Gyms reopen in Michigan for the first time in half a year

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. --- Michigan gyms welcomed members back for the first time in half a year on Wednesday.

“So great,” one gym-goer, Alexandra Hess said. “Just so happy to be back, like weight off my shoulders. I can’t even describe how amazing it feels to be back.”

At the Renaissance Athletic Club (RAC) in Benton Harbor, the club kicked off outdoor classes over one month ago, but people got a real chance to return to the gym indoors Wednesday after they shut their doors back in March.

“It’s kind of felt the same as when we opened our doors for the first time in 2012,” membership director Chris Wagner said.

From members to staff, it is a day that they have all been waiting for.

“People are coming in and out of the door and they seem happy to be here,” general manager Lauren McCoy said.

The reopening does come with changes, but people said those changes are just a small price to pay.

“You have to mask up, you know, that’s the Michigan state law so we’re masking up,” McCoy said. “We’re maintaining our six feet of distance, we’re making sure everything is disinfected and cleaned, whether you walk around with your own spray bottle and spray before and after you work out.”

“You have to use every other cardio equipment, so the machines are more spread out,” Hess said.

Those precautions are only just the beginning, but not all amenities are up for grabs.

“Our hot tub, our sauna, our steam room and our cold tubs [are closed]… but our lap pool is open and our showers are open,” McCoy said.

The RAC hosted free virtual classes while the club was closed, but physically being in the gym is a better option, according to Hess.

“Nothing compares to being actually at the gym,” Hess said.

“It was nice, but just being back in the building and watching my members walk in and smile and be happy to be back is just so worth it,” McCoy said.

The RAC is offering the facility to everyone for free, including current members, until October. Despite not charging members since March, staff said it is a decision they just could not pass up.

“We’re not the only ones who have been put in a tough place during this time and so we just wanted to make sure that, you know, everyone knew that they were welcome back and that that opportunity to get back into a routine and come back and experience the gym once again,” Wagner said.

For the first time since the club closed their doors back in March, staff and members can say ‘see you tomorrow.’

“It is just…it’s an incredible feeling,” McCoy said. “You don’t realize what you have until it’s gone.”

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