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News >  Local business

Local gyms adapting to ‘new normal’ of smaller groups, enhanced safety measures

UPDATED: Fri., June 26, 2020

Maria Friesen, a floor monitor with MUV Fitness, sterilizes machines Thursday in one of MUV’s workout zones, designed to keep patrons socially distanced, at MUV’s north Spokane location.  (Tyler Tjomsland/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)
Maria Friesen, a floor monitor with MUV Fitness, sterilizes machines Thursday in one of MUV’s workout zones, designed to keep patrons socially distanced, at MUV’s north Spokane location. (Tyler Tjomsland/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)

As indoor fitness activities for groups of five or fewer are now allowed under Phase 2 of Gov. Inslee’s Safe Start reopening plan, local gym owners are adapting to the new normal of operating with social distancing, enhanced cleaning measures, limited hours and designated workout zones.

Farmgirlfit, which recently reopened its 4,000-square-foot gym in Spokane’s University District, offered group training classes for 20-30 members before COVID-19. Now it is required to scale down the number of participants and frequency of classes under Phase 2 guidelines, owner Jaunessa Walsh said.

“Members have been very excited for us (to reopen), but there has been a need to revisit our whole business model,” said Walsh, who is continuing virtual workouts via social media, an offering she launched in March to stay connected to members.

Although Farmgirlfit is committed to upholding public health and safety, it has been challenging to navigate services the gym is able to provide under Phase 2 guidelines, while at the same time remaining financially viable, Walsh said.

High-risk individuals are prohibited from participation and the gym temporarily discontinued its child care service used by nearly 40% of members, she said.

Another significant change in Farmgirlfit’s gyms is enhanced safety measures, which include designated workout squares to promote social distancing during small group classes.

“Our staff is wearing masks. Everyone has their own sanitizing solution. They don’t share equipment. There is not as much interaction – none of the high fives or pats on the back. You come in, claim your square, grab your sanitizing bottle and you have your own workout space,” Walsh said. “We’ve had to space classes out a lot more, so we can do additional cleaning in between. The biggest frustration for members has been the need to sign up for classes and limited availability of class times. It’s very different business model than we operated before.”

Farmgirlfit’s gym in Coeur d’Alene reopened in May under a different set of guidelines put in place by Idaho that allows eight people per class.

MUV Fitness opened its north Spokane and Spokane Valley gyms this week with several changes that include workout zones for individuals or small groups.

MUV Fitness has closed saunas, tanning beds, swimming pools, showers and locker rooms, and limited availability of exercise equipment to maintain social distancing among members, said Jamie Izaks, spokesman for MUV Fitness.

“We want members to be comfortable as possible,’ he said, adding the gyms have increased cleaning procedures and are providing hand sanitizer to members. “There’s nothing more important than keeping people healthy, so we will do everything in our power to maintain that.”

MUV will continue offering group fitness classes online, Izaks said.

Mindset Fitness in Spokane Valley will reopen Wednesday with reduced hours of operation and new guidelines, general manager and co-owner Zachary Drinkall said.

The gym is providing 6 feet of space between each piece of equipment, adding hand sanitizer stations and requiring guests to clean equipment before and after use. Guests are limited to one hour in the gym and are required to sign a waiver upon entering that outlines new safety guidelines.

Drinkall, who purchased Mindset Fitness in February, said COVID-19 had a significant impact on the gym.

“It definitely hit us really hard because you still have to pay rent even if you stop billing people,” he said. “It affected us enough to where we had to raise our rates a bit more than we had liked when we bought the gym.”

The YMCA of the Inland Northwest, which opened its gyms last week for appointments only, had to completely overhaul its operating plan under Phase 2 restrictions, said Christine Brischle, vice president of membership and operations.

The YMCA created fitness zones in its branches that include free weights, strength machines and cardio equipment spaced out to ensure social distancing. The equipment can be reserved 24 hours in advance online or via phone, Brischle said.

YMCA is conducting temperature checks for members entering its gyms. Staff members are required to wear masks. Members are also required to wear masks in the building, but not while exercising, according to the organization’s website.

Members are excited to be back in the gym, even in a limited capacity, Brischle said.

“The greatest benefit in reopening is supporting our members’ mental, physical and emotional well-being,” she said.

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