Some fitness centers frustrated as not all gyms can reopen in Phase 1.5

Published: May. 14, 2020 at 11:02 PM CDT
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After weeks of sitting idle, gyms and fitness centers have been warming up for reopening next week, but Thursday's new order has some workout places halting their plans to open their doors for the second time this month.

In Phase 1.5, gyms, fitness centers and health clubs can reopen, but they can't hold in-person group classes, and locker rooms can't be open except to use the restroom. Some facilities, including Airstrike in Wichita, can't operate with the group-classes restriction.

"We're implementing everything that they're asking, and then they come along and say false start again. This is the second time they said we couldn't open," said Airstrike owner TJ Thomas.

The cheerleading, tumble, martial arts and group fitness center was planning to welcome back clients Monday. The business is one that's not about treadmills and ellipticals. It's group fitness classes.

"Upset stomach, like just wind out of my sail," said Thomas.

Thomas said he's angry and frustrated with this latest announcement.

"Of course I can keep it down to size, but should I have to? That's the real question," said Thomas. "Why in the world should I have to keep 10 people in a sanitized room over 400 people walking through Lowes. That is unconstitutional. That is discrimination. I don't care how you spin it, that's not right."

Thomas said he doesn't understand the metrics used to decide to will leave his business closed.

The delay to the reopening process adds to the burdens his business faces. He's receiving requests from families to cancel their memberships until they can reopening.

"Just two days ago, I was able to apply for unemployment [as a self-employed business owner]. Two days ago, so I haven't seen that yet. As a business owner, I'm bleeding. I'm absolutely bleeding, and I can guarantee you many businesses are going to go out if they can't bounce back from this," said Thomas.

It's a similar predicament for Derby Fit Body Boot Camp.

"We don't know." Judith Morales, the co-owner of Derby Fit Body Boot Camp, said, "We'll have to ask them what they mean by fitness classes because we are not considered fitness classes, we are small group personal training sessions, and I feel like we can do a really good job at following the directions by keeping it under ten people."

Morales said while they'll be following up with state health officials tomorrow, she believes they're exempt using the classification of personal services that are allowed in Phase 1.5, and that describes their business model.

"I do believe gyms are strongly essential, but I think small gyms like this sometimes get overlooked, and they don't take into consideration how much safer we probably are compared to other places," said Morales.

Derby Fit Body Boot Camp has also been crafting guidelines for what reopening will look like.

"Our clients will wait in their cars until the trainer opens the door. As they walk in, the trainer will spray their hands with hand sanitizer. The trainer will also check them in on the tablet, so we do not cross-contaminate on them entering," said Morales.

She added, "We're also requiring them to carry in their shoes and wiping off their shoes when they enter our facility, so we're not cross-contaminating off the bottom of the shoes if they've been to other establishments."

They've also taped out 8x8 squares on their floor, where clients are asked to remain for their workout. Clients are also now required to register for a session and no longer allowing walk-ins.

"We're spreading out our sessions more so we have 30 minutes between each session so that we have time to spray down the area, wipe down the equipment so that everything is 110 percent safe," said Morales.

Top Crop Barbell is also instituting precautions.

They will be able to reopen in Phase 1.5.

"It will pretty much look like business as usual prior to the orders," said Top Crop Barbell owner Orlando Mijares.

In addition to enhanced cleaning measures, they're also launching a way for members to schedule when they'll be at the gym to limit how many people are there at a time.

"It's getting back to life; it's getting back to what things need to be. This shutdown for almost two months really hurt us along with a lot of us in the industry," said Mijares.

Owner Orlando Mijares said he believes gyms should have been able to reopen in Phase One and sees some of the restrictions in Phase 1.5 as going too far.

"I think it's still a bit conservative, in my opinion. The no group fitness thing does hamper us a little bit," said Mijares. He added, "We have certain trainers that run fitness classes and stuff like that. We're working with them to try to come up with a creative way to try to still service those members that they have."

For Mijares, this place is about more than working out for his members, and many have expressed a desire to return.

"This isn't just about physical fitness for some people." Mijares said, "For some people, this is a mental thing. We have a lot of retired military that have PTSD and things like that; this is their outlet."

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