Shock and despair have sadly become all too familiar this year, and on May 18, members of Movement Lab—best known for its alternative fitness classes and supportive community—were devastated to hear that the Remington haven would close by the end of the month due to COVID-related financial stress.
Just before founder Lola Manekin decided to close the studio, she had made plans to move back to her native Brazil for a year—leaving behind a new management team and a Board of Directors in place. Sitting on the board was longtime member Caroline Kirschnick, who is also the President of Baltimore’s Electric Motor Repair Company. For her, the news of the closure was jarring.
When Manekin called to tell Kirschnick the news, she fell to the floor. “What do you mean?” Kirschnick said. “No. No. This place is so important to so many people.” By the end of the call, Manekin admitted that she had hoped Kirschnick would have offered to take over the business.
The moments later had Kirschnick’s mind spinning.
“Running a business is running a business,” she says, “and I thought, if this is actually an option, how amazing would it be for me to continue on this legacy? It would be the most amazing honor.”
The longer Kirschnick thought about it, as she watched the outpouring of those saddened by the closure, her conversations with Manekin became more serious. By July 24, Kirschnick had swooped in to take over the studio and Movement Lab had reopened.
Kirschnick attended her first Movement Lab class nearly four years ago after searching for a fitness studio that was different from the typical gym.
“I wandered in and took a Nia [sensory-based movement] class—it was like nothing I’d ever done,” she recalls. “The space was so amazing and beautiful. It had such good energy that I just kept coming back.”
Throughout those initial six months of taking classes at the boutique fitness studio, Kirschnick admired the energy brought by Manekin, her Nia fitness instructor. She’d never spoken to Manekin, until one day something urged her to reach out.
“At the time, I was going through some things personally,” says Kirschnick, “I’d never spoken to Lola before, but I found her email and said, ‘This might sound crazy, but I’m looking for something and you seem like you might have it.’” Soon after, Kirschnick and Manekin became good friends.
As the studio begins a new era with Kirschnick at the helm, Manekin’s motto “fitness as a consequence,” still rings true.
“That core value that people’s well-being is more than the physical, but also spiritual and emotional,” Kirschnick says, “and for Movement Lab to be a safe place to experience new things and stretch comfort zones, that will always stay the same.”
But that doesn’t mean there won’t be any changes: “With a new team brings new energy, and that is what I feel has shifted,” Kirschnick adds. It was an intentional difference to “bring a more balanced approach to the masculine and feminine energies in the space.” Not only is the management team now more gender-inclusive, but Kirschnick has added classes such as martial arts and kickboxing that bring out more masculine movements.
Embarking on a new era during a pandemic hasn’t been the easiest task. Currently, Movement Lab is operating at 50-percent capacity with safety protocols in place. During the reopening this summer, turnout was low with some classes never having any attendance. But in the last few weeks, things have been looking up with smaller studios filling to capacity.
“It’s definitely heartwarming and brings a lot of hope,” Kirschnick says.
Still, the concern of safety is very much prominent in Movement Lab’s operations. While equipment cleaning has increased and new ventilation has been installed, outdoor pop-up classes in partnership with R. House are also being promoted to welcome those who are more cautious.
For Kirschnick, owning a fitness studio during a pandemic is not something she’s familiar with, but she’s hopeful.
“I believe with all of my heart this place is not done,” she says. “I think it is all going to be okay. I have all the faith in the world.”