“Fitness freaks” and those craving some familiarity in their daily routines are rejoicing as Keys facilities are reopening with new safety measures in place.
May 18 was the official first day that gyms and fitness centers were able to reopen.
“Once you’re addicted to an exercise high, nothing else will do,” said Ralph Lucignano, the owner of Keys Fitness in Marathon.
Lucignano used the forced closure during the last few months to revamp his gym, which has served the community for 30 years.
“I bought some new equipment,” Lucignano said. “I used the time to spruce up the place, expand the areas. We’re all ready to go.” He added, “Everyone is happy we’re back in action.”
Under Gov. Ron DeSantis’ order, capacity is limited to 50 percent, and facilities must follow CDC and OSHA guidelines which include social distancing and extra sanitization.
Calvin Paquette, the owner of Body Zone in Key West, also noted that many of his clients were eager to get back to the gym. He said, “Working out is part of a routine and how people maintain health over the years. When you take that away, it throws people off.”
Body Zone reopened Monday, with taped-off machines to keep patrons 6 feet apart. Paquette also asks members to wear masks coming into and out of the gym, especially when talking to staff or walking around. He has asked people to take extra precautions to clean machines before and after use, and is closing the gym 1.5 hours earlier each night for a deep clean.
In the few days since reopening, Paquette has noticed a shift in gym use. Pre-coronavirus, it was packed around 5:30 p.m., after people got out of work. Now, with people getting used to new routines, working from home, and not having daycare, he’s seeing 3 p.m. as his peak hour and just a few trickling in after 4:30 p.m, he said.
Chris Merrell, owner of boutique fitness center Beyond Traditional Wellness (BTW) in Islamorada, has adapted the structure of his group classes for safety. Instead of rotating stations with different gear, clients bring their own mat and weights to ensure there’s no cross-contamination, and Merrell adapts the workouts to be effective using just those tools. He also is opting, for now, to hold all group classes outdoors with markers for clients the required 6 feet apart.
“I will see when I feel comfortable bringing people inside,” Merrell said. “For now, I can accommodate eight people outside, and am looking into offering more group classes.”
Merrell continues to offer by-appointment-only personal training, which allows him to further limit capacity inside and thoroughly clean after each client.
“The ‘new norm’ for me might mean I’m busier than before because people might feel more comfortable here than going to a traditional gym,” he added.
“It was an interesting time to be closed when gyms are such an important thing for people’s bodies to stay healthy,” said Liz Kuck, owner of Keys Strength and Conditioning in Marathon.
Her gym reopened Monday, with limited capacity classes and floor markings indicating where people should work out in group classes and remain socially distant. She also increased sanitization to “bring people’s awareness to it.”
“We didn’t change the schedule, just the number of people who can come to classes,” she said. “We’re just trying to go back to our old schedule.”
Mariners Wellness Center took a slower approach, with a phased reopening that began Wednesday. Over the next three weeks, members on annual, 6-month, and 3-month memberships will be reintroduced weekly.
Capacity will be limited to 25 members at a time, with 1-hour time limits for workouts, a member email said. Members must bring and wear face masks upon entering the facility and in common areas. Showers will not be available, and members will have mandatory temperature checks and screenings.
Everyone agreed that having gyms and fitness options available is a much-needed step toward community health.
Merrell said, “Exercise is probably the most natural de-stresser available, so even now when you can’t go to work or cash a paycheck, it feels good knowing you took care of yourself, that you were still productive and used your day’s worth of energy.”
Lucignano concluded, “I’ve been here 40 years, and the gym 30 years. We’re not going anywhere. It’s a sunny day and the roof isn’t leaking, so it’s not bad.”