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Fitness clubs reopen with mask mandates, other measures

When fitness businesses reopened during the pandemic, they implemented COVID-19 safety measures such as limited capacity, frequent equipment cleaning, reservations and waitlists, and mask mandates. Many gyms, cycling studios and other establishments soon found that as they adapted their business models, customers adapted to new workouts.

“People have a renewed appreciation for fitness and its contribution to long-term physical and mental wellbeing, now more than ever,” says Jason Carter, regional vice president for 24 Hour Fitness. “We’ve been pleased that our club members are not only excited to return to the gym, they are also adhering to our health and safety protocols, wearing masks, practicing social distancing and more.”

Members that do not want to return to the gym can go online and buy virtual personal training, participate in group training, or download the 24GO Personalized Fitness App to access 1,500 workouts. People can also use the app for touch-free club check in. “We can monitor their access to and from the club so that we’re always within our club occupancy caps,” Carter says.

Technology plays a role at the wellness company Life Time, where members are encouraged but not required to download the CO Exposure Notifications app. Life Time updated its HVAC systems, and people get their temperature checked by standing a foot away from a screen. “Sometimes people don’t want to use it because they think we’re taking a picture,” says Duane Wishmeyer, general manager of Life Time Cherry Creek. “They are few far between. We also have handheld devices.”

One thing that has not caused problems is the mask mandate, as most people wear them as instructed. “Our members know that we’re trying to stay open for them,” Wishmeyer says. “We’re trying give them a safe space, and to build their immunity system.” Life Time even sells performance masks and comfort masks.

High Ride Cycle, with locations in Edgewater and Northglenn, adjusted its business model and operations due to limited capacity and social distancing regulations. “We used to have 38 bikes with about eight classes per day. Now we’re at 10% of capacity with 15 classes per day in order to allow more members the opportunity to ride,” co-owner Megan Hanson says. “We’ve also added an online option with our partner, Stryde, to allow riders to ride at home if they are not comfortable coming into the studio.” The business installed HEPA filters to remove aerosols and an exhaust system to replace air in the room, and increased its retail offerings to boost revenue.

While some customers froze their memberships when the mask mandates began, most people learned to accept the mask. “A lot of our riders and instructors were very nervous and anxious to ride and teach in a mask, but it is not as bad as we expected, and it is an added level of protection to keep everyone safe,” Hanson says. “It is an added challenge for sure that tests your limits, but we can overcome any challenge if we set our minds to it.”