MONMOUTH COUNTY – Gym owner Stu Rosenstein likens his gym’s reopening to a wedding day.
“It was a mix of all these emotions,” said Rosenstein, owner of OVOX Gym & Training in Morganville. “It’s been an enormous amount of work. It’s like if you plan for your wedding day, and your wedding day comes, you’re excited, you’re nervous – you’re everything.”
After nearly six months under lockdown amid the coronavirus pandemic, New Jersey gyms were finally given the green light from the governor to reopen starting Sept. 1. Rosenstein told Patch that he feels “over prepared” after months of planning a pandemic makeover for his indoor gym, which now includes everything from plexiglass dividers between equipment to UV lighting in the facility’s HVAC system.
Related: Gov. Murphy: NJ Gyms, Indoor Amusements Reopen Amid Coronavirus
The fitness industry veteran, who has owned and operated local gyms for upwards of 35 years, promises that his indoor facility will go “above and beyond” the temperature checks, social distancing and mask requirements listed by the state.
“We’re perfect. They’re asking for things that we’ve been doing months ago already, so we’re great, all ready to go,” said Rosenstein. “We’ve been working so hard here, which is different than many other gyms. Other gyms just put all their staff on unemployment, and now they have six days to get a full staff together. With us, we’ve gone far and beyond what the state even wants.”
But even as Rosenstein opened his indoor facility on Sept. 1, the owner expressed no intention of closing his 6,000 square-foot full-service outdoor gym located in the OVOX parking lot. In fact, the owner has even invested in heating systems for the outdoor space in the colder months.
Related: Marlboro Gym Opens Full-Service Outdoor Facility
“We don’t plan on closing at all,” said Rosenstein. “If we ever did reach a capacity issue [indoors], we have the outdoor gym, and some people may just want to work outside without their mask on.”
OVOX is certainly not the only gym to offer a so-called ‘hybrid’ training model for gym aficionados. Freehold Retro Fitness owner Sergei Karaliou feels similarly about his outdoor and virtual class options, telling Patch that he intends to keep the flexibility of classes that the pandemic has allowed.
“Folks will be in a mask unless they get a doctor’s note to say that they cannot wear a mask,” the owner said. “In this case, we’re going to conduct separate classes for those clients and make sure that we can facilitate their needs as well.”
While Karaliou says that seniors and other vulnerable people will have separate classes available at Retro Fitness in Freehold, Rosenstein also adds that his outdoor gym does not require masks to be worn during physical activity (contrary to indoor gym guidelines, which require individuals to wear a face mask at all times).
“For me, it’s not an issue because if I have people doing very intense exercise and they feel uncomfortable wearing a mask, they can just go to my outdoor gym. For outdoor activities, we allow people to remove their masks during the exercise only because it’s outdoors and all the equipment is spaced apart,” Rosenstein said.
The owner also adds that outdoor and online operations will help the fitness studio maintain the 25 percent capacity limit required by the state.
“If for any reason everyone in town wants to join a gym, I’m fine because my overflow can now just go to the outdoor gym,” said Rosenstein. “We’re fine, but other gyms that rely on a budget model by volume, I’m not sure how they’re going to deal with that issue.”
Although local clientele may be as eager than ever to hit the gym, Rosenstein says that, since the governor shut down gyms in March, the fitness industry has taken an “unbelievable” hit.
“It’s very sad to see the closing of so many gyms. This is all I’ve ever done my whole life, so I love the industry and what was most upsetting for me is that I sold my gyms to New York Sports Club in 1997, and in the last month, two of the locations that I sold to them have gone out of business … the gym industry has been annihilated.”
To Retro Fitness’ Karaliou, virtual classes have been “rocking” at his Freehold establishment, and the owner sees a definite potential for the classes to grow.
“I definitely see it happening [past the pandemic], but it depends where you put your efforts. I see the potential to expand virtual classes definitely, as long as you put the effort in,” said Karaliou.
“It’s all about whatever works for the client. I have some clients that only want to do virtual nowadays. They felt the convenience of training from home and they like it this way. Some clients are eager to come back and start doing in-person. We’re ready to accommodate the whole spectrum of our clientele to make sure that they get the best service from us. We’ll be doing everything that we’ve been doing before. We’re just adding another option for our clients to stay healthy.”
For more information, read the state’s FAQ on Gyms.
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This article originally appeared on the Holmdel-Hazlet Patch