Thursday, June 24, 2021

Gyms In Oxford Are Trying To Safely Stay Open

Photo courtesy of / Danielle Cerullo

By Anna Caroline Baker
Journalism student

Gyms in town have opened back up after months without business, but new rules and regulations have been implemented. 

After many months of the city being on lockdown during COVID-19, Oxford residents have shown they’re eager to patronize restaurants, retail shops and nail salons as those businesses have slowly started serving customers again. However, one particular type of business has had mixed reviews when it comes to safety: the fitness business. 

There’s a multitude of gyms in Oxford such as the South Campus Rec. Center, Beach Fit and gyms that offer classes like Hotworx and Orangetheory. With gyms typically being filled with sweaty people breathing heavily, there is much debate over whether or not gyms are safe to be going to right now and if people should stick to at-home workouts. 

Katlyn Tidwell is a senior at Ole Miss from Memphis, TN. She recently signed up for a gym membership at Hotworx but still has her concerns about attending.

“As much as I was to stay healthy and active, going to the gym definitely makes me a little nervous, especially when cases are so bad right now,” Tidwell said, “There’s people who probably have (COVID-19) and don’t even know it, and if they feel well enough to go to the gym, what if they’re spreading it to everyone else…?”

Orangetheory Fitness is a gym on Jackson Avenue West that offers classes throughout the day starting from 5 A.M. all the way to 6:30 P.M. They follow a strict protocol consisting of symptom checking and temperature taking at the door as well as only allowing classes to fill to half capacity. Additionally, each member is required to wipe down his or her equipment after use. While Orangetheory is open for members, they also provide at-home exercises through their app for those who aren’t comfortable coming back yet.

Even though Orangetheory is a chain gym with hundreds of locations all over the country, each individual gym varies when it comes to rules for health and safety. For example, Orangetheory in Green Hills, TN in Nashville requires all members to wear masks. However, unlike most businesses in the area, Orangetheory in Oxford doesn’t have a mask policy. 

Shayla Clancy is a junior at Ole Miss from Memphis, TN, and an employee at Orangetheory Fitness.

“Employees and coaches are to wear masks, but we don’t make our members unless they want to,” Clancy said, “We understand how physically uncomfortable it is to work out in a mask, which is why we heavily enforce social distancing and disinfection of equipment.”

Orangetheory Fitness in Oxford shows via social media how they are doing their part to keep their members safe.

According to Clancy, Orangetheory suffered from a lull in customers when the gym first opened back up for business on May 26.

“We were really suffering over summer and only at 40% capacity, but once students returned we bounced back,” Clancy said, “We gave members the opportunity to freeze their membership for 90 days if they didn’t feel coming back as soon as we opened. Business now is getting closer to what it used to be.”

Rebel Body Fitness is a popular 24-hour gym in this town, but unlike Orangetheory Fitness, its only location is in Oxford. This gym doesn’t offer classes inside the facility and instead allows members to freely use the equipment as well as pay for a personal trainer. Each member is required to wear a mask while inside of the gym and asked to clean off equipment after use. Also, each member must sign up for a time slot to avoid overcrowding.

In order to attract new members and recover after months of no business, Rebel Body Fitness is offering free enrollment as well as free virtual boot camp classes via Zoom. Throughout their time being closed, they still allowed members to book personal trainers for when the gym opened back up again. 

During the time that gyms were closed, many students formed alternative fitness habits during the lockdown that they are choosing to stick to until they feel comfortable going to the gym again. Public parks and walking trails have gained popularity over the past months due to people having to find new ways to stay active. 

Georgia Tucker is a senior at Ole Miss from Starkville, Mississippi. Before COVID-19 hit, Tucker enjoyed going to the gym at the South Campus Rec. Center as well as attending kickboxing classes to stay in shape. 

“After everything closed, my new habit turned out to be running. Luckily, Oxford has Whirlpool Trails, Lamar Park and South Campus, three easily accessible places to run,” Tucker said, “As restrictions loosen, I’ll probably start going back to the gym. Right now I’m completely satisfied with running. It makes me feel strong and levelheaded on days when I need it most.”