Whether it was to support the health of its members, save their business prospects or a mix of the two, many local gyms have taken a vast array of extraordinary measures to be where some always wanted to be: Open for their customers.
Following various rounds of local closures, re-openings and new guidelines, Kern County allowed gyms to reopen at 10% capacity on Oct. 13. This was as the county moved from the most restrictive purple tier on the state’s four-tiered reopening system into the red tier.
Throughout the interim, a wide variety of solutions were explored by a number of fitness professionals. Jennifer Wright, owner and personal trainer at Emersion Crossfit, took her gym members and decided to meet in small groups to ensure they were having both their physical and mental health supported.
“We are really blessed to have an amazing community that stood by us and wanted to see us come out on the other end,” Wright said.
Wright used customized programming to create a skeleton-model exercise program that adjusted based on the various types of athletes the gym had available each day. Wright described her gym as a “microcosm of the world” with its diversity and everyone decided that their mental and physical well-being was the overall goal they wanted to work towards.
“We put aside our differences and came together for one goal to be better humans while we’re there,” Wright said.
Terry Delamater, owner of Sculpt365 in Oildale and Tehachapi, transformed his entire parking lot into an outdoor facility when his facility was given permission by the state in June. However, Delamater went the extra mile to get approval from the Kern County Public Health and Services Department in August to quality his workout facility as an essential business.
“A health club is considerably different than a gym because we provide a medical perspective and include healthy eating plans and exercise,” Delamater said. “I sent (our request) to the health department and they made a local decision to deem us essential, meaning we were a part of the health care team.”
Michelle Corson, spokeswoman for the health department, said that Delamater informed the department that they were a member of the Medical Fitness Association. She said the department felt they met the definition of an essential healthcare service because they served “medically referred patients” and their association stated they are “physician supervised.”
Arthur Hollenbaugh, operations manager at Oildale’s Sculpt365, said that despite not having any restrictions after being deemed essential, they got a handle on social distancing and other safety precautions with the help of their members.
“When people come into a gym, they don’t want to get close to other people, so everybody has been following the CDC guidelines perfectly,” Hollenbaugh said.
Delamater’s Oildale location also owns a piece of equipment that they claim helps kill viruses and bacteria through the air. In 2019, Delamater installed an airPHX system to their ventilation system that allegedly modifies water molecules into hydrogen peroxide.
Brandon Johnson, owner of Maintain Fitness, was able to make it through the first three months of being shut down after a group of members donated three months of the gym’s rent dues that he was struggling to come up with after switching to a fully virtual model.
When the second round of shutdowns came in July, he decided to defy the new orders for his business’ sake.
“This time I stayed open. I worked way too hard to lose that business,” Johnson said. “I’ve been going for five years now competing against all of the gyms here, so this gym is all of my savings.”
He said nobody was infected with COVID-19 at his gym during the time it remained open. Johnson said his members would tell him if they came into contact with anybody infected and then began their own 14-day quarantine period.
Johnson kept a strict cap at 10 members at a time in the gym and said he even turned people away who tried to “squeak in.” He said that the metabolic stimulation his members get out of his workouts benefit their immune systems.
“We can prove we’re an essential business. (Exercise) is health and it is important,” Johnson said.
Tim Gojich, personal trainer and owner of Fit for Life Gym, said that he has been able to supplement his business closing its doors temporarily through diet plans and at-home workouts. He said physical resilience is a key to helping the body fight off ailments.
“My one piece of advice to anybody is to stay strong and stay ready just in case (of illness),” Gojich said.