coronavirus illinois

Gyms Implement New Safety Procedures, Hope to Convince Governor to Allow Them to Reopen Sooner

Currently, gyms will open in Phase Four of the state's reopening plan

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Gyms are not eligible to reopen their doors until Phase Four of the governor’s Restore Illinois plan, but many are already preparing for the big changes necessary to help people stay safe while getting in shape.

Michael Ricchio, owner of Mar Health & Fitness, is hoping that his Downers Grove gym can reopen before Phase Four of the governor’s plan.

“We’re essential to health,” he said. “We strengthen the immune system. That’s what we should be there for. Because of that, we believe we should reopen in Phase Three.”

The gym focuses on small group classes and personal training, and says it can function with 10 or fewer people inside. Under Phase Three of the state’s reopening plan, gatherings of 10 or fewer people are allowed, and that’s why owners of boutique gyms like Mar Health & Fitness believe that they can safely reopen ahead of other larger facilities.

“The benefit of being a boutique is we don’t have to be all that different,” Ricchio said.

Ricchio, like many other gym owners, says he hasn’t received guidance from Gov. J.B. Pritzker on reopening procedures, including mandated safety restrictions and capacity limits.

Even still, Ricchio is proactively planning to implement temperature checks, extra cleaning, and closing the locker rooms at the facility.

“We also did a huge equipment order, so no one is going to share equipment for quite some time,” he said.

Other gyms are preparing for reopening, including Lakeshore Sport & Fitness.

“We’re going to ask all of our staff to wear masks,” managing partner Peter Goldman said.

The club operates two 200,000 square-foot facilities in Chicago, and Goldman says that there are plenty of changes being implemented to improve safety, including limiting group fitness class sizes, designating entry and exit paths, and setting up so-called workout “pods.”

“’Space’ is the new ‘safe,’ and we have plenty of space,” he said. “Those pods will be 10-foot by 12-foot, and it will be yours alone for an hour. We’ll clean it afterwards, so it’s a very safe environment for you to work out in.”

Goldman says the fitness group has invested $250,000 in new cleaning technology and has hired an “inspector general” to implement new cleaning procedures.

Both gym owners say they’ll require staff and gym members to sign waivers saying they are not sick, and that they haven’t been exposed to anyone with coronavirus. Lakeshore Sport & Fitness has also hired a person to fill an inspector-general role, aiming to help implement their new cleaning procedures.

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