Serving up safety at area fitness centers | Lifestyle

If you have kept away from the gym due to fears over safety concerns related to COVID-19, many gyms in the area are going to great lengths to make sure the environment is up to par with safety guidelines so you can work out and get back to good health safely.

On the other hand, some of you might be turned off by the strict safety guidelines that many have put in place, creating yet another reason not to resume your workouts at your favorite fitness center pre-pandemic.

After checking in with several fitness clubs that have reopened since the shutdown, it is clear that each is taking their own approach to carry out the guidelines, with many of the most important aspects remaining consistent among gyms. However, you might find that some facilities are carrying out the guidelines in a way that is more aligned with your comfort zone than others.

At Anytime Fitness, located in the Coventry Mall, they don’t have an issue sticking to the 50-percent maximum capacity guideline gyms have to adhere to since they are a 24/7 club.

“We don’t have more than 10 in our club at one time,” said Beth Ann Calamia, manager of the club, adding they can technically have up to 60 people in their space at a time, but don’t, given people have the ability to attend their gym around the clock.

Reservation tool

While some Anytime Fitness locations require the use of their reservation tool to attend, the Coventry Mall location does not. When it comes to masks, members are expected to enter and exit the club while wearing them.

“As long as you get to your station and set up, you may pull it down to breathe during your workout and then moving from one piece of equipment to another you have to wear your mask,” Calamia said.

To create a safer distance floor plan, Calamia said the facility moved around its cardio equipment to space it out to give three to six feet in between things such as treadmills and stair masters.

The club provides masks and gloves for anyone who forgets to bring theirs. Upon entering, members are required to sanitize their hands and must wipe equipment down after use. The staff cleans the restrooms daily, along with the equipment, using an alcohol-based cleaning solution.

“Members have approached us saying, ‘thanks for keeping the restrooms and equipment clean’,” she said.

New procedures

It just took a couple of weeks for Calamia to feel like the new procedures the gym has to follow was the norm.

“In the beginning, it took a lot of time to get the cleaning done,” she said. “With everything, over time you adjust your schedules and it becomes everyday life and you don’t even think about it anymore.”

Since the gym reopened, Anytime Fitness has recently seen some clients who were skittish initially come over and unfreeze their memberships.

“They have gained a significant amount of weight and they are looking to get healthy and lose the weight,” Calamia said.

‘Cleansiderate’

At Planet Fitness in Pottstown, the staff emphasizes how members are considered a key to keeping the gym environment clean and safe.

On its website, Planet Fitness lists the ways to be “cleansiderate” that include washing hands before and after workouts, taking a day off from working out if not feeling well and giving a thumbs up instead of a high-five as a way to give encouragement without touching.

To limit contact, Planet Fitness offers “touchless check-in,” cardio distancing and a “crowd meter” that enables you to use an app to see how many people are at the club before you plan to go to help you gauge whether or not you feel it’s a good time for you to go and workout.

Since it is a corporate location of Planet Fitness in Pottstown, the gym requires masks to be worn at all times during your workout.

Masks optional

For those who prefer a masks-optional approach, the Pottstown Wellness Club, a non-profit located on High Street, is a CrossFit gym that has made the wearing of masks optional.

“We have 7,000 square feet so it is a wide-open space and we keep everyone socially distanced, 12 feet apart,” said Robert Matthews, owner and executive director of the Club. “We are able to open our garage doors and windows so we get a ton of air circulating and it’s well ventilated.”

Matthews said there is a 50/50 mix of those who are and aren’t wearing masks and coaches also have the option to wear one or not.

“If the person they are coaching requests them to wear a mask, then it’s a no-brainer,” Matthews said.

Instead of having a professional cleaning service come in, Matthews chose to have a designated janitor on staff who addresses the facility daily. The facility  also has a supply of bleach cleaner on hand for members to wash equipment before and after use.

At Final Results Fitness in Gilbertsville, the facility has a system in place where every member who walks in the door goes to a pick-up point where they get their own spray bottle filled with disinfectant, along with a microfiber towel to clean each piece of equipment they come into contact with.

“Every member cleans up after themselves,” said Jen Wood, co-owner of the 33-year-old gym she runs with her husband, John.

Temperature checks

Final Results Fitness has a firm mask policy, except for when working out on equipment, and do daily temperature checks on employees.

“We have taken every precaution and we have written guidelines on how we can keep our members and staff safe,” she said, adding they sent a COVID reopening guide to each member.

Their group classes are reservation-only to limit attendees and they have social distance markers placed on the floor. For those who still feel safer working out at home, they have a camera mounted to the ceiling, to enable people to take the classes in real-time via Zoom.

Wood sees the camera as being a permanent fixture.

“We are prepared for these changes to be long-term,” Wood said. “We are Zooming as many classes as possible and that is here to stay.”

As part of the Pennsylvania Fitness Alliance, Wood is an advocate for the fitness industry in voicing her concerns and opinion surrounding her belief that gyms should be considered essential businesses in the event of any future business closures related to the pandemic.

“We are essential to your health and physical well-being,” she said. “Should there be a potential closure we are going to fight for our members to remain open.”

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