While gyms and fitness centers have been shut down for the past several weeks, facility owners and trainers haven’t been sitting on their couches binge watching Netflix shows. Many were and still are working hard to ensure their gyms are safe for members and adhere to COVID-19 restrictions when they are allowed to reopen May 18. And some kept the workouts going — virtually.
“We transitioned and pivoted into online,” said personal trainer Calvin Richard, owner of Verus Strength and Fitness in Marble Falls. “Because we talked to other coaches and fitness folks, we knew what was coming. In 72 hours, we went from full occupancy to 50 percent shutdown. The next morning, we were on Zoom. I’ve been wanting an online offering for three years. And this happens, and boom, you do it.”
Charlotte Dilworth, co-owner of Kingsland Health and Fitness Center, also began offering virtual classes when her facility closed March 19.
“Our instructors have been wonderful,” she said.
She and Richard both plan to reopen Monday, the day that gyms can do so according to Gov. Greg Abbott’s phased plan to restart the state economy.
Before the mandated shutdown to help slow the spread of the coronavirus, Dilworth had spoken to others in the fitness industry in other parts of the world, so she knew what was coming.
“It’s not just our gym,” she said. “Everyone is going through it. We’re all in the same situation.”
But being “in the same situation” didn’t make it easy.
On April 7, Dilworth celebrated 40 years in the physical fitness business and had planned a big celebration. But because of the closing, that didn’t happen. While she confessed to “breakdowns daily,” she is resilient.
“My faith is what has kept me going,” she said. “(God) is always there to slap me or pull me up, to tell me it’s going to be OK.”
In anticipation of reopening May 18, both facilities are undergoing industrial cleaning to adhere to government safety rules.
Richard hired a cleaning company to scrub every part of the facility with industrial disinfectant, which kills bacteria in four seconds but is safe to the environment and humans.
Dilworth, her husband, Gary, who owns the fitness center with her, two staff members, and a volunteer have been cleaning the Kingsland facility.
Kingsland Health and Fitness Center will allow in 12 members — 25 capacity — at a time for one hour, once it reopens, Dilworth said. Only half of its treadmills will be in operation due to social distancing and sessions will be limited to 50 minutes. The facility will not offer in-person fitness classes right now, she said.
She and her team are grateful to clients who still paid their memberships the past several weeks. Kingsland Health and Fitness Center’s membership dropped by 50 percent during the closure.
“We’re very thankful to those who continued their membership,” she said. “Without them, we couldn’t pay our bills.”
To help people continue their workouts the past two months, Richard allowed his clients to sign out equipment for use during Verus’ virtual classes, which he offered five times a day.
“We didn’t have much fallout of membership,” he said. “Sixty to 70 percent of our members participated virtually.”
Richard is anticipating having 10 clients take in-person classes at a time once the gym reopens.
At both gyms, members’ temperatures will be taken and recorded as they enter. Verus clients will be asked to remove their shoes at the door, and Kingsland Health and Fitness Center members will have access to hand sanitizer and can grab a bottle filled with cleanser, a towel to clean equipment before and after each use, and a towel for personal use. Richard said equipment at Verus also will be cleaned before and after each use.
Members should bring their own water or sports drink and water bottles.
Social distancing guidelines will be enforced at both locations, Dilworth and Richard said.
Neither facility will accept new members for now, but Verus will take new clients who want to participate in virtual sessions, Richard said.
Both facilities will continue to offer online sessions.
“We’re going to be good,” Dilworth said. “I feel confident we’ll open (May 18).”
Richard, who moved here with his family from New Orleans in 2005 after Hurricane Katrina, saw the opportunity in the difficulty caused by COVID-19.
“It took Katrina for me to become an entrepreneur,” he said. “We’ll continue. (COVID-19) opened up our offerings to clients. We’ll have online offerings for them. I still want to be connected to community.”