Masks will likely be a part of our workout uniform, too, depending on state rules. Equinox and Crunch members will be required to wear them, as will Solidcore’s coaches, but if your state or studio doesn’t enforce it, fellow exercisers might choose to forgo them. Georgia’s reopening guidelines say that people are “strongly encouraged” to wear face coverings, but doesn’t mandate them.The fact that masks aren’t required is concerning to some experts. “Masks don’t give 100 percent protection but they do prevent someone who is asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic from transmitting as much of the virus [to other people],” said Sara Keller, assistant professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins. But she thinks that masks will be too difficult for people to use in a gym setting, since they tend to shift around and it’s difficult to breathe in one in an idle state, let alone while panting on a treadmill—people may just skip them out of convenience. Three Georgia residents who have been back to the gym told VICE that no one, not employees or attendees, was wearing masks at their facilities.
Simply wiping things down with disinfectant will not be enough to zap germs.
Health experts worry that people won’t stick to some of the prescribed necessary practices like distancing, wiping down surfaces and wearing masks properly for the long run. “Many things are easy when you first start, but as time goes on they get hard. Social distancing is going to be especially hard over time,” Keller said. Roberts thinks that being six feet away should be OK in a gym setting, if people are wearing masks, but she wouldn’t want to see more than 10 people in a room together, at least until we know more about how the virus spreads. And with all the new protocols, fitness facilities might not be able to keep tabs on everything, especially if a loss of revenue means a trimmed down staff.
Fitness facilities might not be able to keep tabs on the new protocols, especially if a loss of revenue means a trimmed-down staff.
To offset costs, studios and gyms that do manage to open will likely become more barebones; expect to see many forgo “staples” like yoga mats, high-end shower products, and personal care goods like hair ties, tampons, and ear plugs. Tamara Behar, co-owner of Tangerine Yoga in Brooklyn, speculated that if she’s not able to renegotiate certain amenities, like the cost of laundry and water, she might stop providing towels and beverages, and expects other studios will do the same. “I think people will have to be prepared to come in, work out, and leave,” she said. At least in the beginning, she thinks she’ll stop her free mat policy and ask clients to bring their own, to reduce contact and cleaning.Even when fitness facilities are allowed to open, owners aren’t sure if people will want to come back quickly or if distancing or other measures, like wearing masks, will incline them to stay home. “I don’t think I am going to open if people have to practice with a mask,” Behar said. “I just don’t think people will want to come if they have to wear a mask. You could just do yoga at home.”The unfortunate reality is that even with cost-cutting measures, many gyms and studios will be forced to shutter for good. Derdenger thinks that businesses that were already struggling or those that don’t see clients return will have to at least close locations that are less in-demand. “I think up to 50 percent of gyms and boutique fitness studios won’t make it,” projected Mike Patton, founder of the Yoga Vida studios in New York City. Patton and others that VICE spoke with haven’t been able to get the PPP loans that the federal government has offered small businesses, meanwhile their costs are still piling up. “I owe like, $15,000 bucks in insurance, meanwhile I don’t have anyone coming into my studio and my revenue is down 95 percent,” he said.Derdenger added that gyms and studios that have additional funding, like venture capital and private equity, will be able to endure better. Those without, like Patton, are trying to be optimistic but not delusional. “This whole thing has been an emotional rollercoaster,” Patton said. “Some days I think we’re going to be OK and the future will be bright. But if things don’t change, if our landlords don’t work with us to renegotiate rent or we don’t get small business relief, the only certainty is bankruptcy.”
“I don’t think I am going to open if people have to practice with a mask,” one yoga studio owner said.