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Colorado gyms are reopening, but are members ready to return?

Survey finds some have already canceled membership
360 gyms reopening amid covid19.jpg
Posted at 7:46 AM, Jun 04, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-04 11:55:17-04

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In the past few weeks, some Colorado gyms have been allowed to reopen with restrictions, or limited capacity, but many are wondering if members are ready to return.

Denver 7 spoke to gym owners, gym members, a fitness researcher, and an expert on aerosols for a 360 look at whether now is the right time to go back to the gym.

A survey by RunRepeat.Com found over 38% of respondents in Colorado have already canceled or are considering canceling their gym membership. Nick Rizzo, fitness researcher director at RunRepeat.com, said amid the pandemic-related closures, many gym members realized they can get the same workout at home.

"Instead of paying $49 a month, which is the average gym price, you can just be investing in your own equipment and your own long-term home fitness," said Rizzo.

But while there are certainly ways to exercise at home or outside, many consider the gym essential. Pearl Street Fitness member Andy Bogen said he was eager to get back when the state allowed small group personal training sessions to resume.

“I’m not a huge fan of working out at home, I’m much more motivated when I’m in a setting with other people,” he said.

Bogen and two other members had to stay in taped off areas and wear masks during their recent training session.

But for some people, like Denver resident Ed Anderson, exercising outside feels safer than being in a gym.

“In real close proximity, I don’t feel comfortable yet,” said Anderson.

Anderson’s trainer, Billy LaGreca, said about a third of his clients feel comfortable in the gym, a third of them are doing their sessions outside, and a third are still staying at home doing online workouts.

University of Colorado chemistry professor Jose Jimenez is among those who are still working out at home right now. He called gyms a high-risk environment.

“For people who have cardio respiratory problems, I would tell them, 'Don’t go to a gym at all. That would be crazy,'” Jimenez said.

Jimenez, who is an expert on aerosols, says the heavy breathing people do at the gym could easily spread virus particles. For those that decide to go to the gym, Jimenez recommends sticking with strength training where people aren’t breathing as heavily, and consider the ventilation system in the gym.

“Ventilation means you take the air that’s in the gym and you move it outside and you bring clean air from the outside and move it in so you replace the air,” said Jimenez.

These issues did not seem to concern members at Chuze Fitness in Highlands Ranch, which reopened Friday. Masks are not required for guests, and few were wearing them. District manager Jenn Foster said a number of other safety measures have been taken, including spacing out equipment and turning off some machines.

For smaller gyms and studios, spacing out guests could mean drastically limiting the size of classes. Julie Gordon, owner of Barre 3 Cherry Creek, is still waiting for the right time to reopen. She's determining how it will work.

“We normally would accommodate 25 people in this class including the instructor,” she said. “I could see if we’re limited to 10 that we would have ideally seven or eight clients, the instructor and then somebody at the front desk to support,” she said.

At Pearl Street Fitness, where small group training has resumed, social distance is being maintained with taped-off areas. Owner Kerry Audie joked that anyone stepping out of the lines will be punished with burpees.

Both she and Gordon have been keeping their businesses going with online classes, but they're eager to get people back together as safely as possible.

“We do hope everyone will come back, we miss our members, we miss what we do,” said Audie.