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Las Vegas gyms not rushing to reopen Friday

Updated May 29, 2020 - 12:27 pm

When gyms begin to reopen Friday, those itching to get back can expect a variety of changes, including workout reservations, closed saunas and increased cleaning efforts.

The state-ordered closure of gyms March 15 affected an estimated 6,000 workers in 334 establishments, according to data from the Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation.

Gov. Steve Sisolak said they may reopen Friday with capacity limits, social distancing and their locker rooms and communal spaces closed.

But not all gym rats will be scurrying to the treadmills. And not all gyms will be ready to welcome back fitness enthusiasts.

“I don’t trust my government right now to take care of me, and I don’t trust a business to take care of me. The only person I can trust right now is me,” said Cathie Grodecki, 72.

In the year or so she has held a membership at Planet Fitness, her fellow gymgoers weren’t great about wiping down equipment, Grodecki said. She said she probably won’t feel comfortable until infections drop nationwide and there’s a viable vaccine.

Meanwhile, fellow Planet Fitness member Carol Luehrman-Stempel, 31, said she misses her gym. The chain plans to reopen its Las Vegas locations Monday.

“I’m incredibly excited,” Luehrman-Stempel said. “Endorphins make people happy.”

Who’s opening?

Some smaller fitness centers like CrossFit Apollo, 6535 N. Buffalo Drive, and The Gym, 7165 S. Buffalo Drive, plan to reopen Friday, but it doesn’t appear the bigger gym chains in Las Vegas will reopen immediately.

Las Vegas Athletic Club will be the first of the big chains when it reopens all seven of its locations Saturday. EoS Fitness and Orange Theory announced they will reopen their Nevada locations Monday and Wednesday, respectively. Life Time will also open Wednesday. Others such as 24 Hour Fitness and Anytime Fitness did not give an official reopening date.

EoS will require members to schedule workouts in advance to ensure locations abide by social distancing and capacity limits, according to its website. 24 Hour Fitness also will operate by reservation only and limit its hours to 5 a.m. to 9 p.m., closing for overnight cleanings. LVAC members won’t need a reservation, but they may have to wait in line if the location is at its maximum of 50 percent capacity.

Gyms are encouraging their members to stay home if they are not feeling well, at higher risk of contracting COVID-19 or uncomfortable returning. LVAC is allowing members to freeze their memberships, marketing director Emily Hamill said.

Life Time brought in an epidemiologist and an industrial hygienist to guide its reopening practices, Vice President of Member Experience Kevin Siegel said. He said the company is excited to open up in Nevada, and gauged member and employee feedback in deciding its Wednesday opening date.

Who’s going?

A national survey by shoe review site RunRepeat found just over half of the 6,636 respondents said they won’t be returning to gyms after they reopen. Over half, 55.74 percent, shared that plan in Nevada, where only 168 responded to the survey.

If gyms are to stay afloat during the pandemic, they’ll need to regain their members’ trust through good communication, said Nicholas Rizzo, RunRepeat’s fitness research director.

“Gyms that are not able to make their members feel safe and do not adapt with options like digital offerings may struggle to retain members and continue to see their revenue dwindle,” Rizzo said.

Asking people like Luehrman-Stempel, the 31-year-old Planet Fitness member, to return requires little effort. She bought a gym membership a few months before the pandemic and began working out four or five times a week.

“You know, you hit 30 and you think, ‘Maybe I should try a little harder,’ ” Luehrman-Stempel said.

Her hiatus from cardio sessions at the gym has been frustrating, and she is raring to get going, she said. She isn’t worried about cleanliness or capacity limits now that they can reopen. She said she trusts that gyms will thoroughly clean their facilities and sees fewer total people as an incentive.

“Honestly, either way I’m gonna go,” she said.

Convincing others like insurance analyst Dan Baker, also 31, to return may prove a taller task.

He doesn’t see himself returning anytime soon to his northwest LVAC location, where he worked out daily before the pandemic. LVAC is typically packed, and concerns about fellow members’ cleanliness habits, as well as a re-evaluation of his own, are enough to keep him home, Baker said.

Baker may rethink his position once a vaccine is available, but for now, he considers his three-year membership buy last year a sunk cost. It’s not worth the time to travel anymore, especially with locker-room restrictions and his new equipment he bought for his garage when the shutdown struck, he said.

“I just think it’s gonna be a complete cluster,” Baker said.

For 72-year-old Grodecki, her YouTube “Zumba Gold” workouts suffice for now.

“It’s for us old fogies who have balance issues,” Grodecki said.

Contact Mike Shoro at mshoro@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5290. Follow @mike_shoro on Twitter.

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