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Gyms Can Open This Week, But Some Owners Feel Cautious About Order

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In an executive order issued last week, Governor Gretchen Whitmer said gyms and swimming pools could re-open September 9, with added health and safety measures in place.

Some gym owners, however, are approaching the re-opening process with caution.

Brian Sipotz owns Advantage Strength and Conditioning in Ann Arbor. He says because the pandemic isn’t over yet, operating his gym is going to look completely different than it did six months ago.

“It’s easy to use this as a time to say, 'oh thank goodness, we got through this, and we’re back in the gym and things are going to be back to normal,’ but we’re really cautious against that. So we are going to use our space, but you know, we’re making sure we’re going above and beyond the safety protocols that are suggested,” says Sipotz.

For Advantage Strength, going above and beyond means physical distancing requirements far greater than what the order asks of gyms. The 4,000-square-foot facility will only have four people working out at a time. 

It will also continue to hold online and outdoor training sessions.

The same goes for Moo Duk Martial Arts Institute in Ypsilanti, which started holding its classes in a public park this spring, when the weather warmed. 

The institute’s chief instructor, Mark Fancher, says social distancing restrictions forced students to adjust the way they learned self-defense techniques. 

“These students have to imagine that they are defending against attackers,” says Fancher. “You know, grabbing at imaginary limbs, and executing imaginary takedowns.”

Fancher has no plans to resume indoor classes yet, saying the institute will “err on the side of extreme caution.” 

Julia Collins, owner of Ypsi Studio in Ypsilanti, is responding similarly to the executive order. She’s been able to stay afloat thanks to a small business loan and fees from people taking classes via Zoom or in a public park. 

She’s lost about 80% of her clients, she says, but even with the new order, she plans to keep classes outdoors and online. 

“‘Oh, but people are going back to the gym to be healthy.’ That’s what all these fitness pros are saying,” says Collins. “And I’m like, you guys are nuts. We know how much we high-five each other, how much we holler at each other, how much we sweat, and breathe.”

Collins is worried about another wave of COVID-19. She ended her nearly 11-year lease on the studio space last month.

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