Gyms around Central Pennsylvania are working to protect clients from COVID-19 as they undertake fitness-related New Year’s resolutions this January.

In the cases of emPower Training Systems in Lancaster and Crunch Fitness in Harrisburg and York, masks, sanitizing stations, and social distancing are the new normal. Josh March, owner of emPower, explains that his facility is also implementing temperature checks and even a shoe cleaning station to keep germs off the training room floor.

At Crunch Fitness, every other treadmill is blocked off to help maintain proper distance between patrons, says Jonathan Cardona, regional manager of the Harrisburg and York locations. At emPower, orange tape demarcates clients’ “pods” with their individual equipment that is sanitized at the end of every use.

Today was the first day that gyms were allowed to reopen for in-person workouts since mid-December when Gov. Wolf implemented stricter COVID-19 mitigation rules. But for those who aren’t comfortable working out inside a facility, some gyms offer other options. For example, emPower has live online classes guided by trainers as well as outdoor workouts when the weather permits.

During COVID-19, fitness may hold extra importance. March notes that obesity — a health challenge combatted by fitness facilities — is linked to increased risk of severe illness and hospitalization due to COVID-19, as has been reported by the CDC.

Additionally, “gyms are a place that people go to work on that stress and that mental health,” March says, and Cardona agrees.

While emPower chose to close following Gov. Wolf’s mandate, Crunch Fitness did not. Cardona did not want to comment on Crunch’s decision to remain open, but he says Crunch is “creating that safe environment so you can still enjoy fitness…but also, we are in a pandemic, and we’re trying to just stabilize that as well.”

In a letter to Gov. Wolf dated Dec. 12, March writes, “Today we continue doing our part by once again following the mandate to shut down. But when I drive past Park City Mall and see the hundreds and hundreds of cars in the parking lot I cannot help but feel frustration.”

March cites the health benefits offered by gyms and notes studies showing low transmission of the Coronavirus in fitness facilities as reasons for his frustration. The Associated Press and Nexstar Media Wire report that the safety of in-person gym visits are determined by “where you live and the precautions you and the gym take.”

Following CDC and DOH guidelines, March worked with several other small gym owners in Lancaster and Chester counties to develop “responsible reopening” guidelines for fitness facilities. These include recommendations like operating under capacity and improving ventilation systems.

Whether at the gym or at home, for those with New Year’s resolutions around fitness, Cardona says having a healthy diet is important for getting results. March says working with a personal trainer (emPower is primarily a personal training facility) can hold people accountable and keep them motivated.

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