK with it. It goes against our nature. All we can do in the meantime just try to stay as positive as we can, be empathetic towards one another. Understanding that everyone’s mood is off from how they normally would be. It’s a time to be gentle with each other. It’s an important time to support one another."

I asked Matt why he started his business. "To serve my community. To give people a fitness education. I believe the ‘why’ behind everything we do is what gives it purpose."

Matt offers 1-on-1 personal training as well as small group classes that he has transitioned to online; FaceTiming clients and creating custom workouts and diet plans for them. "I take a holistic approach with all my nutrition and lifestyle suggestions."

We spoke about connections in the small business community and reaching out to the public as a whole, emphasizing how these connections are especially important in these times of social distancing.

"Every time you support small business you make a connection. You literally impact a life. Every time you purchase from Amazon you’re just another number."

How has the pandemic affected you, your family, your business? "Finishing up my third year this June. Before all this happened I had almost 30 clients. Now I have about 6 so it’s been like starting from scratch. The transition to FaceTime sessions has not been an easy one but I am making the most of it."

What hopes do you see for the future? What is bolstering your spirits these days? "Well, I personally believe even with the reopening of things like gyms, I don’t think people will feel comfortable in such big crowded spaces. So I actually believe that a small boutique one on one personal training studio will thrive once all of this is over. Or at least that is my hope anyway! From a humanitarian level, I hope we no longer take each other for granted."

Before I left, he gave some parting advice, especially to those who are struggling: "Exercise your creative side. We all have a creator with us. It may sound silly but something as simple as buying an adult coloring book. Start writing. Start filming things. Go outside take pictures of nature. There are so many things that we can do to preoccupy our minds from what we are all currently living through."

"The silver lining through all this is our downtime being amplified. This is such an incredible time to go within and work on yourself. Find out where your passions really lie. Create from this opportunity. If you weren’t happy with your life before COVID-19. Why go back to work when all of this is over? Build a new future for yourself. There’s nothing that you aren’t capable of creating!"

Matt Gabriel, Owner of Fitness Academy, can be found at 47 E Ridgewood Ave., Ridgewood, NJ. You can also connect on Instagram @Coachmgnj or

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