As an avid gym-goer one of my first concerns as event and venues started closing due to coronavirus concerns was, is my gym going to close? I work out at Equinox and take many of the classes offered.
Of course, immediate emails went out early this week alerting clients to ways staff plans to sanitize everything, but slowly a change started happening.
I was told by a staff-member there were rumors that people were freezing their memberships, likely concerned they wouldn’t be using the gym for a while. Then, Friday, I was forwarded an email that went out to Equinox employees laying out their plan moving forward. Beyond constantly disinfecting all club areas, effective this weekend, group fitness classes will be operating at roughly 50 percent capacity.
So, as both a person who needs to stretch and a journalist who wanted to check it out, I took a Yoga class Saturday morning to see what it was like under this new mandate. The first thing I noticed when i walked into the studio was the mats spread much farther apart, and way less of them, than usual. Then I noticed the mats were visibly wet, AKA recently cleaned... good start. All of the mats did get filled though, 19 people fit in total instead of the usual 35 or so.
As the class began, the instructor pointed out how typically, yoga is meant to be a form of self-isolation and solitude, so is strangely a perfect form of wellness for this type of situation we find ourselves in. And indeed, as we started our sun salutations I did start to enjoy the space I had around me, in a city where any typical public space, even a luxury gym, finds you shoulder to shoulder with other people. I felt comfortable, and made sure to wash my hands immediately after before touching my face or my phone. My friend Gabi Smith, who is an emergency room physician assistant, told me something similar:
“At this point, I’m going to continue with my normal workout routine while taking the time to clean my specific workout area/equipment in the gym and group classes both pre and post workout. I am specifically avoiding classes where sharing equipment during class is a mainstay. I’m am however closely following the pandemic and may change my gym practice as new developments occur!”
Equinox though isn’t the only fitness center that’s facing changes. Rumble Boxing, for instance, is also capping classes at half capacity and not allowing shared equipment during classes. Smaller studios, like Sequence in Tribeca, are canceling classes altogether as people just don’t sign up. However, streaming services are likely seeing a boost as people opt to work out at home. For instance companies like Peloton, an at-home bike and streaming app service, which suffered a hit due to a poorly received commercial this holiday season. Popular classes like Taryn Toomey’s “The Class” also announced it will be streaming all classes online and is offering two weeks free for new customers. I’ve been told plenty of other studios are doing something similar, and people are taking them on it, for instance, Williamsburg resident Sarah Silver:
“Although I’m sure I’d probably be fine going to the gym, there are so many people there touching various things and I’d rather be safe than sorry!! And there’s so many great streaming options now that make working out at home easier so I figure I’ll try a bunch of those.”
According to the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association, more than four million people in the state of New York visit health clubs of some sort, driving $1.4 billion in revenue every year. No numbers have come out yet about people canceling memberships, or not booking classes, but my guess is it will be big. Noticeably, a popular fitness Instagram account “Sweats & The City” announced its creators will not be attending group workouts for the foreseeable future. Elizabeth Endres and Dale Borvicher, who typically attend classes across the city and review them for their 90,000+ followers, wrote in an Instagram story “when we feel it’s safe to get back in the studios, we will be back in there supporting our instructors and community,” and are now recommending streaming services like Megan Roup’s Sculpt Society app instead.
While going to a workout class is certainly not an “essential” activity, for many people though, myself included, working out is a form of stress-relief and keeps you healthy, two things particularly important right now. So while we will definitely see changes to the fitness industry for now, it’s good to know there are options indoors, and when it’s warm enough, perhaps I will take up running…