Coronavirus: Gym Closures from a Personal Trainer’s View

The gym/health club plays a large role in people’s lives beyond the obvious working out.  For many it is an essential part of their social life and source of friends.  Being a gym rat turned personal trainer in 2008, I’ve seen this dynamic in every gym that I spent significant time at over the decades.  Now that Coronavirus has ended this important aspect of people’s lives, what are they to do?

A majority of my friends since 2008 have come from the gym and fitness industry.  This is a natural progression as I spend my working hours in that setting.  What casual gym goers don’t grasp from an employee standpoint, is that the gym is NOT my place to socialize and hangout.  When I am there, even if I’m working out, I’m still in work/employee mode, while they are in social mode.  What appears to be socializing and hanging out, is really not.  Difference is people can come into my place of employment at their leisure and stay long as they want.  I can’t do that when going to a doctor’s office, factory setting, or retail location, it’s conduct business and leave.

In a health club setting where other services like a café, pool, and childcare are offered, members’ lives are tied to opening and closing hours.  Typically, they meet friends for classes, coffee, and relaxation throughout the week.  Taking multiple functions away in one fell swoop is hard to overcome.  The health club is a second home to families, especially when there are school holidays.  Not working out is only a part of the tension caused by health clubs closing down during this pandemic.  I have spoken with members at the health club I work at that are dying to go back for this social reason.  My health club also has multiple pools and a water slide, which is the daily hangout for many families.  Also, the health club provides meals for the day while these families use the facilities to get out of the house during the heat of the day.  Coronavirus continues to do more than just crush the business aspect of a health club; it has an emotional toll too.

What have closing gyms done for me regarding socializing?  It’s had no effect on my social life in the gym.  I don’t spend my non-working hours inside hanging out and talking to members.  The pools are used in the late spring and summer for weekend relaxation, that is a nice perk of employment.  I do not specifically go to the pool for seeing members and coworkers socially.  Sure, I speak with them, but they are not the driving reason for getting a tan and a cool dip in the water.  The gym is an income and exercise source for most employees.  I also know this because not many coworkers are there in their off times except to workout.  Another surprising fact is a majority of employees don’t even workout!  I’ll save that tangent for another day.

Unfortunately, all the positive health and social benefits do not overcome the need to reopen gyms in the first wave of essential businesses.  There are many arguments to support gyms as a necessity, look at the deaths and related obesity factors that led to these deaths more than healthy people.  A gym cannot socially distance, it’s impossible.  Square footage is maximized with equipment and members must be in close proximity.  Because members are exercising regularly, their chances of serious conditions from Coronavirus are lower than the average American, whom over 1/3 are classified as obese.  Government and media want to ignore the health factors because they don’t make news, and nobody wants the truth anyways, it doesn’t sell airtime and ratings.

I’d love to hear your thoughts.  Comment on the blog or drop me, Matt Peale, an email at mpeale@movementacademy.net.  Stay healthy, my friends!

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