Many Florida gyms set to reopen today
Florida gym-goers can return to their routines this week as the state’s fitness facilities are allowed to reopen, but they’re bound to see a lot of changes. Some owners are requiring instructors to wear masks and are temporarily turning off machines to encourage social distancing.
Monday marks the first time fitness facilities have been able to open since March 20, when Gov. Ron DeSantis ordered them to shut down to help prevent the spread of coronavirus.
Many facilities are eager to welcome back members — with precautions. Rock Hard Fitness owner Max Dunley said class participants can expect to be greeted at the front door by staff checking their temperatures, spraying sanitizer on their hands and disinfecting their shoes. And they’ll enter through the front
door and exit out the rear of the small gym to avoid commingling groups.
Dunley said he expects a busy first week back at his gym, which offers boot camp-style classes and other activities, because “everyone is itching to get back to their normal routine.”
Gyms can operate if they practice safe social distancing and sanitize machines and other surfaces, according to DeSantis. An executive order allows 50% of their normal capacity.
The decision has been controversial. While some asked DeSantis to reopen fitness facilities — with one group doing push-ups and squats outside the Pinellas County courthouse — others urged officials to delay reopening gyms, fearing they could become easy places for the virus to spread.
In addition to allowing gyms to reopen, DeSantis’ order allows restaurants and retail stores to operate at 50% capacity. Previously, those establishments had been limited to 25% capacity.
Many gyms plan to open Monday, including Power Strength Gym on W Sand Lake Road, which wrote on its Facebook page it will reopen at 5 a.m. However, half of the cardio equipment will be shut off temporarily to promote social distancing and half of the benches in the dumbbell area will be unavailable. Additionally, water fountains will be turned. Staff also will conduct temperature checks on members at check-in, among other precautions, the post said.
Not every gym is returning to its normal schedule immediately: The YMCA of Central Florida, for example, said some of its facilities will reopen Thursday “in a careful, phased rollout.”
“This approach will help ensure the safety and wellbeing of all in our care,” the organization wrote in an email to its members late last week.
At Rock Hard Fitness, classes that normally have 20 or more participants will be limited to eight, Dunley said. Instructors will wear masks, and virtual classes will continue for people who aren’t ready to come back.
Dunley said he understood why state leaders shuttered gyms in March, but he also knows fitness routines help many people cope with stress. As gyms reopen, he said he hopes people will stay patient.
“If something doesn’t flow right, we’re just doing our best in an ever-changing environment,” he said.
Crunch Fitness staff go through training with protective masks as they review new safety guidelines.