Wednesday, September 9: The gyms re-opened. After a nearly six month long hiatus, the ban was finally lifted, and things could finally start to return to normal… with a few restrictions. Nevertheless, I was excited. As someone who opted out of the complications that come along with high-school sports at City, the gym was one of my only outlets for physical exercise. And, as someone who doesn’t love running, I always appreciated the variety of machines that my gym supplied. So when the gyms closed, and I was stuck in the house with a few dumbbells and the resistance provided by my own bodyweight, I was deeply disheartened.
I kept up a steady exercise regiment over quarantine, but it paled in comparison to the quality of exercise I got at the gym. So naturally, when I heard of the plans to relax restrictions I was incredibly excited. I read as much as I could about the details of the grand opening, and I learned a lot of interesting details: there would be caps on the number of people allowed in, you would have to bring your own towels for shower services, drinking fountains would be closed, and you would have to wear your mask at all times. None of these things seemed like a big deal to me at the time, so I flew through all the necessary steps to sign back up for gym services. Wednesday rolled around, and I walked through the sliding doors with my gym-bag over my shoulder, and a smile under my mask.
I was met by the front-desk attendant with an enthusiastic hello, followed by a short spiel about safety. It was nothing I didn’t already know, but I nodded my head as I stared at the staff member through a thick plastic cover. After the speech, it was time to check-in. My gym uses a hand-scan system to verify its members, which I’m sure you can all see as potentially problematic. But I simply applied some hand-sanitizer before and after my use of the machine, before hurrying up the stairs to the locker room. There I met my first hiccup. Usually, before I head out of the locker room I like to spend some time in the sauna, because I feel that it primes me for the workout to come. Unfortunately, in all my research, I must have overlooked the fact that the saunas were closed until further notice. But I didn’t see that as a big deal, so I stashed my gym bag in a locker, grabbed my headphones, and headed down the stairs to a nearly empty gym floor. I began my normal routine on the treadmill with a series of short sprints.
I noticed then that every other treadmill was closed to ensure proper distancing. That didn’t bother me, because I didn’t like running next to anybody anyway. I finished my run, and then encountered my second hiccup. After a high-intensity run, I was out of breath, but I couldn’t take off my mask because of the new policies. I was also thirsty, so I started walking towards the drinking fountains, when I remembered that they were closed. So there I was, after barely ten minutes of exercise, completely out of breath and terribly thirsty. I made a mental note to bring a water-bottle next time, before continuing on with the rest of my routine on the strength side of the gym. There, I felt a sense of relief. All the machines were still there and all of the dumbbells were available. I finished out the next hour without any hiccups, before going home with a lot on my mind.
Overall, I am very grateful for the fact that the gym is open, but it doesn’t feel the same. On the one hand, all of the machines are available and you hardly ever have to wait to use them, which allows you to go through your set efficiently. You also don’t have to worry about crowding in the locker-rooms or gym floor. Unfortunately, the gym has lost its energy. It no longer feels like you are exercising among people who are all working together in some way. For example, you used to be able to ask for a spot, or question the benefits of a new exercise.
Now, it feels like everybody is exercising by themselves, and everybody else is in their way. Not only do they not communicate, but they go out of their way to avoid other people. While I understand that this is a safety precaution, it still feels awkward. And that doesn’t even account for the fact that you must bring your own water bottle, and if you finish, you have no opportunity to refill it. In the end, it’s up to you to decide whether or not you want to go back to the gym. Personally I still enjoy it, because I don’t have many other options. But if you do decide to return, be warned that the experience will be different, and not always in a good way.