Since the start of the pandemic, gyms were a source of concern for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and health experts.
From close contact to heavy breathing and sharing equipment, gyms and fitness studios had to get creative in finding ways to keep patrons safe.
But as of Mar. 10, those protocols are no longer required with Gov. Greg Abbott’s rollbacks on capacity limits and mask mandates for all businesses.
Some gyms like Gold’s Gym, Lifetime, LA Fitness and Equinox are moving forward with allowing 100% capacity and no longer enforcing masks.
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Employees at many gyms will still be required to wear a mask.
The new changes have also prompted other gyms to come up with their own battleplan to help customers continue to feel comfortable while getting a workout.
The latest news from around North Texas.
24 Hour Fitness created a “club within a club” concept where a certain area of the gym will be designated for those who want to wear a mask. These zones will be set up in the basketball courts or other designated areas, which are enclosed behind doors. People who enter these areas will be required to wear a mask but for the rest of the gym, masks will not be required.
Social distancing will be promoted throughout 24 Hour Fitness clubs, touchless check-in will still be done via smartphone and stringent cleaning protocols will still be in place.
Other smaller boutique gyms like Jesse James Fit and Outlaw FitCamp are also taking their own approach for their locations across DFW.
Since the pandemic, they completely altered the entire layout at all locations to promote social distancing and are planning to keep it that way.
The gym created 7- 7-by-11-foot workout pods they call "jail cells" that allow gymgoers to have their own space and equipment. The gym posted an update on the new design last summer.
Leyva said smaller gyms and boutique studios can have that kind of advantage compared to the big-box gyms because they can have more control in making major changes like changing the layout.
“There’s no cross-contamination,” Leyva said. “It was a unique opportunity for us to do something a little different.”
Starting Wednesday, masks will be optional for guests but employees will continue to wear masks.
“I think the last thing we need to do as people are getting back into the gym and then the mask mandate is lifted, is to have a party, take our masks off and go back to normal. That’s going to scare the heck out of a lot of people,” said gym owner Jesse James Leyva. “So I think we need to do our part by making sure that our customers feel safe and that we make them feel comfortable."
Staff will still be spraying everything down between uses and hospital-grade disinfectant spraying will also continue once a week.
Leyva said the pandemic has forced the industry to rethink standards that could last for years to come.
"I think it was a good eye-opener for our industry to step up the protocols for cleanliness for the customers,” he said. “With the pandemic, I think it was a much-needed thing to be brought to the attention of all the gym owners and boutique studio owners, just to bring up their standards of protocols and sanitation.”
The YMCA of Metropolitan Dallas, which operates 19 locations, is still requiring guests to wear masks.
“After speaking with leaders of the two largest hospital systems in our area and reviewing information they provided regarding disease tracking, at this time we will continue on our current path and require all employees and guests working and visiting our facilities to wear a mask or face covering in order to keep our members and staff as safe as possible,” YMCA of Metropolitan Dallas CEO Curt Hazelbaker said in a statement.
Orangetheory Fitness announced on social media last week that it is also staying the course and will continue to require masks and other safety measures.
Sculpthouse in Park Cities is requiring masks in the common areas but masks are optional once guests are on a machine. Capacity will also be kept at 50% to help everyone stay socially distant.
Each person has their own machine and no machine sharing will be allowed, with hand weights removed from the studio. SculptHouse will continue contactless check-in, temperature checks, and limited class sizes. The fitness studio also invested in a medical-grade HEPA filter for their studio air filtration system.
“SculptHouse has always used hospital grade cleaning products and prides itself for safety and cleanliness, so will continue what we have done since we reopened in June; temperature checks, mask wearing to your machine, no machine sharing, sanitizing machines and the room before and after class," said Katherine Mason, Founder & CEO of SculptHouse.
Bottom line, before you head out to a workout, you might want to check with your preferred gym to make sure their protocols line up with your comfort level.
“If you open a business, you’re entitled to take care of your customer and make sure they’re safe,” said Leyva.