Lansing-area gyms adapt to survive shutdown

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As soon as COVID-19 closed his gym, Justin Grinnell knew he had to make adjustments.

Grinnell, who owns State of Fitness in Lansing, wanted to keep his door open, he just had to do it virtually.

“We’ve had 300 virtual sessions,” said Grinnell. “We did a lot of private zoom meetings and usually 60 outdoor sessions a week, with a mix of indoor, outdoor and virtual.”

Gyms are among many businesses that deal with people being in close contact on a day-to-day basis, and have had to make adjustments for their own sake in order for their customers to feel safe, and stay in business.

Grinnell also mentioned the process of the internship program that’s a part of the gym and how it contributes to the new wave of their gym that helps customers even when they can’t meet in person.

“State of Fitness University is an internship program that allows everyone to be on the same page,” Grinnell said.

The program consists of a nearly four month program with over 100 hours of instruction that exposes interns to many areas in the fitness profession.

State of Fitness has also made adjustments based on the CDC guidelines of social distancing and sanitation.

“We had to move some equipment around and spread some things where the equipment usually would go and allow people to have their own space,” said Grinnell. “We bought five fans and have our ventilating system going in airflow to make it safe.”

State of Fitness’s outside workout area has allowed people to stay fit during the shutdown. (Photo courtesy of Justin Grinnell)

Going Virtual  

Michelle Gimbutis, owner of the Barre Code in East Lansing, said she also had to adjust for business to continue.

“We do 45 live streams a week and do more with local instructors with our Facebook group,” said Gimbutis. “Couple of weeks ago we started doing outdoor classes, around 10-12 a week.” Members during these virtual classes also have the ability to live chat with their instructors.

Gimbutis also said Barre Code is taking precautions as much as they can amid these new adjustments.

“We are going to be at 50% capacity,” said Gimbutis. “We have numbered spots in our studio where people will sit and are six feet apart. We are taking every precaution and I’m hoping that we are overprepared.”

The Barre Code has yet to fully open, as they are waiting for Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to give the all clear. However, Gimbutis has made sure that when the time comes, it will be ready to go.

Another local gym that has adapted differently to the new norm for gyms is Court One North, in East Lansing.

CEO of “Court One North”, Corey Randall, has had a challenging route towards his adaption of the new wave.

“Our preparation has changed time and time again,” said Randall. “Preparation has been very difficult because there hasn’t been great access for communication.”

Even with these difficulties, Randall and the gym have invested in a new technology called GenEon.

“GenEon shoots out activated water, like the form of a flame-thrower, that is used for disinfecting,” said Randall. “It sanitizes a space that would take two or three hours and do it in three or four minutes.”

Randall and his staff have tried to make the gym feel safe by also having disinfecting wipes to limit contact with a spray bottle.

Court One North has had to change up the ways it give out its amenities due to the pandemic.

“We used to have towel service and free coffee, and that will have to be discontinued,” said Randall.

Randall also said how they are allowing embers to bring their own folding chair for the pool to limit contact as often as they can.

The most notable adjustment Randall felt was the work of his staff and how they were able to get into the swing of things so quick.

“The adjustment needed by our staff is difficult,” said Randall. “Everyone is saying how there can’t be a switch where we just turn things on. We called our staff back and are doing a lot of cleaning.”

 Randall stressed how members have the right to come to the gym and the employees don’t, so they try to accommodate the staff as best as they can.

Spartan Adjustment

Even in East Lansing, the IM facilities have had to make its own adjustments with the plan for opening up.

“Reopening has been a thing for several weeks actually, as we look at the structure and what we need to run programs and how to address the safety to run these programs,” said Assistant Director of IM Circle Rebecca Kegler. “MSU has come out with a template on how to reopen and we take our information and drop it into the template, but it still needs to be approved by higher administration.”

Not all areas in the facilities are closed however, as some places outside are available for people to use.

“We feel very fortunate that the sailing center has been cleared and has been open,” Kegler said. “It took a lot of work and there were several steps outlining safety protocols that all had to be addressed. We went through all the proper channels to get reviewed and were approved for our first outdoor activity.”

Kegler also mentioned that the opening of certain activities are based off of tiers, from low too high, with the lower risk activities being implemented first. Lower risk activities would include activities such as free weights and swimming, while higher risk activities would be ones that would have more contact, such as basketball.

Kyle Newood, a certified athletic trainer and another member of the IM team, said the main goal is the safety of others.

“Safety of our employees and students is utmost important,” Newood said. “We are planning on putting risk measures in place that go beyond what the government is mandating. We will be following all directives created by MSU and the Michigan Government.”

Some of these measures include screening procedures, social distancing measures, increased sanitation procedures, air filtration systems and PPE equipment.

Newood, who is also the chair for the University’s Health and Safety standards committee, said the IM facilities have combined roles among committees to do what is necessary to reopening.

“As our plans have progressed, our committee has combined with facility operations and the Re-Opening committee due to discussing matters that overlap with the reopening of our facilities,” Newood said. “The idea for the combination is to discuss the best practices in order for IM facilities to reopen.”

At this time, Gov. Whitmer has decided to still keep gyms close, in order to mitigate spread of the virus. Not all gyms are abiding by the rule, but are taking each day slowly.

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