Fitness enthusiasts across Washington County will be happy to get back to their workouts in the spaces with which they’re familiar as the area enters the green phase this week, allowing gyms to open at 50% capacity.
Gym owners, trainers and staff are happy to welcome back their communities while prioritizing sanitization and social distancing in the fitness plan.
“I’m excited to see our team members back and our members,” said Debbie Roytas, executive director of the Wilfred R. Cameron Wellness Center. “I’ve been here for almost 17 years, so they are my extended family. I will be outside Monday morning just ready to greet them.”
The wellness center in South Strabane Township plans to open Monday. The staff has placed directional and social distancing stickers on the floors, and turned off every other machine to promote distancing. The wellness center also purchased an electrostatic sprayer to disinfect workout equipment.
“We’re going to have phases of our reopening,” Roytas said. “The first two weeks, we are limiting our hours, programs and services.”
The facility will be open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Roytas said.
Everything will be open, including the locker rooms, pool, and spa, but there won’t be any services, child care, classes or personal training sessions in those first two weeks. The wellness center typically runs more than 100 group classes a week, but with social distancing guidelines in effect, “we’re not going to jump to that number of classes,” Roytas said.
Roytas said she doesn’t expect to reach 50% capacity, but if that happens in some areas, like the pool, for example, an online scheduling system will be set up for swimming laps. The safety and well being of members and staff is a priority, she said.
“We’re a medical fitness center, so we have a lot of seniors and members who are in that vulnerable population,” Roytas said.
When the wellness center begins phase two of its opening, personal training, group classes and swimming lessons will start up again, Roytas said. She also said that since organizers had to cancel the youth camp for the summer, the center will be offering youth conditioning and strengthening programs in phase two.
“I’ve been really inundated with phone calls, emails and messages from all the people who just can’t wait to get back, not only for weight loss but also for their mental well being,” Roytas said.
Planet Fitness in North Strabane plans to open in mid-June, and the Mon Valley YMCA will reopen Wednesday.
Angel Gulick, operations director for the Mon Valley YMCA, said the organization will be touching base with furloughed staff to see who’s comfortable coming back to work. Only one entrance will be used for the wellness center, and the gymnasium will be used for group fitness classes.
Every other cardio machine will be “unplugged and unavailable,” Gulick said, and benches in the free weights areas will by spaced out. Members will need to scan their cards upon entering and exiting the building so the staff can keep track of how many people are in the facility at one time.
The staff will also be taking temperatures and maintaining a brief health review with members upon entrance. Gulick said people aren’t required to wear masks while working out, but they will be requested to wear one entering the building and while in common areas like restrooms.
Gulick said she’s fielded several phone calls in the last few weeks from people wondering what the “new normal” will look like.
“They know it’s not going to be what it was before,” she said. “You’ve got people on both sides of the fence – people who don’t think all the precautions are necessary and don’t want to wear a mask, and there’s people who are more cautious and maybe aren’t ready. It’s a personal decision I think.”
Overall, Gulick said it seems the community wants to get back to a gym routine and “some semblance of normalcy.”
“We want our people back,” she said. “We miss them.”
Marianne Kolson, owner of 30 and Out Fitness in Washington, said she also is excited to see her fitness community in the facility again. Her gym, which will be opening at 5 a.m. Friday, is a women-only workout center with between 400 and 500 members.
As with the other facilities, Kolson will be roping off machines to socially distance members and increasing disinfecting efforts.
“We’ll be more vigilant about how people clean up after themselves,” she said.
The “big attraction” to her gym, Kolson said, is group fitness classes, like yoga and Zumba. Those will have to be shortened and more limited in size to allow for appropriate social distancing, she said.
“This is going to be interesting to see if we get a rush back or a trickle,” Kolson said. “I have a feeling we’re all missing the exercise component and the social component, but I do feel like there’s still some fear, especially among our older demographic.”