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Gyms And Athletes Have Adapted To Changes Resulting From Coronavirus



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As the world closely approaches almost a full year of dealing with the coronavirus, many aspects of everyday life have continued to be different and challenging. Takeout dinners, drive-through testing, and grocery deliveries have all come about as businesses do their best to accommodate for health guidelines and procedures.

Gyms around the country have had their share of changes, too, having had to deal with indefinite closures, eventually reopening, and facing ever-evolving rules since March of 2020. In Newtown, trainers and staff at Joanne’s Fitness Studio, NYA Sports & Fitness, CrossFit Hook’d, and CrossFit RedZone have been working tirelessly to ensure that their doors remain open and their members stay safe.

On March 16, in the early stages of the pandemic, gyms in Connecticut were mandated to close their doors, with no indication of when they would be allowed to reopen. Joanne’s Fitness Studio, CrossFit RedZone, and CrossFit Hook’d moved to online training in order to maintain business and keep their members fit and active.

“When the orders came down that we had to close our doors and having no idea for how long, we immediately took our services to a totally online format. We provided our clients with online streaming classes, loaned out equipment to our members, and sent out daily newsletters that contained various other workouts,” Kurt Kling, co-owner of RedZone Athletics, home of CrossFit RedZone, said.

Joanne Lockwood, owner and personal fitness trainer at her studio, allowed customers to borrow equipment at home for her virtual classes.

The abrupt closure took a toll on all of these businesses, as members could not have the full in-person experience that they had been used to. For the gym owners, it was a very challenging time.

“The gym for me is my 100 percent livelihood and how I live. It’s my personal business, so being closed was really tough because we saw a dip in our revenue, in our membership, and in our growth as a business,” owner of CrossFit Hook’d Ryan Berger said.

Even though gym-goers were not able to workout in classes together, most members still felt that they were an active part of their gym community as a result of the new online portion.

Some of the online features for Joanne’s Fitness Studio, as well as the CrossFit gyms, included workout classes over Zoom with the trainers. On top of this, gyms utilized social media as a source of community outreach.

“Hook’d was a great resource because they offered at-home workouts each day that we were able to complete using standard equipment that most people have at home,” CrossFit Hook’d member Brynn Reilly said.

By early summer, new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines permitted gyms to resume in-person classes and workouts, and each of Newtown’s gyms reopened by July 1. Of course, measures were taken for the safety of the athletes and trainers, including social distancing inside the gym as well as class sizes limited to ten people or fewer. Athletes were also required to have a 100-square-foot space to themselves, sanitize before and after class, and wipe down all equipment after use.

Lockwood said some clients have come back to the studio since its reopening and some have preferred to work out virtually. In-person class sizes have been reduced from eight or ten to just four to allow for proper spacing, and all workout clients have their temperatures checked at the door upon entry, Lockwood said. She stays fit in the process of teaching classes, going back and forth between virtual classes on the computer and those inside the studio.

“It’s been challenging, which I’m sure everybody is saying no matter what profession they’re in,” Lockwood said. “I’ve had to be creative. My clients are very supportive and encouraging. I’m very fortunate to have the clientele I work with.”

Most of those who attend Lockwood’s fitness studio are between the ages of 50 and 80-plus. She said the regulation to wear a mask during workouts can be especially tough on anybody with a touch of asthma or other breathing condition, and has led her to scale back the cardiovascular tempo during workouts.

Similarly to the CrossFit gyms and Joanne’s studio, NYA also made changes to provide a safe space for people to work out. Since many Newtown High School athletes and students utilize the NYA’s services to stay fit, the NYA reopening became a great resource for children and adults who had been stuck at home.

“I appreciate it so much that the NYA is open — keeps my mind off things, good to keep busy, and obviously good for you. The workout experiences changed at the NYA because after you’re done with every machine or weight, you have to completely wipe it down. Other than that, nothing else has really changed other than the fact that there is a limit about how many people can be in the building at once,” NHS junior Peter Taweh said.

In addition to regular members, CrossFit Hook’d hosted some of the Newtown High School football team, as well as youth athletes who had missed their seasons during lockdown over the summer months.

With high school athletics back on hold after a shortened fall campaign, and school weight rooms closed, the CrossFit gyms and NYA have also been heavily populated by student-athletes who are not able to play their sports. The trainers and coaches have accommodated these athletes by keeping them in shape and motivated while they wait for important decisions on the states of their seasons.

“It allowed them to stay healthy and fit because they weren’t doing their practices, they were doing a lot of sedentary lifestyle type things, sitting at home and on the computer for school, so they weren’t really exercising because they didn’t have gym class. So I thought that was an important piece of the puzzle, especially for youth kids that didn’t have any sports going on in the spring or in the summer or even in the fall because of all of the cancellations,” Berger said.

Since June, evolving CDC guidelines have required all gym attendees to wear masks indoors, while all other regulations remain the same. Although COVID has altered the overall gym experience, trainers and members are very pleased to still have these resources available to them during this time.

“Everyone here at RedZone Athletics has been cooperative, understanding, and most importantly, safe. Between our daily staff screenings, increased cleaning, and sanitizing protocols, our members and staff are extremely grateful to be able to continue to improve their health in a safe environment,” Kling said.

Lockwood noted that people were thrilled to come back and see faces —albeit masked — outside the house, and have the opportunity to socialize and have a sense of camaraderie again while improving fitness levels.

As of now, gyms in Connecticut remain open under CDC guidelines as there have been no recent indications of another lockdown. For gym owners and members, this allows for healthy lifestyles within a gym community.

Joanne Lockwood of Joanne’s Fitness Studio has had to be creative as a result of the impact of the coronavirus. Lockwood offers virtual and in-person sessions, sometimes working both at the same time. —Bee Photo, Hutchison
Gym-goers at CrossFit Hook’d and other workout establishments have to follow protocols that include wiping down equipment. —Shea Murphy photo
Workout equipment, including medicine balls, must be spaced out for social distancing purposes, and fitness class sizes have been reduced since gyms reopened in the summer. —Shea Murphy photo
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