While the idea of going back to the gym is tempting, it’s also not the best idea right now with a novel coronavirus hiding in plain sight.
The funniest thing I’ve seen all week was Monday’s protest at the Clearwater courthouse, in which a small but energetic group of people desperate to get back in the gym wanted to show how badly they need them to work out. How did they do it? Push-ups and squats outside the building.
FOX Sports’ Adam Amin called it “pumping irony” and I couldn’t agree more. We know from the people who were begging all last month for hair salons and barber shops to reopen that cutting and styling your own hair is extremely difficult and often leads to disaster, and now we know from the people in Clearwater that exercising without a gym is not. They can wait until at least Phase Two of Governor Ron DeSantis’s “Safe. Smart. Step-by-Step.” reopening plan, and I’m not even sure that’s the right time to try.
I don’t know who needs to hear this, but the vast majority of people absolutely do not need a gym to work out. If you need further proof, go back to the videos of that protest and watch all those people working out without a gym. If they really wanted to, they could have gotten a full-body workout with no equipment right there outside the courthouse. Maybe the sidewalk would have gotten a little hot in the sun, but surely there was a shaded area somewhere within viewing distance of anyone in the courthouse where the protestors could have done more push-ups or exercises with skin-to-ground contact that wouldn’t have been uncomfortable.
For all the talk about how we can’t let our economy die while we all sit inside and ride this thing out, there really is a way to keep pumping money into the local business of fitness.
Don’t even think about telling me there’s no way to support a gym if it’s not open. If your gym offers the option, please consider keeping your membership payments going if you’re financially able. Whatever you can pay now will help both the gym and its employees in the interim while it’s closed. Down the road, that money could be the difference between it closing by the end of the year or surviving — especially since small business loans haven’t always been enough on their own to help with their bills.
As soon as my gym opens back up, I’m renewing my membership immediately because I want it to be there when it’s safer for people to go back and use like we all did before COVID. It doesn’t matter to me that I’m parting with that money even though I’m not planning on working out in there for a little while, whether it’s by choice or because the state decided they need to close again after a second wave hits.
If you have a trainer you like and they’ll work with you virtually or in person, six feet apart or whatever, keep paying and working with them. If not, maybe pay for sessions in advance — whenever Phase Two of the state’s reopening plan hits, they’ll be ready to work and so will you. Not all gyms can pay their trainers directly because they’re considered contractors, so there’s no time like the present to help the people who have helped you. It would be great to see gyms that only employ contractors who can’t conduct online classes or make money right now lend a helping hand, which might look like creating a GoFundMe for the trainers they would normally host. This is also where I would advise anyone to be mindful of who’s making a GoFundMe right now: if it’s not the trainers or the gyms themselves doing it, I wouldn’t trust it.
But there’s a very short list of people who absolutely do need a gym right now, and the thing they all have in common is that their professions depend on them being able to move more weight in one go than you can train for with just your own bodyweight and some equipment you don’t need a lot of space to use and store. Breaking this down will only take but a minute.
Certain athletes need a full set of weights to be able to perform their jobs to the best of their ability. Do you throw the shot put or discus? You need a weight room. Depending on which position you play in football — mainly if you’re on either the offensive or defensive lines, but there are others where hitting the weights makes a noticeable difference — you need a weight room. Bodybuilders need a weight room like fish need water.
Basically, if your job requires you to be both bigger and stronger than an average person, you probably need a gym. I hope you either have weights of your own or have a good hook-up, because I feel for you and I know you need that. If you’re not one of these people, you’re fine and you can wait. Smart money says almost everyone reading this column is able to do what they need to do without having to set foot in a gym.
I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: it would be almost impossible to keep any fully-fledged public gym as clean as it needs to be during a pandemic. It might work if there’s an attendant at every piece of equipment and they wipe it down completely after each use, but that was never financially feasible for these gyms pre-COVID and it certainly won’t be now.
That’s why the gyms have always asked you to wipe equipment down after each use, and I know for a fact that doesn’t always happen. Since I’ve been in Plant City, I’ve split time between three gyms over almost seven years. They’re all different sizes. They all have different clients. They all have different equipment. None of them have a client base that keeps everything wiped down and clean 100 percent of the time. I’ve been guilty of that before, too. And don’t even get me started on the people who believe they don’t have to wash their hands after using the restroom because they didn’t touch anything. We hand-washers all go from station to station either hoping the person before us wasn’t being so gross or lifting in blissful ignorance, then immediately using the available hand sanitizer or washing our hands.
I’ve seen the arguments that gyms need to be open because using them can “help boost your immune system.” While that is true, there are two things to consider. First, you have to consider that because you can work out at home, you don’t have to exercise in a gym to boost your immune system. Second, you have to consider that you’re giving yourself a greater chance at catching a virus with no available vaccine or proven treatment that your body also has no natural defense for, unless maybe you’ve already had it. Your symptoms might not be so bad if you get it, but you also have no way of knowing for sure that you’d only get a cough and a mild headache from it. Being in a gym in its typical state might help you fight off diseases your immune system already knows how to fight, but COVID-19 isn’t one of them yet. It will be one day, but it’s not today. If you want to take that chance, good luck.
If you know me at all, you know how much I love the gym. But Phase Two’s current guidelines of operating at 75 percent capacity and “strict social distancing and sanitation protocols” just don’t do it for me. Especially the 75 percent part — that seems a little too high for an especially germ-packed environment. We don’t know when Phase Two will begin, of course, since we’re supposed to first wait and see if Phase One has a “successful conclusion,” whenever that deadline is. If Phase Two is going to be anytime in the next month, I think that’s too soon. We need to know for sure that Phase One is working and we’re firmly on a downward slope, then go for the gyms after Phase Two starts and we can see for certain that the infection rate is on a steady decline. Whether that means we save it for Phase Three or work it into Phase Two late in the game as with the hair joints in Phase One, I believe gyms need to be phased in later in the game as arguably the greatest spreader of germs of anything we’ve lost that people want back right now.
Until then, at least consider doing some research on home workout plans if you want to exercise. There are plenty out there that won’t require equipment, and you’re in even better luck if your personal trainer from your gym has online offerings right now. If you want weights and are fortunate enough to have some money to spend, now’s not a bad time to go in on a bench and/or a dumbbell set if you have somewhere to put them. If money’s tight, you might have to get creative or borrow equipment from a friend. I can vouch for the effectiveness of the home workout plan myself, having been going hard in my living room since mid-March. I miss lifting, but I’m not mad at all about how totally changing my workouts has affected my body.
If you want to go when we get the gyms back, that’s your right as an American and I’m not going to come and stop you. I’m just of the opinion that we don’t need them back right this second.
Hoping everyone’s clients use common sense to keep a gym clean is nice in theory, but the problem with banking on using common sense as a rule is that people tend not to have as much of it as they’ll tell you they do. Otherwise driving on I-4 wouldn’t be so bad, the Atlanta Falcons wouldn’t have blown the 28-3 Super Bowl lead and the national “Florida Man” news phenomenon wouldn’t exist, to name a few things.
At the very least, I’d rather wait to go in myself until we’re firmly on a downward slope and we can see that hospitals in the area aren’t about to be overwhelmed. I’d feel more comfortable when there’s a legitimate, proven treatment for the virus, and I’d feel even safer with a good vaccine available just like the seasonal flu shots. We need to support our fitness scene, but we also need more time before we can jump back in at 75 percent capacity.
Call it “living in fear” if you want. You know what will happen if we open everything all the way back up right now? The infection rate will jump up, the state will shut down again and we’ll be right back to where we were two months ago with a stagnant economy and more unemployment. We’re better off with a conservative, slow rollout than going all the way open and pretending nothing bad will happen.
My “fear” is that too many people are going to be too stubborn to see that and then, instead of only shutting down once and transitioning back to normal once, we’re gonna go back to the drawing board and you’re all going to complain about Constitutional rights that aren’t really being violated and maybe even some martial law thrown in for good measure. Don’t be the reason small businesses have to close twice — a second shutdown might be the killing blow for many of the ones you love.
It’s like treating an illness: you want to finish your entire prescription on a set schedule so there’s no doubt you’re healthy again. You don’t stop taking antibiotics once you think you’re starting to feel better. You don’t take too much medicine at one time because it could be harmful or even lethal to you. We have to keep monitoring this throughout the state and adjust accordingly, just the same as checking back in with your doctor.
We need patience, phasing and, ideally, better relief programs for small businesses and their employees than what we have now. And when it comes to opening the gyms back up, people can definitely exercise more patience than they are now.