Gym goers walk up to a screen where their temperature is checked. It’s touchless and doesn’t involve the pointing of a radar at the forehead. JIM McCARTHY/Keys Weekly

For a while, fitness fanatics like myself were left to find an alternative venue to conduct a workout. The coronavirus pandemic forced many closures, including gyms, to keep people away 

from each other in a bid to slow the spread. 

It especially affected those who had trainers, lifters who needed their barbells and 45-pound plates and the ones who simply enjoyed the social interaction with fellow gym rats. Many were left going to the park for a run or doing burpees on a field. Others made use of fitness trails at parks. 

While alternative venues suited the bill temporarily, I longed for a return to the bench with dumbbells in hand. Fast forward two-and-a-half months to May 20, and gyms began to open their doors back up. 

Some were chomping at the bit and couldn’t wait for the day. Others remained uneasy about a return. After all, the pandemic didn’t go away. A checkpoint that was established early on was taken down, allowing visitors to come back to the islands. And cases rose exponentially through the summer months. 

With all that said, I returned to my gym when it reopened to get back to what’s long been part of my normal routine. I’ve been back to Mariners Wellness Center in Tavernier since May, and I must say, measures are in place to keep you and others safe. And I’m here to explain the measures for those who are still uncertain about getting back in. 

First off, like anywhere else, masks must be worn when entering the facility. And just like other places, hand sanitizer stations await you as you proceed to the reception desk for check-in. 

Before scanning their membership tag, gym patrons stand in front of a screen for a temperature check. It’s unique in that you don’t have someone standing in front of you throwing a radar gun at your forehead. Instead, you position your masked face in front of the screen where the temperature is read back. 

If the temperature is normal, patrons proceed to the next check-in step by tagging in. And away they go into the gym. But the check-in steps aren’t over just yet. 

Upon entering the gym, patrons write their names on a whiteboard and the time they entered. The gym’s currently limiting workouts to an hour, in an effort to limit the number of people inside the gym to 25. If the gym’s full, those looking to enter are placed and spaced in a waiting room until there’s capacity to allow them in. 

Upon getting to your treadmill or bench, you have the option to take off your mask to conduct your workout. But it’s ultimately up to the person. Cardio equipment is staggered so two people aren’t running next to each other. In the weight room, receptionists drill into your head to keep 6 feet away from each other. 

From my experiences, those in the gym are conscious and keep their distance when going to machines, returning weights and walking to the water fountain. After all, they not only want to keep themselves safe, but they also desire to see the gym stay open. And they’re also conscientious when it comes to wiping down equipment. In addition, staff go throughout the gym to disinfect during the day.

More than anything, returning to the gym has allowed people to get back to their routines and say “hi” to friends they might not have seen in some time. As Mariners Wellness Center manager Jennifer Boltz notes, it’s more than a gym for its members. It’s also a community focused on healthy living. 

“Members who were missing the gym were not just missing the workouts; they were missing the social interaction,” she said. “We know that people need a safe space for their physical and emotional health. That’s why we have implemented new safety measures. Our main focus has been, and always will be, the health and safety of our members and the community.” 

Still uneasy about a return to the gym? Ask someone who’s going back about their experiences and what they see. It’s also good to know what time of day they’re going and the number of people they see. Or, reach out to gym staff if you have concerns you’d like to address with staff that’s preventing you from returning. 

A shoutout goes to all those at Mariners Wellness Center who continue to maintain a healthy, safe environment for all.

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