CORONAVIRUS

Iowa gyms working up a sweat to reopen Friday

Owners marking off spaces, moving equipment

Cliff and Nikki Rudzki tape workout lanes Thursday on the floor of their gym, 5 Seasons CrossFit, in Cedar Rapids, May 1
Cliff and Nikki Rudzki tape workout lanes Thursday on the floor of their gym, 5 Seasons CrossFit, in Cedar Rapids, May 14, 2020. When the gym reopens Monday, class size will be limited and by reservation only and new sanitation measures will be implemented among other measures to allow space between customers. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
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After nearly two months of staying close to home — and perhaps too close to the couch — you soon could break a sweat at the gym again.

Gov. Kin Reynolds this week cleared the way for gyms and fitness centers to reopen starting today as long as they adhere to certain limitations. Gym operators throughout the Corridor have been taping off 6-foot intervals, spacing out machines and sanitizing equipment to prepare.

“It’ll be different, but we are so excited to get back in the gym and to see our people again,” said Nikki Rudzki. She and her husband, Cliff, own 5 Seasons CrossFit in downtown Cedar Rapids. “We really just miss the people — we miss our community.”

During a briefing Wednesday, Reynolds said she’d revise an emergency order meant to slow the spread the coronavirus to allow more business to open.

The included gyms and hair salons statewide, and restaurants within the 22 counties — including Linn and Johnson — that were hardest hit by the virus.

Bars, casinos and movie theaters must remain closed at least until May 27, according to the governor’s order.

For the business that can reopen, Reynolds is requiring they operate at no more than half capacity and adhere to social distancing and increased sanitation guidelines.

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“We’ve been looking forward to this for weeks,” Cliff Rudzki said. “And we’re going to be implementing some pretty — I don’t want to say extreme — but extensive provisions to ensure the safety of our community.”

Because 5 Seasons focuses solely on group classes, the Rudzkis have implemented a sign-up system allowing their roughly 90 members to reserve space in a class, and make limiting class size simpler.

Groups at 5 Seasons typically can range in size anywhere from five to 25 people depending on the time of day. But now only 10 people plus an instructor will be allowed inside at one time.

“We’re using tape to mark workout lanes or zones in the gym and each person working out will have their own designated zone, and the coaches will have their own space, too,” Cliff Rudzki said. “And as far as the equipment goes, we’re asking members to clean what they use.”

Each workout area will have its own spray bottle with a water and bleach solution and its own towel, so customers can easily clean the equipment they use, Nikki Rudzki said.

The gym has also upped its cleaning and sanitizing protocols.

Other gyms are taking similar approaches.

“We’ve done a lot to prepare for reopening,” said Travis Salter, owner of four Anytime Fitness locations in Cedar Rapids, Marion and Iowa City. “We still have a lot to do over the weekend to prepare but we will be ready to open on Monday, and I’m excited to get our clients back in here.”

During the shutdown, Salter said the gym was completely rearranged and a grid of 6-by-6 squares was marked out with tape on the floor. Each square, he said, is home to a machine.

“That way, our clients don’t have to think too much about whether they are too close to someone,” he said. “As long as they stay in their bubble they’ll be appropriately distanced and when another machine opens up, they can move to that bubble.”

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And for the cardio machines that were not as easy to space out, every other machine will be closed off, he said.

The gym has also upped its cleaning and sanitation procedures and put up lots of signage reminding people to wash their hands, use hand sanitizer and clean the machines before and after using them.

For Brain Fischer, owner of Edge Fitness in southwest Cedar Rapids, reopening will simply be an expansion of what he started last week.

Edge Fitness opened last Monday, allowing only one person use the gym at a time by appointment only. With the governor’s announcement, Fischer said he plans to bring back the gym’s small group classes — four to six people — and one-on-one training.

All will still be done by appointment, he said.

Guests are also required to take their temperature and complete an online health survey before they enter.

Mac and iGym will open all their 24-hour locations at 5 a.m. Friday, while the non-24-hour facilities will open at 7 a.m.

Mac Chief Executive Officer Curtis Meier said the gyms will open in three phases — the first of which will open the workout equipment, but the group classes, pool, sauna and steam rooms and juice bar will stay closed. As the gym transitions from phase to phase, more will open.

Additionally, Meier said his staff will be screened for fever and symptoms, the gym has closed down every other cardio machine to accommodate social distancing, and upped its cleaning protocols. Workout mats, straps, yoga blocks and blankets have also been removed.

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“Our biggest concern is the health of our staff and our clients,” Meier said. “And honestly, opening health clubs back up is the best way to ensure a healthy community. Exercise builds up immunity and it decreases diabetes and heart disease, two conditions that can be greatly affected by the virus.”

For many of the gym owners, the virus remains a real concern that casts a shadow of uncertainty over the excitement of reopening. Concerns of the virus picking back up, concerns that business might not return and concern that a second wave of the virus would force a second shutdown, were all mentioned to The Gazette.

“The past couple months have been stressful and chaotic for a lot of reasons,” Nikki Rudzki said. “We’ve all had to reevaluate how we do things and I think we’re all a little uncertain about what the ‘new normal’ will look like. We’ll likely face a steep learning curve. But we couldn’t be more excited to welcome our members back and get back to doing what we love.”

Comments: (319) 398-8238; kat.russell@thegazette.com

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