Gyms prepare for a new year and new members during COVID-19 pandemic

2021 fitness resolutions may be a bit different with the pandemic

WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - As a new year approaches, many of us are thinking about our resolutions. Often, that includes better health and fitness, which leaves gyms packed at the beginning of the year.

But it may look different at gyms and fitness centers this year as we continue to battle the coronavirus. Gyms are just one of the many businesses that have struggled in 2020, but trainers say they’re trying to make it work.

“We had to shift to not only offering virtual classes online for all of our camps and for our members, we also had to shift to socially distant exercises inside,” said Stephanie Behrends, the lead trainer at Burn Boot Camp Wilmington.

“It was a lot of twists and turns,” said director of policy and legislative affairs for Orangetheory Fitness, Leigh Cunius,

Both gyms have been operating under a limited capacity for several months and say there haven’t been issues so far.

“We have not had a single COVID case here at our gym and we have been able to just deter that for sure,” said Behrends. “With everything that we have been doing, all of this, the processes that we have in place, and we feel absolutely comfortable being in here and a lot of our members feel comfortable that way as well. I would have to say that the gyms are not where [COVID-19 is] getting to.”

Cunius has been heavily involved in Fitness Operators for Responsible Reopening (FORR). The alliance group, comprising several gyms, reached out to Governor Roy Cooper and the state health department with data and information about why gyms can open and run safely.

“We work together because we realized we needed to amplify our voices versus single operations,” said Cunius. “We work together, really, to share information and help show that many fitness facilities in North Carolina have the same mission and take responsibility and will do the right thing.”

Cunius and Behrends say there has not been any coronavirus outbreaks or clusters at their gyms. Both take various precautions and have protocols in place to keep clients safe: hand sanitizing stations, air circulation, mask mandates, deep cleans, sanitizing weights/equipment, occupancy limits, and social distancing.

The assistant director of New Hanover County Public Health, David Howard, shared the following statement with WECT regarding going to the gym during the pandemic.

The New Year is a great time to refocus on health and wellness, and physical fitness is an important part of that. Guidelines in place for gyms and other business establishments help slow the spread of COVID-19, and we have seen them succeed in our community. While we have formally corresponded with one gym in town in response to complaints around lack of adherence to operating guidelines, overall compliance by businesses and customers reduces the risk of COVID-19.

Residents are also encouraged to take advantage of the beautiful parks, paths and trails in our community to increase their physical activity. Remember to maintain distance from others, and wear face coverings when outside of your home.

The New Hanover County Coronavirus Call Center continues to serve residents and businesses in consulting around safety guidelines and provides guidance in implementing best practices to slow the spread of COVID-19. The Call Center is open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and can be reached at 910-798-6800.

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