After many businesses were forced to close this spring during the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, area gyms and rec centers found ways to engage their members through virtual workout sessions.
That experience is once again helping some of them continue serving their members as another shutdown is causing them to close their doors for the next three weeks.
Jeff Vitale, CEO for the Mon Valley YMCA near Monongahela, said they’re planning to record two virtual workout sessions each day and post them on their YouTube channels for their members and the public to stay active this month.
“People are busy with the holidays, so fitness does, unfortunately, take a backseat in their lives,” Vitale said of every December, regardless of whether there’s a pandemic raging. “We are encouraging people to stay active and will continue to engage our members with virtual classes.”
The center is also in the process of launching a new virtual platform to post workout videos, although that won’t be ready until the end of January. Still, that will be a new option for members who don’t feel comfortable to returning to the facility when it does reopen.
“Just giving them some tips and keep everybody motivated to be engaged in their health and wellness,” Vitale said. “Hopefully everything slows down as far as transmission so we can reopen in early January.”
Gov. Tom Wolf announced an order Thursday afternoon suspending indoor dining and closing fitness centers, theaters and indoor entertainment until Jan. 4 due to surging COVID-19 cases in Pennsylvania.
“It wasn’t surprising, and we were kind of bracing for it,” Vitale said. “Over the last few days, we knew something was coming; we just didn’t know the length and what would and wouldn’t be restricted.”
Vitale said the child-care and day-care centers will remain open for parents who need them.
A day after learning of the new restrictions, many fitness center were working on a plan to close to the public while also offering some virtual or shopping options for their members.
Debbie Roytas, executive director for the Wilfred R. Cameron Wellness Center near Washington, said they closed the facility to the public Saturday and won’t offer in-person services. However, Washington Health System’s physical therapy department, which is housed in the building, will continue to operate for patients.
“It’s cold outside. Some sites that I communicate with in places all across the country can do stuff outside. If it was spring, summer or fall, we could do something outside,” she said of the limited options during the winter.
While the wellness center won’t offer virtual workout classes, members can still have nutrition consultations with a registered dietician over the phone or by video conferencing, she said. They also will continue to promote workout routines and nutrition guides on various fitness websites.
Retail sales are also continuing for items in the spa and pro shop and will still be available for purchase over the phone, along with gift cards to buy goods or a membership.
“We would love for you to purchase a gift card,” Roytas said. “If you know someone who is interested in joining, purchase them a gift card, and as soon as we reopen, they can join.”
At the EQT Rec Center near Waynesburg, general manager Louie Pellegrini and his staff were busy Friday developing a schedule for online classes that they plan to post on their Facebook page and website at www.eqtreccenter.org. The original shutdown in the spring helped them make a game plan over the next three weeks that will serve their members.
“We’ve been pretty busy. Having experienced it before, we were better prepared how to continue to communicate with our members,” he said. “We’ve already kind of gone through the growing pains of online programs and how to provide that content.”
The facility’s child-care center will be closed for those three weeks, but they’re still considering whether they can continue their EPIC education program for grade-school students who want to use the building’s WiFi to do homework and study. He said they expect to have more information on that program posted on their website next week.