By Lisa Balschunat
Use of online classes and parking lots kept some clients of local gyms and fitness centers participating in their exercise routines, but the lack of social connection was an important element that was lacking during the shutdown caused by the coronavirus.
The state recently allowed gyms to reopen in late August. They had been closed since March 16.
“We are very excited about our reopening. We’re trying to help people find their new normal,” said Saratoga Regional YMCA Interim CEO Scott Clark. “During the past five months, our Malta location offered a full-based pre-school for 175 kids for parents who were essential workers, and operated our summer Care program for 92 kids per week.“
“The kids had an opportunity to get outside and run around,” he added. “We had to be flexible and fluid to meet state regulations, but we wanted kids to be kids whenever possible.”
“Our members are coming back to the Y to get back into their daily routines, but in addition to the exercise, they are back because they’ve missed their friends and the socialization that happens here everyday,” said Brian Bearor, CEO of the Family YMCA of the Glens Falls Area.
In the summer, some 300 people interacted in with the Glens Falls Y at the children’s summer or gymnastics camps or through online classes, and some 220 employees were furloughed during the five month freeze.
“The Payroll Protection Program (PPP) carried us through until September and 50 percent of our members shifted their monthly membership to a donation status during that time to help the Y financially,” Bearor said. He indicated that the success of the Y’s annual fundraising campaigns this fall and winter will be crucial this year.
With the startup of school in September, the Glens Falls Y will shift its after school programs back to the Glen Street facility and Adirondack Center in Brant Lake. Previously the staff was dispersed to 11 sites in the region.
“It is the best way to manage a safe environment for our children,” Bearor said. With COVID-19 protocols in place the facility is clean. “It has never been a question of the Y not being a safe environment for our members pre-pandemic,” he said. “Now we have an additional critical cleaning regimen in place.”
Beginning March 15, virtual classes and outside exercise programs kicked into gear at the Saratoga Y. With just under 600 employees, Clark said the organization did not qualify for PPP, but had to furlough employees.
The Saratoga Y had 15,000 family memberships, representing 28,000 individuals pre-pandemic and 15 percent donated their membership draft during the shutdown.
“We launched a Summer to Remember campaign that raised $100,000 to underwrite summer care,” Clark said. Businesses including Stewart’s Shops, Munter Enterprises, Airosmith Development, Hill and Markes, GlobalFoundries and Fingerpaint Marketing contributed.
“We invested in a Clorox 360 degree electrostatic spray machine, purchased the necessary Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for the safety of our staff and members taking our cleaning efforts to a new level,” said Clark. “The printing costs for signage and floor decals added up. We have signs on everything for social distancing and washing hands. We conducted training for the new protocols. We’re following the guidelines and we are excited to get members back to here at the Y to help them find their new normal.”
Tara Silzer, owner and personal trainer of Fit City in Queensbury said, “I survived the shutdown with outdoor classes under a big tent in the parking lot. PPP saved my business.”
She shortened Fit City’s hours and now sanitizes throughout the day. There is also an evening cleaning crew in place.
“Some members chose on line classes through our Facebook Live page. I actually had people in Canada, Arkansas and other places that signed on, too,” she said. “I have a loyal group of members. They don’t mind the mask thing. They were just elated to get back into their exercise routines.”
Fit City has been open for five years at 959 Route 9 and presently have 600 members.
Nicholas Galuardi, owner and exercise physiologist at Saratoga Health and Wellness, on Maple Avenue in Saratoga Springs, said the re-opening is “going pretty well so far.”
“We are not your typical gym. My partner, Michael Lapolla, and I worked for a local cardiology group for 10 years. We pick up where rehabilitation leaves off,” Galuardi said. “We assist baby boomers who want a total fitness and nutrition program, the high school college athlete looking for a better fitness experience, or anyone who wants to improve their core, flexibility or cardio-physiology.”
During the past five months, Galuardi and Lapolla offered one-on-one coaching programs live from their basements. “COVID-19 was a huge disruption in our clients lives,” he said. “Some choose outdoor regiments and some did virtual to get by, but some have been rather sedentary since March. We want to get them moving again.”
Saratoga Health and Wellness, on average has 400 clients each year. The company has been in operation since 2009 and currently employs one full-time and three part-time workers.
By Lisa Balschunat