Gyms in Florida have recently started to re-open in my home state of Florida - here's how I feel about it.
In mid-March, the world underwent a severe lockdown due to COVID-19 with strict social distancing measures enforced, shutting down almost all businesses except for essential work.
As it is now almost June, Phase One of re-opening has officially begun in Florida, meaning restaurants, retailers and public beaches can open again, but operate nowhere near their full capacity.
Let’s examine the numbers so far: Florida is the third most populated state in the US with over 21 million citizens. We have had about 50,000 cases and 2,000 deaths.
In comparison, California’s population is almost 40 million, with 90,000 cases and almost 4,000 deaths. New York has a population of 19 million, and has had 197,000 cases and over 16,000 deaths.
Hillsborough County, where I live, has just over a million inhabitants, and we’ve only had 1,700 cases and 70 deaths. So, yeah, Florida looks pretty good, especially considering our large elderly population.
Most businesses here are starting to operate at 25% capacity and have to follow strict rules, such as restaurants moving their tables six feet apart. However, as we make the transition into Phase Two, gyms also started to open on May 18.
Let me first say that yes, I agree gyms, along with public beaches, are probably the most dangerous places to re-open. But now that my gym is open again, I couldn’t be happier.
My gym was one of the last to shut down in Tampa, and one of the first to reopen on May 22.
When I first returned home from New York in March on what became an extended spring break, I worked out at my gym for a couple of days before quitting due to a guilt developing within me.
I didn’t feel like I should have been working out when thousands of people were dying – hell, I could’ve brought the disease back from New York and not known.
Regardless, I resorted to using the mini-gym at my condo complex every day, which, thankfully, stayed open during the entire shutdown but enforced strict regulations for our small building population.
But whether the mini-gym had stayed open or not, I would’ve found a way to work out.
Working out is something I do every day; it is integral to my mental health, and the mental health of many others. It is how I work out my stress, sadness, anger and fear – I am so grateful I’m motivated to go every day, get stronger, and better myself.
Now that it’s almost June, I’ll admit that, yes, I have been working out at my gym every single day since it re-opened.
My gym, like all others in the state, has taken extreme precautions. They limited their hours and asked us to reserve time before going, due to the fact that it can only function at 75% capacity right now under Florida’s regulations.
They take our temperatures before entering. They’ve blocked off certain walkways and stairwells to prevent people from interacting too closely. Group fitness classes are allowed to meet at limited capacity, but personal trainers cannot train their clients yet. We can’t use certain spin bikes, or even sinks in the bathrooms that are too close together because we need to remain six feet apart.
When I go, I’m extremely cautious. I wipe everything down before and after usage, and workers are constantly cleaning machines after people use them. I’m respectful – I stay out of everyone’s way and I don’t linger longer than I need to.
All of this is to say that yes, we should absolutely still be social distancing, especially if you are in the age range where the virus can be fatal. And masks should be worn under all circumstances when leaving the house.
But make no mistake: I haven’t seen friends in weeks, I haven’t eaten out at a restaurant in months, and literally the only time I leave my house is to go to the gym or the grocery store.
Our lives have been shut down for two months. The economy has taken detrimental hits that it will take a long, long time to recover from.
We can’t keep our lives on hold any longer, especially in states where the curve has been flattening, because let me remind you: the goal was to flatten the curve before re-opening society. It was never to find a cure.
So, yes, I support returning to normal life slowly if you live in a state where the numbers reveal that it’s appropriate.
I’m not saying we should all hit the public beaches right away with no regard for anyone else’s health – I just know that my mental health is improved immensely by working out, and as long as everyone is respectful and keeps their distance, I don’t see an issue with it. I’m positive that a large portion of America feels the same way.
But I’m feeling optimistic. Hopefully, the virus will flatten out to not last longer so that we can fully return to normal life by the end of the year, and eventually find a vaccine.