Clark County gyms are welcoming relaxed Phase 2 restrictions that went into place this week, but they’re eager for more.
Phase 3 “couldn’t come fast enough,” said Sherri McMillan, owner of Northwest Personal Training.
Up until Sunday, indoor fitness facilities could only serve one person for every 500 square feet of space under the state’s Roadmap to Recovery coronavirus recovery plan. Under Phase 2, they can serve 25 percent of their building’s capacity.
That means a return of community, more revenue, healthier people and more opportunities for staffing. But the industry is still in an “uphill battle,” McMillan said.
Revenue still isn’t what it needs to be to survive long-term, and now there’s a stigma that gyms are spreading COVID-19, so the businesses are trying to encourage their former clients to come back, even though some have adapted to in-home exercising.
Chase Bosley, district manager for 24 Hour Fitness’ Seattle market, said the difference between Phase 1 and Phase 2 allows a significant change in the number of people coming through the doors. Phase 1 allowed between 69 and 110 people indoors at a time, depending on the size of the gyms he manages. Under Phase 2, the capacity of gyms almost doubled, which is evident in the number of people coming in under Phase 2.
The new rules also allow clients to visit a fitness center without having to make appointments and can take part in exercise classes.
“There was a lot of pent-up demand,” Bosley said.
Bosley and McMillan both said that gyms are part of the solution for the severity of COVID-19, not the problem. Obesity, heart disease and other health issues make COVID-19 more dangerous, and they’re also something that gyms help to prevent.
“In general, people who exercise and take care of themselves and have good health,” McMillan said. “They’re the ones that don’t succumb to the virus. Exercise is essential.”
“We have never been the problem; we’ve been the solution,” Bosley said. “The only path forward is to heal.”
Bosley said that with more people coming to the gyms and the addition of group classes, it gives gyms the ability to call back furloughed staff. That includes personal trainers and group-class trainers.
With more people getting vaccinated, there’s hope that gyms will come back to their former strength soon, but about 16 percent of the country’s gyms were permanently shuttered during the pandemic, according to the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association. McMillan said she expects the number of pandemic-caused closures to increase into the next few years.
Some gyms in Clark County, including one 24 Hour Fitness location, closed during the pandemic.
Bosley said that 24 Hour Fitnesses operating under 25 percent capacity is difficult to maintain, but it’s sustainable for now.
Gyms, including 24 Hour Fitness and Northwest Personal Training, are also continuing to offer digital solutions for fitness instruction and training for those who have adapted to in-home working out, but indoor gym exercise offers another thing to clients that Bosley and McMillan said is very welcomed: community.
“That sense of community, after everyone is isolated … of not being part of something in the fitness movement. Phase 2 allows us to provide more offerings and meet the need,” Bosley said.