Gyms may lawfully open for business Monday, and operators have been sweating the details to ensure members enjoy a safe return.
Social distancing, face masks, sanitizers, temperature-taking gadgets and new rules now occupy workout venues around Greater Waco forced into hibernation for almost two months because of COVID-19 precautions.
Ironically, perhaps, the curtain rises the same day Texas Gov. Greg Abbott may allow restaurants to increase dining room occupancy from 25% to 50%, fattening the chances calorie intake will follow suit.
Jason Burt’s Crunch Fitness at Valley Mills and Waco drives has received a body and time makeover as the big day approaches.
For starters, the previously 24/7 operation will open from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekends.
Opening day, Monday, is the exception to that schedule.
“I will open at 10 a.m. Monday. That way we will have everybody here and ready to go,” Burt said. “We’ll have a greeter set up at the front door, welcoming people back and telling them about the new things we’re doing. We are allowed 25% occupancy, which means we will have 111 people in the building, which does not include management and staff.”
For a time Crunch will accept only credit or debit cards for on-site purchases, as it transitions to a “cashless and touchless” modus operandi.
Signs will enforce social distancing. Hand sanitizers will sprout everywhere. Uniformed cleaning attendants will work morning, mid-afternoon and evening shifts. Every other piece of cardio equipment will be available, not every piece, creating more space between members, Burt said in an interview.
Crunch will temporarily discontinue live classes. Members wanting access to yoga mats must bring their own. Staffers must wear masks and gloves, and Crunch will provide the same to members wanting them.
“First thing, we will take the temperature of anyone entering the gym. If it’s 100.3 degrees or below, you are good to go,” Burt said.
Crunch had more than 8,000 members before the pandemic struck.
The state says gyms, exercise facilities and exercise classes must operate at 25% occupancy. Locker rooms and shower facilities will remain closed, but restrooms may open. Employees and contractors of the gym or exercise facility are not counted toward the occupancy limitation.
Robbie Little, who owns WRS Athletic Club, 5047 Franklin Ave., said his 1,100-member fitness center likewise has been thoroughly vetted. It will open regular hours Monday through Saturday and close Sundays for deep cleaning.
“We’ve placed social distancing stickers on the floor, installed 10 more hand-wipe stations and 10 more hand-sanitizing stations, and sneeze shields at the front desk,” Little said. “Every piece of equipment is at least 6 feet apart in the weight room, and we’ve spread other amenities over three rooms.”
Little said he will take the temperatures of staffers, but not members.
“We do have a big sign on the front door suggesting you stay home if you feel sick or are sneezing and coughing, but we’re not going to play doctor,” he said. “Our members are professional enough not to come here if they’re feeling sick. I’ve talked with people in different states, Georgia, for example, and they took temperatures that first day, and it was a disaster.”
Asking someone to leave, he said, “is labeling them as having coronavirus.”
Gold’s Gym on New Road did not return a phone message, but a Facebook message states the club looks forward to seeing members again Monday.
“We’re hard at work preparing our club so we can safely open for you,” according to the message, which concludes with, “See you at the gym.”
Roosters and other early risers take note, The Muscle Cave Bar and Gym will open at 4:45 a.m. Monday to host a fitness class 15 minutes later, co-owner Franny Cochran said. She and her husband, Doug Cochran, introduced The Muscle Cave in July 2017, following Franny’s loss of more than 100 pounds.
“I was inspired to help others,” Franny Cochran said by phone.
COVID-19 did not help the bottom line, she said.
“We have taken a pretty good hit,” Cochran said. “I believe everyone has. But we have an amazing landlord who works with us, and we have no employees. We applied for $10,000 in assistance being offered to small business, and we were approved to receive some, but not anywhere near that amount.”
Asked if members expressed concern over returning to a group setting, Cochran said more than 90% have signed up for classes.
She has installed sanitizing stations, plans temperature checks and will encourage attendees to wear protective gloves and masks.
At WRS Athletic Club, owner Little said he does not expect a big rush.
“The members I’ve reached out to, they’re anxious to come back. But some are going to wait a couple of weeks,” Little said. “But that’s going to be a large percentage of people in general, not just those using gyms.”
Waco Mayor Kyle Deaver said Friday he is generally pleased with the community’s response to COVID-19, but is disappointed in the number of people still not wearing masks in public. He said leaders, including himself, could have done a better job emphasizing their importance.
He said their use must accompany Greater Waco’s return to normalcy.
The number of residents countywide hospitalized with COVID-19 dropped to zero Wednesday, but it did not stay there long. Four patients have active cases of the disease, including one new case announced Friday, and two patients were hospitalized Friday, according to the Waco-McLennan County Public Health District.