NEW YORK (AP) – There is little evidence of Americans’ passion for fitness in tens of thousands of small and independent gyms across the country.
Gyms, health clubs and exercise studios reopened in late spring after the government ordered to stop the spread of the coronavirus. Most, however, are only allowed to have a fraction of their regular customers on site at the same time. And some customers stay away for fear of the virus.
The International Health Racquet & Sportsclub Association, an industry group, estimates that gyms, health and fitness clubs lost a total of $ 13.9 billion in shutdowns as of August 31. The group warns that without government help, at least a quarter could close by December. 31 continues as the limits for indoor workouts.
Michael Hanover is lucky enough to get 45 hours a week out of his usual 60 hours at his Northbrook, Illinois gym at the Fitness Hero Wellness Center. He sometimes opens at 5 a.m. or stays late at night to get those hours. Many customers are too restless to come in when other people are around.
“We don’t have people knocking on the door trying to get in,” he said. Hanover says.
In Illinois fitness studios can currently be used up to 50%, so that in Hanover there are no more than 10 people on site at any time. He believes that small gyms have been unjustly mixed up with large fitness chains, where hundreds of people may exercise and come into contact with one another at the same time. He wants to be able to win more customers.
Hanover’s big concern: An increase in cases that could lead officials to force gyms to return to only outdoor classes and one-to-one classes indoors.
“It will be devastating, and most likely the end of the Fitness Hero Wellness Center.” Hanover says.
According to IHRSA, over 80% of the 40,000 to 50,000 health and fitness clubs in the United States are small businesses. Whether yoga studios or fully equipped gyms, these companies provide a living for their owners. Last year the entire industry employed 3 million educators, instructors and other workers.
In a thriving fitness center or small gym, people run almost side by side on treadmills or step on stationary bikes, exercise classes are overcrowded, and coaches work with clients who are inches or feet apart. After good exercise, people tend to breathe more frequently and heavily.
When it comes to the coronavirus, all of these scenarios affect health officials as they can increase the spread of the respiratory droplets that carry the virus.
To allay those fears, owners are following guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that bikes and treadmills must be further apart or unplugged so some cannot be used. The device is disinfected after each use. Masks are required.
The owners also install ventilators to reduce the chances of inhaling concentrated amounts of coronavirus germs. However, these procedures do not calm many people who have exercised several times a week.
Vincent Miceli, owner of the Body Blueprint Gym, sees another problem: people have found that without the gym they can stay in shape by running, buying their own equipment, or taking online exercise classes.
“When we reopened, we figured that about 30% of our members would never return to a gym because they found something else, and that was pretty accurate.” says Miceli, whose gym is in Pelham, New York.
New York state limits the number of people in a gym to 33% of normal capacity. Before the pandemic, Miceli was teaching 140 hours per week; It’s now 25. His sales are down 70%.
Jeanne Carter and Julie Bokat also held online classes while their Fuel Training studio in Newburyport, Massachusetts had to close. The outdoor classes started in June and were well attended. But when indoor classes were allowed in July, few customers wanted to be inside.
So Carter and Bokat haul bikes and other equipment in and out of the gym every day.
“We haul a lot. You do what you have to do “ Says Carter.
The owners are now planning a greenhouse-like structure with heaters but no walls that the Fuel Training Studio can use during the winter months. Customers have already shown on 40-degree mornings that they can train well in cold air.
“They started with a coat and hat and within five minutes they were in tank tops” Says Carter.
Gyms in California were particularly hard hit. They closed and reopened twice as the number of cases rose and fell, repeating this pattern. Many gyms, including those in Los Angeles and San Francisco, have strict restrictions on exercising indoors. And smoke from nearby forest fires hindered outdoor training or forced it to be canceled.
MX3 Fitness’ two small studios in San Francisco can operate at only 10% capacity after reopening for indoor workouts on September 14, two at a time.
Owners Dave Karraker and Glenn Shope have run online and outdoor classes that are fully booked, but earnings are still only 20% of normal.
The two owners are lucky enough to have help in their struggle for survival. Their landlords have lowered their rents and allow MX3 Fitness to postpone part of the rent for 2020 until next year. And the real salvation is an Airbnb property they own in nearby Sonoma County.
“Without Airbnb we would not have been able to feed ourselves” Says Karraker.
Copyright 2020 The Associated Press.
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