With Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s announcement that gyms would be allowed to reopen on August 24th in New York State, relief is in sight for those whose fitness routines and physical and mental health have been upended due to COVID-19.
This announcement does not mean people can simply rush back to the gym and pick up where they left off prior to the shutdown. There are new restrictions on fitness facilities that, among other things, limit the capacity of gyms, require new sign-in procedures including health checks, and mandate that all members and staff wear PPE. Still, some gym members will not yet feel comfortable about returning to indoor exercise, and resourceful exercise addicts have found new ways to work out away from the gym while quarantining.
Those who found new ways to exercise certainly faced challenges, and may continue to find challenges ahead keeping to their regimens as the weather gets colder. As New Yorkers were confined to their homes, some looked to recreate, as much as possible, the exercise routine they had prior to the shutdown — although they found it difficult to get started without access to their usual resources. “It took me a few weeks just to get outside for a jog,” Joe, a 53-year-old member of the Equinox Fitness Club in Great Neck, N.Y., said. “The weather was cold, and I struggled to force myself outside to exercise in the morning.”
Joe also did strength training with weights at Equinox, but he didn’t have the equipment he needed at home to continue that program. He explored purchasing the equipment he needed, but quickly found there was no inventory available from any of the popular online retailers. “I did manage to find some used dumbbells through a local site, and it’s not ideal but it’s allowed me to do some of the exercises I did at the gym,” he said.
Others looked to alter their routines and find new ways to stay in shape. Prior to the pandemic, 51-year-old Cindy had a few different fitness options. She purchased group sessions at a local gym for strength training classes, bought packages at SoulCycle and had memberships at OrangeTheory and The Bar Method. “I liked being able to mix up my routine to keep it interesting,” Cindy said, while attending an outdoor yoga class on the beach in Long Beach, N.Y. “I was also able to balance my exercise routine between strength and cardio training.”
Much like Joe, she found it difficult to get back into a routine without the structure and support provided by the programs and instructors she was accustomed to. Cindy said she felt her stress levels begin to build without having the regular exercise she needed to release it, and was determined to find some other methods to replace her normal routine.
“This yoga class has been great because it’s replaced part of what I was doing previously and it’s so beautiful here on the beach,” she said. She has also taken out her old bike and started biking and jogging outdoors — along with weight training, using the weights and bands she had at home.
Like others, Cindy said she’s not sure how the change in weather, coupled with the changes to rules at fitness clubs as they begin to reopen, will affect her fitness routine.
“Obviously it will become more difficult to exercise outside as the weather changes, so I’ll have to think about how I replace what I’ve been doing outdoors,” she said. “I’m not sure how comfortable I’ll be going back into the gym, even with the new measures in place, and I’m still worried about a resurgence of the virus over the winter.”
Some of her friends have purchased Peloton exercise bikes and have been happy with the interactive spin classes the company offers, she said, but Cindy is waiting before making a purchase.
Peloton has been a popular option for those who have been confined indoors during the shutdown in New York State. The fitness equipment maker, which specializes in stationary bikes, has seen a jump in sales over the last six months and its stock price has jumped from below $20 a share in mid-March to over $90 in September. Just as Peloton and other companies that specialize in at-home fitness have benefited from the pandemic shutdown, gyms and fitness clubs have not fared as well. Recently Town Sports, the owner of New York Sports Club as well as other fitness chains, filed for bankruptcy protection. Other fitness companies including Gold’s Gym and 24 Hour Fitness have also filed for bankruptcy protection as revenues have dried up due to the pandemic. But even as clubs reopen, capacity limits and continued concern about the spread of the virus could limit the number of customers who return — which would, in turn, continue to constrain revenues.
With health restrictions and financial strain on clubs, fitness instructors are finding themselves without work, and now must find new ways to replace lost income. Some are setting up private classes in people’s homes. Irina, a yoga instructor from Long Beach, N.Y., teaches free yoga classes on the beach four times a week that are open for anyone to join.
“I feel like yoga can help people with anxiety, depression and all the things we kind of need right now during this craziness,” she said.
With all of the connections Irina has made, she was also able to expand her business to include virtual and private in-home classes. “With colder months approaching, my classes will most likely be completely virtual and private classes in homes with parties of five or under,” she said.
Serious fitness addicts have been finding new ways to exercise around the constraints put on them by the pandemic. With the colder months looming, and the effects of the virus still pervasive, they will likely need to continue to be resourceful in finding ways to keep up with their routines.