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Fitness centers allowed to reopen, but not all are able to

  • Ursula Johansson leads a class at Performance Fitness in Peterborough Tuesday. The gym resumed classes and personal training services this week, while use of equipment and weights is still restricted by the state's COVID-19 guidelines. Staff photo by Ben Conant

  • Sonya Martino participates in a fitness class at Performance Fitness in Peterborough Tuesday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Performance Fitness in Peterborough resumed classes and personal training services this week, while use of equipment and weights is still restricted by the state's COVID-19 guidelines. (BEN CONANT / Monadnock Ledger-Transcript) Copyright Monadnock Ledger-Transcript. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to news@ledgertranscript.com. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Performance Fitness in Peterborough resumed classes and personal training services this week, while use of equipment and weights is still restricted by the state's COVID-19 guidelines. (BEN CONANT / Monadnock Ledger-Transcript) Copyright Monadnock Ledger-Transcript. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to news@ledgertranscript.com. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 6/3/2020 3:50:19 PM

Monday signaled a big day forward for the fitness center industry in New Hampshire as gyms were able to reopen for the first time since the middle of March – albeit under limited use guidelines set forth by the state.

Gyms could begin offering small group exercise classes and one-on-one personal training sessions as of June 1 as part of the first phase of reopening, but must adhere to strict protocols for sanitizing and social distancing, but the use of gym equipment and personal workouts are still not allowed.

Like many industries given the green light to reopen under restrictions, it is up to the individual location to create a plan to both adhere to the guidelines and allow for its members to return that promotes the safest environment.

Performance Health & Fitness

Owner Hunter Burgess said on last week that the gym in Peterborough would begin hosting classes and allow for members to sign up for personal training, using the first days and weeks to adjust to a new way of operation.

On Monday, Performance hosted a single group cycle class at noon, which gave staff extra time in the morning to be prepared for the first class in more than two months. The class was full and held in the aerobics room, which is larger and can better accommodate social distancing.

Burgess said the plan was to start with the single class on Monday just to ease back in and then increase the opportunities for members as the days move forward.

“We’ll be able to grow and modify,” Burgess said.

Burgess said the plan would be fluid to see “how is it working? Is it safe for everybody?”

He said they have been offering remote classes, but understands that can be hard for some who thrive in group settings. Zoom classes will remain in place for those who don’t feel comfortable going into the gym just yet.

“This has been a really stressful time for a lot of people,” Burgess said. “And the benefits of exercise has long been known.”

On nice days, Burgess said some classes may move to the parking lot to limit the number of people who have to go in the building.

“Being outside we can handle more people and work on the spacing,” he said.

When classes use equipment, participants will be given their own set and there will be no sharing, Burgess said. What won’t be allowed is use of the gym and its equipment.

“We can’t just have people doing their own routines,” Burgess said.

When equipment is used in group classes, Burgess said they will be thoroughly sanitized afterward before being allowed for use again.

A typical spin class would be able to accommodate up to 18 people before, but due to spacing requirements, the most that can sign up for a class now will be eight.

For now, Burgess said, use of Performance will be limited to current members and that no new memberships will be accepted. Classes, which are typically done in drop-in fashion, will be sign-up only and participants will be required to answer screening questions prior to making a reservation.

To begin, Burgess said, there will be one trainer available for personal training, which will help limit the number of people in the gym area at one time. Water fountains will not be available and participants must bring their own yoga mats.

Burgess said the most difficult thing has been to come up with a structured plan because there hadn’t been a lot of guidance provided. He has talked to others in the industry in other states that have reopened to see what has worked and what to steer clear of.

What has kept Burgess going during the shutdown has been the members and staff.

“It’s been really challenging,” he said. “But we’ve had some overwhelming support.”

Bond Wellness Center

In a statement released Wednesday, Monadnock Community Hospital announced it would not be reopening the Bond Wellness Center.

“In its effort to best protect our patients, employees, and the community, Monadnock Community Hospital’s Bond Wellness Center will remain closed to fitness members for the foreseeable future. With the current protocols for social distancing and cleaning, it is not possible for the hospital to ensure the safety of our members,” the statement read.

“While we know this will be a disappointment to many of our loyal members, our primary focus remains preventing the spread of COVID-19 and the safety of our community. We are sorry for the inconvenience and we hope our members are finding ways to continue their physical exercise. When it is safe, we plan to welcome our members back,” said Cyndee McGuire, President and CEO.

During the pandemic, the Bond Wellness Center fitness floor and exercise studio is being used for physical therapy appointments only. “With the larger spaces, MCH can safely care for patients by allowing for adequate physical separation during appointments,” the statement concluded.

Monadnock Fitness Studio

Ellen and David Wright took over a fitness studio space on Fitzgerald Drive in Jaffrey two years ago and reopened under the name, Monadnock Fitness Studio.

When the coronavirus made its way into New Hampshire, they decided to close on March 16 – before being instructed to – with a hope of reopening soon.

“We weren’t really sure how serious the virus was,” Ellen said. “We assumed it would just be a short time.”

But as the weeks turned into months, the Wrights stayed optimistic, still paying their rent and bills to be ready to reopen when allowed. Then the guidelines for reopening came out and they made the difficult decision to permanently close a few weeks ago.

They had also reached out to their 60 members and got only 10 responses, two of which were nos and the rest maybes.

“That is really the biggest thing. People are scared to go out and they’re afraid to come back,” Ellen said. “When you think maybe 10 will be back and we need 40 to meet our expenses.”

The restrictions on operations would have meant offering more classes and more time on top of that for cleaning and sanitizing, it just wouldn’t have been able to work.

“We couldn’t do it,” Ellen said. “It’s tough, but it was very clear we couldn’t do it.”

In hopes of staying open, the Wrights spent $3,000 just on rent.

“We were very hopeful in the beginning,” Ellen said. “We were confident we’d only close for a short while.”




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