Gyms exercise different reopening options

Photos by Marlena Sloss/The Herald
Myriah Greulich of Dale wipes down a handle after use in the wellness center at the Tri-County YMCA in Ferdinand on Tuesday. New wellness center guidelines include limiting capacity to 50%, wiping down machines before and after use and using hand-sanitizing stations. Myriah said she has been trying to exercise at home but was glad to come back to the YMCA. "It's just not the same," she said.


From pumping iron to stretching out, COVID-19 has disrupted workouts at fitness facilities that allow people to care for their bodies and minds.

Late last week, after a roughly two-month statewide shutdown, those businesses received the green light to reopen under specific guidelines.

According to Gov. Eric Holcomb’s reopening guidelines, gyms, fitness centers, yoga studios, martial arts studios and like facilities are allowed to open with restrictions. Class sizes and equipment must be spaced to accommodate social distancing, equipment must be cleaned after each use and employees are required to wear face coverings. Contact activities are not permitted.

The Herald interviewed four Dubois County organizations for this story to share how they are relaunching operations. Some have resumed exercises with new safety precautions in place. Others are waiting to reopen their doors.

The Tri-County YMCA in Ferdinand reopened on Sunday. Mike Steffe, the facility’s director, explained last week that equipment at the YMCA’s wellness center has been repositioned to encourage physical distancing. A smaller-than-usual number of in-person group exercise classes, limited to nine participants and one instructor, are also being offered.

An elliptical machine is covered with a sign that reads "Temporarily unavailable for members to properly social distance" in the wellness center at the Tri-County YMCA in Ferdinand on Tuesday. About half of the machines in the wellness center are unavailable for use.

Disinfectant wipes and spray are available, as they had been previously, and hand-sanitizer stations have been added throughout the gym, too. Steffe said leadership is encouraging rigorous cleaning by users.

“We’re going to ask our members to kind of wipe, workout and wipe again,” Steffe said on Thursday. “And then we will be doing more periodic cleaning during the day with our staff. I think we always did a pretty good job of keeping things clean, even before this. So, we’re just going to ratchet that up a little bit more.”

Virtual group exercise classes held via Facebook Live will also continue. In Jasper, these kinds of internet-based gatherings have become an important avenue for yogis at Fire Horse Yoga to continue their craft from afar.

Lydia Lagenour, owner of the downtown studio, explained Tuesday that a date has not been set for a return to in-house practices at Fire Horse.

She detailed how her choice to hold off on resuming in-person instruction was based on the small size of her downtown space and the age of her morning crowd of attendees. Class numbers would have been limited to just a handful of participants, and some of her regulars are age 65 and older.

She respects decisions other businesses and facilities are making to return. She is eager to get back inside her space, too.

But her intuition told her that for her location, she should wait.

“It just felt like for our particular space, for our particular demographic and for this particular time, it just wasn’t quite right,” Lagenour said.

Heather Faulkenburg of Jasper, left, Jon Clark of Jasper and Jennifer Meunier of Santa Claus listen to Fitness Instructor Rachael Waninger during a RPM spin class at the Tri-County YMCA in Ferdinand on Tuesday. Classes are now smaller in size with exercise equipment spaced out and preregistration required.

Even though her door will remain closed to students, Lagenour is planning to launch a new type of class in the near future. In addition to continuing the online practices, outdoor yoga will be held in June.

Lagenour feels good about the open air and extra spacing that can be tapped outside.

“I’ve had a lot of help in making these decisions, and just trying to keep the health and wellness of the students, the staff, myself, my family and also the business,” Lagenour said. “You’re trying to think of all of those things. Trying to keep it all afloat.”

On the city’s southwest side, CrossFit Discipline resumed hosting its workout classes on Friday. Brian Woebkenberg, who is a member of the fitness center’s leadership team, told how in addition to promoting distancing and disinfecting measures, participation numbers in classes have been limited at his location, and more classes are being offered to reduce the number of participants in any particular session. Exercises outside the building have also been utilized.

“Our goal and mission is to make it as safe as possible,” he said. “Create an environment that people feel safe in and that they feel like we’re making an effort to do our best to try to maintain the recommendations of the governor.”

CrossFit Discipline’s members were excited to return. They were also prepared to practice the required social distancing and safety precautions.

“Everybody’s been very, very appreciative of [the] reopening,” Woebkenberg said. “But also respectful of the situation and trying to do their best to do the right thing.”

Shaina Dant of Jasper exercises in the wellness center at the Tri-County YMCA in Ferdinand on Tuesday.

Leadership of FitFuel Nutrition + Fitness + Cryotherapy, a fitness club that formerly offered nutrition counseling on Jasper’s southeast side, has taken time during the required pause to better prepare for its relaunch in the Jasper River Centre.

That business will reopen — in a significantly larger space than it had operated in before — on July 6, as an all-inclusive fitness and recovery center. Co-owner, Ashley Downes, has used the time away to expand FitFuel’s online personal training and nutrition coaching database.

“Any business is going to lose money,” her husband and fellow co-owner, Ryan, said of the result of the time that FitFuel was closed. “But we were thinking more long term of where her business model is going to go. So, it kind of allowed us to sit back and really take our time, and make sure that everything was in place to how we would want it when we move into the new place.”

The extended closure was not planned. Ryan said the gym could reopen as soon as June 1 if it chose to do so. But leadership has opted to wait until early July. The final stage of the governor’s reopening plan begins on July 4.

As a result of the reflection that has taken place during FitFuel’s pause, the transition will be an easy one for members when the business’ new doors finally do open, Ryan said.

At that time, leadership will go “above and beyond” when it comes to cleaning and disinfecting, he added, and will offer ample supplies of sanitation for members to clean themselves and their equipment. More classes and class times will be offered there, too, to spread out crowds.

More on