A Weight is Lifted For Some Gyms


 The weight is over…for some. After more than five months of being closed due to coronavirus, and the threat of a lawsuit, some gyms in New York City were given the green light to open on Wednesday, September 2. However, with limits in place, not all gyms are so lucky.

Rockaway’s Burn Fitness is among some of the gyms that were able to open on Wednesday, with many restrictions in place. When gyms were forced to close in March, Burn Fitness owner Shaun Cerrone, never stopped working. Determined to keep those in Rockaway fit at a time when staying healthy became even more important, with obesity putting people at higher risk of dying from coronavirus, Cerrone wanted to ensure Rockaway had a way to work out if they were willing. He and other instructors offered socially-distanced outdoor classes, for free, to give back to the community. However, with gyms being a high rent, low payroll business, Cerrone was among gym owners who were determined to get their doors open. He started preparing to open as New York entered Phase 4, but that green light never came.

Cerrone became part of the New York Fitness Coalition (NYFC), a group of more than 1,500 New York gym owners, which ultimately filed a lawsuit against the state to reopen their businesses as the financial burden became too heavy, with no hope of opening in sight. The lawsuit lit a fire. A few days after the lawsuit was filed in early August, Cuomo hastily announced that gyms would be allowed to open, with limits, as early as August 24, or as late as September 2. For New York City, Mayor de Blasio held out, stalling gym openings until the final deadline of September 2.

On Wednesday, Cerrone opened Burn Fitness, with not only the state requirements for reopening in place, but with a set of extra precautions recommended by the NYFC, in the hopes that those doors won’t have to close again. “Our protocols go far beyond what the state requires because we’re holding ourselves accountable and trying to make it clear that we take this seriously and will do whatever it takes to keep our customers safe,” Cerrone said.

Among the state requirements they’re following is reducing capacity to 33%. Burn Fitness’ check-in system has been capped to make sure capacity stays under 33%. Machines have been blocked off to allow for social distancing. Masks will be required at all times, and they can’t include bandanas. The gym will be regularly cleaned, something Cerrone says is done regardless to combat other germs related to MRSA (staph) and the flu. Going beyond the state requirements, all members will have to undergo a mandatory health screening, which includes filling out a coronavirus-related questionnaire and temperature checks. To start, Burn Fitness will also operate on a limited schedule and will phase into more regular hours after Labor Day.

While Cerrone says he’s happy to open in some capacity, with indoor fitness classes being a big part of his business, it still isn’t enough. “The mayor has put a hold on indoor fitness classes, which is an integral part of my business model,” Cerrone said. Instead, Burn Fitness is offering limited outdoor classes. As part of Governor Cuomo’s announcement to reopen gyms, localities were given the ability to make the call on when indoor fitness classes can resume. De Blasio hasn’t given any word on when this may happen.

For some gyms, indoor classes are everything. Anita Ruderman of Hot Yoga Rockaway Beach had been preparing to reopen in recent weeks since closing in March. From six-foot dividers, to sanitizer dispensers to even preparing to cut class size from the possible 33 student capacity to 11, Ruderman was ready to go. She even sent out an email to members about being able to reopen on August 24, when Governor Cuomo announced the possibility. The announcement was premature. “Six hours later, I realized I spoke too soon,” Ruderman said. With no word of when indoor classes may resume, Ruderman is left hanging.

“I’m just waiting around like a puppy and there’s been no word,” Ruderman said. “I’m stuck in limbo. I feel defeated, depressed, anxious, just over not knowing. It’s like they’re dangling the carrot all the way over there and my feet are in concrete. I want to be back for the people because everyone misses everyone.”

Since having to close in March, Hot Yoga has been offering classes via Zoom, but without the heated room that makes hot yoga what it is, and without that personal connection, Ruderman says it isn’t the same. “I miss that physical contact and people laughing and that shared energy and it’s really different when you’re looking at a two-by-two screen,” she said. “We have a core group on Zoom, but you need that human contact. We spent 10 years putting a lot of time and effort into building this business and we created such a beautiful environment and have such a nice vibe with people coming from all walks of life and people have been grateful that we’re here. We want that feeling back and I don’t know what’s going to happen.”

According to Cerrone, the NYFC, which Ruderman is also a part of, will be filing another lawsuit, against the City of New York and Mayor de Blasio, if he doesn’t announce plans to reopen indoor fitness classes by September 2.

We attempted to reach out to the Rockaway YMCA about their opening plans but did not receive an answer by press time. According to the YMCA website, limited YMCA branches will begin to open in phases starting September 8. Rockaway's branch will open Tuesday, September 15.

When it reopens, masks will be required at all times. Social distance will be enforced, and equipment will be spaced out to allow for this. Wiping down equipment and using sanitizer will be encouraged. Reduced capacity will be enforced and only members 18+ will be allowed in the first two phases. Temperature checks will be conducted and anyone over 100.4 degrees will not be permitted. If there is a wait for cardio equipment, people will be given a 30-minute time limit. As per the city rules, group classes and pool use will not be permitted right away, but when they are, reservations will be required. In the meantime, the YMCA has limited outdoor and online classes to help people stay fit. For more information on YMCA openings, refer to www.YMCANYC.org

By Katie McFadden