BRISTOL, Va. (WJHL) – Governor Northam has put into place guidelines on how to go about re-opening the state of Virginia, with “Phase one” of those guidelines rolling out on Friday, May 15th.
In those guidelines was a specific section pertaining to the re-opening of Fitness and exercise facilities. However, while these gyms are able to re-open their doors, there will be big changes for the time being, including a switch to only outdoor services on top of following the 10 person maximum and other health and safety measures.
Gyms have been closed in Virginia for almost two months, while just across the state line, Tennessee gyms have been able to resume near-normal operations. Iron Mayhem in Bristol, Virginia has officially re-opened and has changed operations to their outside space.
Owner, Claude Mumpower, said he spent the day cleaning and moving equipment outside in preparation for the re-opening. While the maximum is ten people, he said they will only allow 5 people in at a time for a maximum of 45 minutes each.
After being closed since late March, he said he’s glad to be back and that it’s long overdue, however, he will continue to sanitize and social distance. He said if it weren’t for the support of his loyal patrons, they wouldn’t have been able to re-open at all due to the fact that they are too small of a business and did not meet the requirements for any financial assistance.
Other area gyms are also adjusting in order to re-open. Chris Massie the owner at Stryker Martial Arts is also moving operations outside. “So we’re going to use the overhang for the time being on the sidewalk outside and just spread everyone out 6 feet apart,” said Massie.
Since they’ve been closed, he said they’ve lost a significant amount of their patrons and have been keeping up with those still in the program via webstream. While the webstream isn’t the ideal form of working out and conducting classes, Massie said they will continue to use that method for times when inclimate weather impacts their outdoor classes.
Other precautions they’re taking include pre-registering for classes, limiting class capacity to ten, and leaving 30 minutes in between each class for staff to sanitize everything used in class. At Champion Striking and Fitness, it’s a similar story.
“We’re doing the fitness side outdoors, we’ll take out four bags then I’ve got stations set up to where we can get people out there working out and keeping their distance,” said Owner of Champion Striking and Fitness, Len Cook.
Cook said they also used a web stream during this time and will continue to do so when the weather is too bad to work outside or for those who want to work out but still worry about the risk of exposure.
While these gyms are making adjustments in hopes of soon returning to normal business operations, that’s not the case for all gyms.
For Fit Factory in Bristol, they remain closed. The owner of the facility sent News Channel 11 this statement regarding his feelings about the restrictions on gyms.
“The whole argument about essential and non-essential businesses covers to many gray areas. What is essential to one may not be to the next person. Gyms are a means of disease prevention but the biggest is mental health maintenance. Speak with any counselor and they will tell you they prescribe fitness and exercise as much as medication. Not only that but The prolonged shutdowns are causing financial struggles. When you throw your life into something then are told you aren’t essential and aren’t needed, having to close your doors causes several issues. Providing for your own family is just the first stage. My landlord expects rent payments to be made on time every month which had become impossible. Actually has started filing a default against us for being unable to make payments. He depends on the payments to pay mortgages as well.”