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Pandemic Gym Closures

By Jasmine Schulte

When the first round of worldwide gym closures struck due to the pandemic, personal trainer and media influencer Fiona Simpson had to think fast and create at-home workouts to post on her social media so that her clients and followers do not fall off track during their fitness journeys.

For Hannah Burns, keeping gyms and recreational facilities open during Covid-19 has always been about saving the mental aspect of lives from illness.

Every day, gym-goers like Zach Panos watched their loss of progress and muscle build up during the closures. He says that every time he looked in the mirror was a kick in the face.

“I worked so hard at the gym every single day just to watch my body basically go back to square one,” said Panos.

Now, with second and possibly third waves of the coronavirus coming, the conundrum facing government officials, gym owners, and gym-goers is the internal battle between physical and mental illness.

A new wave of stay at home orders and gym closures orders have already begun in Pittsburgh, across the U.S. and the world. Some cities have placed orders that allow owners to make their own decision as to whether their gym stays open or not. In Pennsylvania, Gov. Tom Wolf has been part of the decision for Philadelphia’s new “Safer at Home” order, which is effective from Nov 20 until Jan 1, 2021. This order has closed all gyms in Philadelphia with an exception for outdoor exercising. News as to whether this new order will take effect across the state has not yet been announced.

Local gym owner, Jordan Thompson says he will not be closing the doors to his gym again.

“We have taken all precautions recommended and have strictly put them into effect. We practice social distancing safety and will continue to do so to protect the mental well-being of my athletes during this incredibly traumatizing pandemic,” said Thompson.

Government officials began the first round of closures back in March when worldwide closure orders were put into effect. Reopenings began to happen across the country in May and June, but the second wave of closures are beginning to happen again. Southern California will be under a stay-at-home order beginning Dec 6 at 11:59 p.m. The impact of the second wave of closures could result in businesses closing permanently.

Simpson had done everything she could to make sure her clients and followers could still workout despite the gyms being closed.

“I posted my at-home workouts every day and people loved it. I used objects you could find around the house and showed people how to use them as weights,” she said. She has been training hard for four years now to get to where she is.

“My fitness journey has shaped me into who I am today, and I want others to be able to feel that happiness of achievement.”

Even though Simpson wasn’t making much money doing this, her passion for exercise drove her to share her knowledge with others during this difficult time.

Burns says she would “make a damn petition to keep the gyms open.”

“Keeping the gyms open has had a huge impact on helping people’s mental health. This pandemic has surely done a great job at harming that,” she says. Burns recently started her own online-coaching program after success on her own fitness journey throughout the past few years.

The online-coach says that this pandemic has driven just as much poor mental health as it has physical health. She also says that she invested in some workout bands, mats, and a few dumbbells in case the gyms close again.

Panos works at LA Fitness in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and does a workout almost every day. He, as well as most others, use heavy weights to achieve their physique. He says he became depressed after the gyms closed in March. Getting access to heavyweights was very difficult to find without the gyms being open, therefore, many gym-goers like Panos were physically and mentally affected.

“I think I’ll be more prepared this time if gyms do get shut down again, but I just hope they don’t,” he said.

Cami Cook is also a daily gym-goer who severally struggled with the gym closures.

“The gym is my safe place, somewhere for me to get away for a couple of hours and focus on myself. I got into unhealthy habits like excessive cardio when the gyms closed. I was just depressed without it,” said Cook.

Without having a say, student-athletes like Joseph Earls are at a great disadvantage.

“Coach doesn’t allow us to go to the gym or train anywhere besides at school for practice. We can risk catching the disease and spreading it to other teammates and players. This has been hard for all of us athletes,” said Earls.

Gym managers of national franchises like Elijah Mack, who is a manager at LA Fitness in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, unfortunately, have no say as to whether the gym will close or not.

“Sadly, that decision isn’t in our hands. It’s up to corporate. If I could choose, I’d choose to stay open if it comes down to it again,” said Mack.

Mack says it has been tough seeing all these people losing the process of years of hard work.

“With even six weeks without going to the gym, you’re still going to see a huge loss in progress. I’d just hate to see it happen to everyone again,” he said.

Jenna Jessup says that she is worried about the virus and does everything she can to protect herself from it.

“It’s hard because the virus worries me, and I hate to see it spread. But I also hated to see the slump I got myself into during quarantine when I couldn’t go to a gym for several months. I fell into a dark place,” said Jessup.

Others have taken it as far as building their own home gym. College student Hannah Rapp says that her father wasn’t going to sit around and wait for the gyms to reopen, then eventually close back up again, so the family invested in a home gym in their garage.

“We got everything we need. A treadmill, stationary bikes, dumbbells, a bench, heavyweights, punching bags, all of it.”

This is an expensive approach to solving the situation, but now the family can workout in the safety of their own home without having to worry if it’s going to close.

Many others like these daily gym-goers, owners, employees, and trainers are hopeful that the gyms will be able to stay open safely.

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