Hannibal Courier-Post

Gyms deal with the fallout of the pandemic

By Mike Thomas
Courier-Post Sports Editor
Posted: Jun. 30, 2020 12:43 pm Updated: Jun. 30, 2020 1:03 pm

HANNIBAL | As lockdowns have been lifted, gyms have re-opened with new challenges of keeping clients safe.

RunRepeat fitness research director Nicholas Rizzo said gyms have been operating at reduced capacities to ensure social distancing and some have even shut down every other piece of exercise equipment.

“On top of this, (gyms) are making hand sanitizer and equipment cleaning supplies ubiquitous throughout the gym,” Rizzo said. “Nearly every piece of equipment having its own supplies to clean itself so that each member can sanitize their hands, clean the equipment, use it, sanitize and then move on to their next workout.”

A new survey conducted by runrepeat.com surveyed 10,824 gym members worldwide, and concluded 46.67 percent of gym members would not return to gyms upon re-opening. That percentage was 50.16 percent for Americans and 43.64 percent of Missourians who said they would not return to the gym as they re-open.

YMCA of Hannibal marketing and communications director Kayla Tiller said she has seen a decrease in numbers of what they would typically see this time of year.

“We are seeing a spike across the nation in cases, so that might be limiting the amount of people, but I do feel that we will start seeing an increase in our numbers as time goes on,” Tiller said. “I think once word gets out on what the Y is doing and the precautions that we are taking, I think the more comfortable people will feel coming back.”

The YMCA of Hannibal re-opened on May 11 and entered phase two on June 16 that lifted some restrictions. On July 1, the YMCA will resume normal hours, grant full locker room access, open swim times and lift other restrictions.

To ensure safety of their clients, the YMCA of Hannibal have been using hospital grade disinfectant to clean equipment, bathrooms and other parts of its building. Members are also asked to wipe down equipment before and after they use it.

Tiller said the YMCA of Hannibal base their policies off of local and state health guidelines, as well as guidance from the YMCA of the USA.

“As restrictions are lifted, they are based off of local regulations that we go on,” Tiller said. “We were kind of able to reduce a few restrictions better than St. Louis, just because St. Louis has more cases and they were taking more precautions.”

While the YMCA of Hannibal has successfully re-opened, many other gyms around the state are left wondering about their bottom line as memberships have declined.

Rizzo said the COVID-19 pandemic could lead to the closure and consolation of gyms due to financial struggles.

“Memberships are the bottom line for gyms,” Rizzo said. “If members don't feel like going to the gym will be feasible or worth the potential risk, they are likely to cancel. The more that cancel, the more likely we are to see gyms have no other choice but to close down.”

Some people who typically go to gyms have found other ways to exercise or have invested in their own equipment.

Rizzo said his study indicated more people are exercising now than before the pandemic, but have found other means of exercise than going to the gym.

“With a slew of options out there for digital and at-home fitness solutions, people are becoming accustomed to it,” Rizzo said. “Others are realizing it makes more sense to workout at home. When you only have 30 minutes, there is no more excuse to not get your workout in, because you can quickly get changed, get a great workout in and be on your way.”

The YMCA of Hannibal offers programs for both children and adults, including sports, group exercise and personal training, that would not be available for someone exercising alone.

As classes and sports have resumed, the YMCA has taken social distancing precautions to keep people six feet apart as much as possible.

“Our program rooms are smaller, so we tried to figure out how we can people the classes they want and not have to restrict the numbers,” Tiller said. “We moved a lot of our classes to the gym to allow for social distancing. Some of our classes almost went back to normal, (while) other ones have seen a decrease in numbers.”