Keeping Gyms Closed is Killing a Community

Gym members can be extremely OCD about their gym time.  Literally come hell or high water, “the regulars” will be waiting at their usual ass crack of dawn time, or whenever their normal time is, to get inside.  They question the safety and sanity of others who prefer waiting for the safe signal to be given before venturing back on to the roads after a storm.  Working in gyms since 2008 in various states, this same profile exists everywhere.  You know who these people are in your circle of friends!

As a personal trainer, gym members seem to think I spend 10-12 hours a day at my place of employment.  While it seems like that some days, I’d venture to say they are at the gym longer than I am.  Obviously being at work opposed to working out, are different mindset hours to me, but not to the members.  When they are at the gym, it’s off time and they think it’s similar for me.  My working and workout hours are very different. 

My senior small group training

The gym is an important part of the social fabric in a community.  It truly does serve as a social outlet for people of all ages.  Friendships and dating relationships are made in the gym.  When this cog in someone’s life is taken away for any reason, there is a feeling of loss and anxiety.  The old adage of the car driving itself definitely applies to gym people in their daily habits of showing up at the same time regardless.  Is that really healthy?  There are worse addictions and OCD habits!

When gyms were and still are forced to shut down, it does more than take away a place to exercise.  The daily contact with friends of years and sometimes decades, disappears.  Mental health is not a common aspect thought of for gyms and health clubs.  Eliminating this socialization has a negative effect that is the same as any other club or meeting group.  Unlike the WFH movement, you can’t really get the same workout physically and mentally in your spare bedroom or living room. 

Gym people are their own breed.  Their lives often intertwine outside the gym into comingling at social events in the area.  The common themes automatically lead them to showing up at a festival, restaurant, or race.  I taught a group class for older adults that turned into us having lunch out locally each quarter.  This was a highlight pre-COVID for everyone because of the relationships built from seeing each other multiple times each week.

Health clubs are different from gyms like Anytime Fitness, so the community feeling is not as strong.  Smaller gyms do have their own sense of camaraderie with people who always show up the same times you do.  In this case, you’re forced into expanding outside the gym because there aren’t facilities like a executive locker room or café/grill to interact when not exercising.  When you see someone from your small gym out at the store or in a restaurant, you automatically have a friend! Sheltering in place has been especially hard on those over 65.  Many have not come back to their gyms, health clubs, and senior centers for fear of coronavirus.  Unfortunately, state, and local governments lump gyms in with bars as spreading centers, which is not true.  Research is out that shows gyms and health clubs are on the lower end of transmission compared to restaurants and bars.  The populations in fitness facilities are typically healthier with less obesity risk factors that lead to COVID-19 deaths.  Make your own decisions based on your health, please don’t lump fitness centers into the forgotten and trash piles as places you will never return.