By Bill Spinks
The sounds of clanking weights, whirring treadmills and encouragement from trainers have finally returned to Ellis County and the state of Texas.
An executive order by Gov. Greg Abbott was lifted, allowing public gymnasiums to reopen on Monday as part of Abbott’s plan to reopen the state in steps. After a two-month shutdown because of the COVID-19 pandemic, most gyms in the county were open for business Monday morning, with people returning to the routine of staying physically fit and working off excess weight.
Said Andre Jones, owner of Swink Athletics in Midlothian: “There were a number of emotions, and excitement was one of them. Nervous was another one … the fear of the unknown.”
The guidelines for reopening gyms were simple: a 25-percent occupancy and six-foot social distancing.
Gold’s Gym in Waxahachie reopened before the crack of dawn at 5 a.m. on Monday, and is back in operation with the hours of 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. weekdays, and 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekends. Each day, the gym will close for one hour at 1 p.m. for cleaning and disinfecting.
However, Anytime Fitness in Waxahachie will keep its gym closed for the time being, according to the gym’s website. An attempt to contact Anytime Fitness’ location by phone was unsuccessful.
Main Street Gym in Midlothian is also open for business. Among the precautions mandated in reopening, Main Street members must wear full-finger gloves, maintain six-foot social distancing, disinfect all equipment after use, and stay home if sick or showing symptoms of possible COVID-19.
The gym’s locker room and showers will remain closed, although restrooms may remain open, and hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes are being provided. Main Street Gym will be open for normal hours but will close from noon to 1 p.m. on weekdays for detailed cleaning and sanitizing.
Group classes at Main Street Gym will resume next week, with more classes being added back into the schedule weekly. The gym’s Silver Sneakers classes for seniors are on hold until further notice.
Also in Midlothian, Swink Athletics reopened on Monday with the Facebook announcement, “WE. ARE. BACK!”
Jones, the owner of Swink Athletics, said positivity was at an all-time high for his customers on the first day back. During the shutdown, the gym added new equipment and a fresh coat of paint.
“We were worried that somebody might not feel comfortable or … didn’t like how we were doing some things,” he said.
Jones said his gym is different from other gyms in that it only runs classes such as Crossfit in groups at scheduled times and can control class sizes and activities, which makes sanitation easier to control in turn. On Sunday, Texas Baptist Men volunteered their services to sanitize the entire gym, and Jones said plenty of cleaning supplies such as gym wipes are handily available.
“We have always been clean freaks,” Jones said. “Everybody does their part when they’re done working out. They help us clean all the equipment and put it back. That was the standard before, but now it’s even more so.”
During the closure, the gym put together a group Facebook page for the community and is posting recorded workouts on the page with videos. The workouts are available on Facebook under the name Swink Community, and also at swinkathletics.com.
Jones said those videos have expanded to include yoga classes, cooking classes and mindset videos, and his gym was able to actually add new members during the shutdown.
“It’s been a breath of fresh air, the support in the community that we’ve been able to create during this entire time,” he said.