Sarah Hauer, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Published 6:00 a.m. CT May 21, 2020 | Updated 9:03 a.m. CT May 21, 2020
YMCA of Greater of Waukesha County is among the gyms reopening after being closed because of the coronavirus pandemic. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Gyms across Wisconsin are starting to reopen for the first time in two months as restrictions aimed at limiting the spread of coronavirus are lifted.
Expect spray bottles of disinfectant everywhere. Face coverings are recommended. Don’t think about sharing equipment.
Eleven of Andy Gundlach’s 33 Anytime Fitness locations in southern Wisconsin opened Tuesday afternoon with a scheduling system to ensure each club stays limited to 25% capacity.
The showers are closed. No drinking fountains. Every other treadmill is unplugged to encourage physical distancing.
Staff started to return Monday for training on new cleaning procedures, how to use a mask and other information about working during a pandemic.
Gyms and fitness studios had been closed by the statewide safer-at-home order aimed at limiting the spread of coronavirus since March. The state Supreme Court ruling last week upended those restrictions, allowing local municipalities to determine what, if any, restrictions would be in place. Businesses had been closed until at least May 26 under the order.
Guidance for reopening issued by the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. instructs gyms to encourage physical distancing, wearing cloth face coverings and increased cleaning of equipment and shared spaces. While the coronavirus is not known to be spread through sweat, respiratory droplets can settle on frequently touched items like barbells.
YMCA of Greater Waukesha County reopened four branches Wednesday in Mukwonago, Waukesha, Menomonee Falls, and New Berlin, as well as its Y Children’s Academy daycare. It plans to reopen two Milwaukee County locations May 22.
Real Health & Fitness Center in Cedarburg opened Monday after Bob Hahn said he prepared for weeks and invested around $45,000 in updates to the 20,000 square-foot center.
Real Health & Fitness hasn’t hit its new capacity limit since it reopened. Attendance at the gym is down around 80%, Hahn estimated.
The 24-hour gyms with 3,000 members opened with a new air purification system to clean every cubic inch in the center 20 times an hour, Hahn said. There are two deep cleanings a day of the facility. All members must bring a mask and keep a six foot distance from others. Members will be instructed to sanitize machines before and after use. Hahn has also ordered sanitizers that will be installed in the doorways.
“Our motto is we feel we’re the safest gym in Ozaukee,” Hahn said.
The gym’s camera’s and security check-ins will be used to track members and employees to help with contact tracing if anyone contracts the virus.
John Wajer has had to turn customers away since he reopened the Animal House Gym in New Berlin at 6 a.m. Monday. The 12,000 square-foot gym now comes with a 25-person and 90-minute limit.
As one of the first gyms to reopen, Wajer said he’s having a hard time keeping the capacity limit. The first couple days he was open, Wajer sold day passes, many to people who live in Illinois, but is now focusing on his existing member base.
“We just count at the front desk,” he said. “We try to be as nice as pleasant. People want to work out and don’t want to be told that they can’t. It hasn’t been fun.” He might keep the gym closed on Memorial Day to avoid any potential holiday rush.
He has been impressed with how courteous people have been in the gym and aware of new social distancing guidelines. The number of spray bottles with disinfectant has more than doubled from 10 to 25 — one for every person working out in the space.
Wajer wouldn’t say he was excited to open back up the gym. But he didn’t really feel like he had a choice.
“There are still bills to be paid,” he said. “We’re basically a pay as you go place. We don’t automatically take payments out. So the last two months, we had no income coming in.”
While some gyms have opened since the statewide safer-at-home order was struck down, many are still preparing to welcome customers back.
Elite Sports Clubs posted on its website that fitness centers will reopen Friday. The new $47 million, 176,000-square-foot LIfetime Fitness in Brookfield will reopen Monday at 5 a.m.. Wisconsin Athletic Club, which operates eight clubs in the Milwaukee metro area, told members Tuesday that it would start its first phase of reopening June 1.
Pete Mueller is reopening his personal training business in the Deer District near the Bucks’ Fiserv Forum June 1. All clients must sign a liability waiver. The 5,500 square-foot gym typically has fewer than 15 people in it at any one time with only clients with key fobs allowed to enter the building.
“Previously we would tolerate people coming in under the weather,” Mueller said. “At this stage as we’re moving forward if you’re a little under the weather stay away.” He is not planning on requiring masks to be worn by trainers or clients.
Brew Fitness, a studio gym on W. Florida Street in Milwaukee, is continuing its online workouts on zoom and on-demand platforms until the city lifts restrictions, said owner Ryan Mleziva.
Even then, he is trying to make sure that his customers will feel comfortable coming back into the 6,000 square-foot gym.
“It’s going to be in tandem yes you’re allowed to open and we feel like we’re in a good place,” he said.
Mleziva issued a survey to his 350 members to help guide decisions like requiring all staff and customers to wear masks.
Brew Fitness paused billing for most members during the shutdown. He’s tentatively planning that Brew Fitness will reopen the week of May 26.
Zoom workouts and the new on-demand platform will continue even after in-person classes resume.
“People are itching to get back,” he said. “They really just need some type of way to exercise outside their living room.”
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