People planning their New Year’s resolutions to get back into shape may have gotten off to a late start in 2021 after the recent shutdown of gyms in Pennsylvania finally came to an end Monday.
But people are still hungry to workout in physically distanced fitness centers or through virtual online sessions with trainers, workers at various gyms across the region said.
Gyms and fitness centers across the state were permitted to reopen Monday after Gov. Tom Wolf ordered them to close Dec. 12 as COVID-19 cases increased. Over that time, many places offered online workout sessions or kept members engaged in other ways.
At the EQT Rec Center near Waynesburg, general manager Louie Pellegrini said people were waiting at the door when the facility opened at 8 a.m. Monday.
“The first day back has been fantastic,” he said. “People were ready.”
The rec center is organizing a “group exercise challenge” and offering discounts to new members. He said they’re mandating everyone inside the facility wears a mask and workers are performing a “rigorous cleaning regiment” to make sure the equipment is safe to use.
“We’re just glad to be able to provide our services to the people of Greene County,” he said.
The Wilfred R. Cameron Wellness Center near Washington reopened at 5 a.m. Tuesday after the three-week closure, which was welcome news to Debbie Roytas, the facility’s executive director. Roytas was worried the shutdown order would extend even longer, just as it had in the spring at the beginning of the pandemic.
“I actually wasn’t expecting to be open, just because of the history. But I’m glad. We’re so excited,” she said. “What we’re offering is a safe place to be, focusing on the protocols and what we’re doing.”
To motivate people to join now, the Cameron Wellness Center is dropping its initiation fee, so it costs just $25 to get started, she said.
“We’re dropping any barriers,” she said. “If anyone is interested in joining, there’s nothing stopping them.”
Tyler Kurosky, program director for the YMCA in Uniontown, said the staff is “very excited” to reopen.
“We’re happy to have all of our members back,” he said.
Kurosky said the staff painted the fitness facility to “give it a fresh start … with some more lively colors.” They’re now trying to encourage people to stay active, even those who are nervous about going out in public in the midst of the pandemic.
“There’s always going to be a challenge, especially with the pandemic, to make sure people are comfortable,” he said. “Working out, people are uncomfortable to start anyway, so that’s an added challenge.”
Chad Vorderbrueggen, the fitness director at the Center for Fitness and Health in Rostraver Township, said they’re also offering a special deal to get people interested in coming back to the gym. The facility, which is operated through Mon Valley Hospital, is eliminating its startup fee if a new member gets someone else to sign up for a membership with them.
“That’s one way we’re trying to get people to encourage each other,” he said.
Over the past three weeks, they’ve offered virtual workout sessions with training teaching classes from home. They returned to in-person classes Monday, with about 18 people working out in a physically distanced setting while wearing masks, although they’ll continue to offer virtual sessions on their Facebook page.
Vorderbrueggen said mental health and wellness plays an equally important role as physical fitness during the pandemic and urged people to “free their minds when they’re outside and be as active as possible.” They’re also offering outreach opportunities to seniors, who are most threatened by both the coronavirus and inactivity.
“Fitness in 2021 is going to make a big comeback,” Vorderbrueggen said. “It’s very important and recognized in this pandemic that health and wellness is the wave of the future, especially to fight off diseases.”
Kurosky at the YMCA in Uniontown agreed, and said now is the time to get active as the winter doldrums set in.
“There’s no time like the present,” Kurosky said. “The Y offers a great community environment. It’s a great time to start your news year’s resolution.”