Gym owners roll out limited reopening, reflect on pandemic lessons

Updated: May. 17, 2020 at 4:33 PM CDT
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GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) - It’s been nearly a week since gym owners across the Coast welcomed back fitness enthusiasts into their facilities.

The owners of FitLife Studio said a vigilant cleaning routine is necessary to exercise safely in gyms and prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“We make everyone clean behind themselves after they’re done using. Just basic protocol, honestly," said owner and trainer Rebeca Barker.

Chanelle Hargrove said she returned to the gym as soon as Gov. Tate Reeves announced that it would be safe. She is confident in safety measures at FitLife as a regular client.

“We’re don’t share weights, we don’t share the same mats, so I feel very comfortable," Hargrove said.

FitLife is currently open to about 20 personal training clients only to reduce capacity. Personal training sessions can hold a maximum of two clients.

“The personal training, everything is scheduled by hours. So it’s never too crowded in here,” Barker said.

Group fitness classes will stay virtual for the time being. The group sessions normally bring out anywhere from 45 to 60 people.

“The hardest part is being away from our clients. Even though it’s a gym, it’s more like a family; we’re very close-knit," said owner and trainer Joe Barker.

He said the pandemic highlighted the importance of having a strong digital presence.

“If you haven’t had an online presence, you definitely had to create one or you’re behind. That’s something we definitely needed to do,” Joe said. “It’s kind of like a gift and a curse. It put us in an uncomfortable position but as an entrepreneur, you’ve got to make the best of it.”

The trainers said they see more people using fitness as a stress-reliever than ever. They shared advice on staying physically and mentally in shape in and out of the gym.

“We always promote people to be healthy first, more than anything," Rebeca said. "Focus on your health and the rest will follow.”

FitLife Studio plans to re-introduce group exercise classes to the gym this June.

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