As gyms reopen, new measures seek to keep spaces safe


Daily file photo by Ciara McCarthy

LA Fitness in Downtown Evanston. Evanston resident Sharisse Kimbro said the large size of the gym makes her nervous to return, even as gyms implement various guidelines.

Jack Austin, Reporter

Many of Evanston’s gyms closed down in March as the coronavirus pandemic exploded in Illinois and across the country. In late June, some of Evanston’s gyms reopened with new measures in an attempt to mitigate the spread of the virus.

These measures often include sanitizing equipment, social distancing and a cap on the amount of people allowed in a gym at once.

Orangetheory Fitness Evanston reopened June 29, according to studio manager Trae Hogan, who said staff members ask people questions about coronavirus symptoms at the door and take members’ temperatures.

Temperatures are also taken at Etown Fitness Club and Planet Fitness Evanston. Other common practices included cleaning equipment before and after use with sanitary wipes.

Masks are required at the entrances of Orangetheory and Etown Fitness Club, but people can choose if they want to wear a mask once they are at their own station. At Planet Fitness, it is recommended, but not required, for members to wear masks. Staff there are always required to wear masks.

Orangetheory has maximum class sizes of 21 with social distancing, Hogan said, and they offer a class with a maximum of 12 people with a larger 12 feet social distancing squares for those more nervous about the pandemic.

But for some Evanston residents, the measures are not enough for them to feel comfortable. Sharisse Kimbro used to go to LA Fitness in Evanston and said she is nervous to return to such a big gym. Kimbro has previously worked out with a personal trainer at a smaller gym, Phenomenal Fitness in the South Loop. For now, she said she is working out outside.

“Even before the pandemic, I thought it was reasonably clean (at LA Fitness) but not at a level where I would feel comfortable given the pandemic and the new guidelines that are out about it,” Kimbro said. “I don’t feel comfortable with a gym that size that they could keep it clean enough.”

She added she would feel more comfortable returning to Phenomenal Fitness, where she knows the owners and trainers, and “it feels more like a community, not just a place of business.”

Etown Fitness Club has limited classes to eight people, with everyone having their own square for social distancing, according to coach Ian Aarsvold. Fifteen feet by 15 feet grids have been created to help ensure trainees are distanced. Etown plans to keep a low capacity — lower than the mandated 25 percent — for the comfort of coaches and members.

Tekieel McIntosh works at the front desk at Planet Fitness Evanston where there is a maximum of 75 people allowed at a time, though she said they have not come close to reaching capacity since opening on June 26.

“We’re just trying to make the gym as safe as possible,” McIntosh said.

Still, as colder weather approaches after the summer, gyms in the Chicago area might see a higher capacity, with residents unable to exercise outside.

Kimbro said she will likely return to gyms even if it is a little outside her comfort zone because she values her physical fitness.

“I rely on LA Fitness for (during the winter). So that may push me out of my comfort zone sooner,” Kimbro said.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @JackAustin10

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