As Ohio continues to recover from the recent COVID-19 shut-down, one of the most popular fitness centers in the area is poised to make a successful comeback.

Within the past few months, people have been trying to stay in shape by working out from their homes. Living rooms have become yoga studios and basements have turned into personal gyms or aerobic centers.

But with the state reopening, gyms are welcoming members back to their facilities from the short hiatus.

At Anytime Fitness in Chester Township, owner Jeff Gali is happy to welcome back patrons.

“Nobody knew how long the shutdown was going to be,” Mr. Gali said. “But because of how we are structured we were financially OK to weather two months and we are happy to be back.”

Emerging from the state’s stay-at-home executive order, Ohio gyms and recreation centers were finally allowed to reopen on May. 26 after a state-mandated closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Antsy to ditch the at-home workouts and get back to the normal exercise routines for the first time in nearly two months, establishments like Anytime Fitness where people share equipment in small spaces had to adapt to a landscape quite different than before.

“The gym is an outlet for so many people not only for physical health but mental health,” said Anytime Fitness instructor Jenna Geibel. “I think as long as people are smart and don’t come when they don’t feel good and re-wiping things down after use, we should all remain open.”

In preparation for the returning members, gyms implemented the mandatory protocols and best practices issued by the Ohio Department of Health.

These guidelines include setting up social distancing, spacing equipment like stationary bikes and treadmills and removing or disabling water fountains.

Other policies also include members sanitizing or washing their hands upon entering, reducing the number of members who can enter at one time and public showers being closed.

In addition, the gyms have removed or temporarily shut down all fans with concern of the virus said to be airborne.

Many members have encountered similar protocols but have been left wondering how risky going to a gym is right now. Many gym-goers have expressed concern about returning with some not being worried about their own health, but for friends and family who are in at-risk populations.

“I have my concerns because I believe I did catch [COVID-19] there back in February,” said local resident Kathy Thompson. “I was going there every day and I didn’t wipe the machines off before using them.”

As the company opens their doors again, many people are postponing a return to see if infection rates begin to spike.

To ease people’s concerns, Anytime Fitness offered virtual sessions to its clients until they feel comfortable coming back.

For those anxious fitness enthusiasts planning to return or who have already returned to the gym, they acknowledge the risks.

Many gym-goers are being proactive by wearing masks, bringing a change of clothes for before and after their workouts, and bringing their own cleaning supplies from home to clean the equipment before and after use as well.

Other patrons, insist these prevention protocols are not necessary and have become a frustrating annoyance.

Instructor Ms. Geibel said members should respect each other by staying 6-feet apart.

“We have a 25-person capacity right now so everyone must keep their workouts to an hour unless there isn’t a lot of people,” said Ms. Geibel. “We blocked off every other cardio machine for this reason but in the weight room there should be enough room to stay apart.”

With gym members anxious to return and others choosing never to return, the fitness industry has changed significantly due to the coronavirus.

People have recognized the advantages and flexibility of working out at home, and the narrative has changed from how we exercise to where we exercise. They realize how much they are saving by not having to drive as much, spend money on gas and not having to pay for a gym membership.

In order for Anytime Fitness to maintain its customer base and reassure its members, policies that adhere to the quality of safety must be applied.

Gym owners and managers must also accept the idea of some patrons not following guidelines relating to social distancing, wearing masks and cleaning equipment constantly.

Members who are safety-conscious will only return if they feel confident in the gym’s disease prevention measures.

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