On Monday, gyms outside of Boston were allowed to resume operations as part of Phase 3 of Governor Charlie Baker’s reopening plan. But the guidelines for gyms, announced Thursday, posed some challenges for owners, making reopening a little trickier than expected.
Brett Owens, owner of VIM Fitness in Cambridge, was frustrated that the 14-foot social distancing requirement (if there are no Plexiglas barriers) meant his popular fitness studios, which typically fit 25, could now hold only three customers.
”It’s really [the governor] saying, ‘We’re going to let them open, but we’re not going to let them operate,‘ ” Owens said. “It’s really a catch-22.”
With cardio equipment roped off, studios closed until the requirements can be met, and equipment spread out, the gym scene looked different on reopening day.
”It’s not even close to how many [customers] we typically have,” Owens said. “But we have people come in, and they’re happy to be back.”
VIM Fitness has revealed a two-stage plan on its website that notes members are required to have their temperatures checked prior to entering, wear masks while working out (unless unsafe to do so), and remain 14 feet away from other customers where there are no Plexiglas partitions.
Owens plans to spend this week installing hanging Plexiglas in the studios and ensuring that the gym meets all of Baker’s requirements while becoming more accessible to customers.
Steve Sabile, owner of Blink Fitness in Medford and Beverly, saw a popular gym day Monday, with over 300 check-ins at the Medford location by 2 p.m.
”People are being very respectful,” Sabile said. “Everyone is wearing their face coverings, and they’re following the rules, and no one is really complaining so far.”
Also surprised by the 14-foot rule, Sabile is planning to install Plexiglas barriers this week to allow another third of the equipment to become accessible. Other safety measures include temperature checks, constant cleaning, reduced gym capacity, and limited cardio equipment.
”It’s great to have my staff back,” Sabile said. “We actually were able to sustain about 95 percent of our staff, which we’re very, very pleased with.”
Blink is currently running limited hours, but Sabile is hopeful that it can return to normal hours soon if it continues to meet the requirements.
Mark Harrington, the owner of Healthworks, received about 10 to 15 customers an hour Monday, in comparison to its prior capacity of 100 to 200 people, depending on club location.
”The biggest challenge was just how few people were allowed in clubs at one point in time,” Harrington said. “The vibe of the club is a little different now.”
Healthworks has been managing customers with reservations and has capped capacity. Reservation blocks last for 75 minutes, with 15-minute cleaning periods in between. In addition, the gym has offered virtual classes and personal training sessions online.
”The big thing is that we know that fitness and physical activity in particular helps a lot of people get through their day,” Harrington said. “We’re really pleased to be open to allow people to resume their normal life.”