AUSTIN (KXAN) — A rental platform that bills itself as “like Airbnb, but for everything” is recruiting local gyms to list exercise equipment that’s not being used during the coronavirus pandemic.

Ruckify, where users can rent anything from camping gear to board games, wants to provide gyms with a revenue stream while they’re shut down due to COVID-19, while also providing Austinites ways to stay fit as they practice social distancing.

“We started getting more requests on our platform from our users in Austin to rent fitness equipment, and what we realized was we weren’t prepared for that,” said Andrew O’Brien, Ruckify’s business development manager. “We didn’t have enough people listing fitness equipment.”

Now the company is encouraging more gym owners to sign on to meet demand. “We thought, alright, this is our opportunity to come in and help these gyms,” O’Brien said.

A screenshot from Ruckify shows a recumbent bike for rent. (Image Courtesy: Ruckify)

Adapting to social distancing

The evolution of social distancing measure, from recommendations to bans on gatherings to a statewide closure of gyms and other public places, has had owners scrambling.

“We’ve been having to adapt very quickly,” said Forrest Caudill, owner of Fighting Fit Boot Camp, a north Austin kickboxing gym. Caudill moved to offering classes online via video chat and sold members the freestanding punching bags they use for the workouts.

He bought more than a dozen new ones to replace them, and is now renting those out on Ruckify. “If somebody has a bag, then they got everything they need for these virtual classes,” he explained.

forrest caudill punching bag
Forrest Caudill, owner of Fighting Fit Boot Camp in north Austin, leads a virtual workout on Thursday, March 26, 2020. (Photo Courtesy: Forrest Caudill)

The system is allowing Caudill to keep his clients coming back, and he hopes it fills the gap until the pandemic subsides and he’s able to rebuild the clientele who didn’t convert to the video workouts. The ones who did, he said, appreciate the opportunity.

“We’ve had a lot of people say a big part of what they love about the training is just seeing familiar faces again,” Caudill said. “There’s so much that’s changed in everybody’s life.”

Ruckify is offering its rental services to gyms without taking a cut of the rental price, which is normally how the site operates. O’Brien said they’re waiving that fee to ensure local gyms get to keep all the profit in this uncertain time.

Ruckify also insures all the equipment and handles pickup and delivery. The platform also allows the owners to promote their virtual workouts to accompany their rentals.

“Some of them like it so much,” O’Brien said, “they’re even considering, ‘Maybe I’m going to change my entire business model.'”

“We’ve actually had some of our members say that they prefer it,” Caudill said. He’s still looking forward to reopening the physical location, but in the meantime, the platform is allowing him to extend his classes to more Austinites.

“I think we’ve got some ways to use it to really help us weather the storm,” he said.