BRISTOL, Va. — For gym rats, cleaning off the equipment after using it is nothing new, but Virginia lifters who are finally returning to the iron will find many gyms enforcing additional sanitation rules due to COVID-19.
After more than 70 days of being closed, most gyms and fitness centers in Virginia were allowed to reopen last week at 30% capacity and with 10 feet of social distancing under the second phase of Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s reopening plan.
Claude Mumpower, owner of Iron Mayhem Strength and Conditioning on Commonwealth Avenue, said the entire gym has been busy since they reopened.
“We’re like a big family,” Mumpower said. “Everyone is very excited to be back.”
When the gym had to temporarily cease operations, members were given the option of continuing to pay or canceling their membership. About 50% of his members stayed, and without them, there’s no way the gym would be open, Mumpower said.
“We’re not like the big gyms, we don’t have big membership numbers,” he said. “We don’t have any employees so we couldn’t get any assistance from the government either.”
Jim Williams, franchise owner of Workout Anytime Bristol along Euclid Avenue, said in his 30 years of business ownership and in the five years the gym has been open, he’s never had to close a business under circumstances like the pandemic.
He said it was challenging. Although members weren’t charged while the gym was closed, the bills still had to be paid. But the landlord was helpful and understanding, Williams said.
The gym reopened Monday. Although he lost some members, many have come back and new members have joined, Williams said.
Large numbers of people don’t normally join gyms at this time of year, but he said some may be returning because they were cooped up in their homes for so long during the quarantine.
And they’ve implemented new health measures, as well. Members are asked to carry a spray bottle and towel to clean off equipment as they use it, and the staff has increased the frequency that equipment is cleaned and wiped off.
On the other side of the state line, many gyms were allowed to reopen a month ago. Justin Wade, co-owner of Crossfit 423 on Seventh Street, said he reopened May 1.
During the month the gym was closed, members and income were lost, but in recent weeks there has been a steady stream of new people along with the old, he said.
“It’s been a little mixture of both, I’d say honestly more toward the new people side,” Wade said.