Gyms adjusting to new guidelines as they reopen
Tahoe Daily Tribune
After at least 75 days of being closed, fitness centers in Nevada are allowed to reopen at 50% capacity and as of Friday, June 5, California gyms starting next week can invite its members back into their spaces.
However, with organized sports canceled this year and only a few ways to move around, gym aficionados are chomping at the bit to get back to exercising.
Trying to appease customers and open safely has been a bit of a challenge, but gym owners who want to continue their livelihood are doing whatever it takes to stop the financial bleed caused from being closed.
High Altitude Fitness, Incline Village
High Altitude Fitness in Incline Village is known for its popular rock-climbing gym and fitness center with free weights and state-of-the-art exercise equipment. To meet new health and safety requirements, HAF moved around some of its equipment to keep fitness buffs six feet away from each other and reopened to its members by appointment only which has been working out pretty well they say.
“Now people sign up for 75-minute sessions online, and after each group we clean for 15 minutes before we let the next group in, which keeps people from building up in the parking lot,” says HAF Owner Jason Burd.
Members seem to like the new system and Burd said they are getting the same number of people in the gym — if not more — than this time last year.
“Our clients being willing to adapt to this new system is what has allowed us to get reopened,” Burd said.
HAF has had an online system in place for a long time that has allowed people to sign up for fitness classes, and just expanded it to all members wanting to visit the gym as well. The online booking system controls occupancy and allows HAF to meet its own standards of only letting up to 30 people work out at one time along with 10 people in the climbing room.
“Overall, it’s working out pretty great,” said Burd.
HAF opened its doors May 30 and visits were up 58% compared to this time last year. They’ve also received 40 more new memberships since they reopened.
“We got a lot at once, but we were closed for 74 days so a lot may have joined during that time,” he says. We didn’t expect to sell new memberships, so that was a nice surprise,” Burd adds.
However, while Gov. Steve Sisolak is allowing Nevada gyms to reopen, he’s stated that certain services must remain unavailable for the time being. At HAF, the showers are closed, lockers are inaccessible, the towel service is gone and there are no saunas.
“We have absolutely zero indication of when that will change,” Burd said.
He explains that they were ready to open months ago, and he happened to stumble upon a tweet from the governor indicating when they could reopen with release of the new guidance.
“We are just as safe if not safer than other businesses that are deemed ‘essential.’ We used to be considered an essential business,” he chuckles.
“We have a turnstile (that controls how many people go into the gym) whereas a grocery store just lets everyone in- they probably get a thousand customers a day compared to our 100 (before the pandemic) at the most. The small number of people who come here are respectfully staying away from each other, and the people who are concerned about the crowds can easily check the app to see how busy it is during a certain time slot and decide for themselves the best time to come,” Burd adds.
Even though HAF allows a maximum of 30 people into its fitness center, Burd says that they are only getting about 20 at the most per session per day. Its busiest times tend to be between 6-9 a.m. and 5-8 p.m.
Regarding keeping their staff on board throughout the pandemic, Burd says that they have people who are really into rock climbing, so they stayed and helped replace all the climbing holds as well as take down all top ropes, replacing them with auto belays.
“They’ve been here for the past month, sterilizing everything, it’s been crazy,” he says.
Elevated Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe
“We’re ready to open and have a plan,” says Elevated Tahoe Owner David Kumpe of the California gym in South Lake Tahoe that is still waiting to reopen. In California, the reopening of gyms is in Phase 3 and Gov. Gavin Newsom finally released guidelines Friday.
It was March 19 when Elevated closed and moved all of their workouts and training programs online. However, when it can invite its members back into its space, Kumpe says that the biggest changes that members will notice are: the observance and compliance of new social distancing guidelines, limiting the number of people who can be in the gym at one time (they are looking at a maximum of 10 people, including staff), and keeping enough equipment so that people don’t have to share. Elevated also plans on staggering its fitness class times so that staff has enough time to clean before sessions.
“Being a smaller gym it’s easier for us to control (COVID-19) exposure,” Kumpe said. He adds that people who went to other gyms and then transferred to Elevated did so because they noticed equipment not being sanitized as much or people tended to be too close to each other and breathing heavy. He believes that small gyms can separate themselves from big box gyms by maintaining their space and protecting public safety more easily.
“We already have high standards (of cleanliness) and this allows us to do more along those lines,” he says. “We ask that members be diligent themselves, too. If they feel sick, stay home.”
Elevated Tahoe plans on continuing its online classes for those who aren’t ready to come back yet and being open to members by appointment only. About a year ago, Elevated set up an online portal for their programs which has allowed them to easily transition into the virtual space in recent COVID times.
“The learning curve came from how to best serve people online,” he says, like using props found around the house as alternatives for gym equipment to get the most out of their workouts. Trainers have been filling in as necessary but the Kumpes have had to take on more of that to help control costs.
“We’re just focusing on getting it to where people feel safe, so we’re going to keep our online options available,” he says. Their plan is to hopefully reopen around Monday, June 8, but it all depends on what develops in the meantime with the city/county state codes.
“But we will reopen, keeping safety and every precaution in mind. Health and fitness are very important, and we will continue to be welcoming and supportive so that people can get the most out of it. There are a lot of question marks that will hopefully be answered in the next few months,” Kumpe said.
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