Gyms in Athens are adapting to COVID-19 and how the pandemic is affecting workout routines.

Local gyms in Athens are feeling the absence of students more than Ohio University's Ping Recreation Center.

Jolene Quirke, owner of CrossFit SEO, said there are not as many students coming in compared to a normal COVID-19 free year. Typically, students make up about 20% of the members, but that number has gone down drastically this year.

Ping did not expect as many visits as it is getting overall, but it did plan to reach max capacity regularly. 

Ping averages about 565 visitors per day right now, Brittany Barten, assistant director of operations and engagement at Campus Recreation, said. Last year, Ping was averaging 1,635 students per day during the same time of year. 

There can only be 150 people in Ping at a time, but the building has not yet reached maximum capacity.

In order to make sure everyone is safe and to remain open, gyms have had to implement safety guidelines. Capacity is lower, and cleaning efforts have increased.

Masks must be worn when entering CrossFit SEO but may be removed when individuals are in the spot they will be using during class. Each individual has his/her own square that is laid out with the equipment he/she will be using during class. Each square has a sanitizing station as well, Quirke said.

“We have numbers placed on the floor for flow of workouts,” Quirke said. “So, if you’re in box number three and you’re using a place on the rig, you will go to number three to minimize crossing paths with anybody.”

Ping has limited the people who can visit its facility to OU students and Ping members. Visitors swipe their cards themselves, use hand sanitizer and complete a self-assessment of their overall health when they enter the building, Barten said.

Matthew Smrdel, a junior studying chemical engineering, said he prefers Ping compared to the other gyms in the Athens area. He feels safe working out at Ping right now, even with the threat of COVID-19.

Masks must be worn at all times in Ping, including during physical activity. Lockers, showers and towels will be unavailable during this time in addition to traditional drinking fountains. Touchless water bottle refill stations will remain open.

Those using equipment are asked to limit themselves to one piece of equipment at a time and to wipe it down after they are finished using it, Barten said. All visitors must remain six feet apart from each other to comply with social distancing, including visitors living in the same house. There will also be no spotting during this time due to social distancing guidelines.

There are rooms in Ping with capacity limits, which will be monitored and maintained by staff throughout the day. Restrooms and other high-touch areas will be cleaned and disinfected throughout the day, Barten said.

Ping has some other options for students to participate in if they either do not feel comfortable going to Ping or are not on campus right now. 

Group classes are offered virtually as well as in person. Fitness coaching, however, is now completely online. Students can sign up for coaching that includes a fitness assessment, custom exercise programming and weekly check-ins for $10, Barten said.

Adapting to COVID-19 has overall been difficult for gyms like Quirke’s.

“It’s really, really hard right now,” Quirke said. “I don’t know how much longer we can really do this. We’ll just try to make it work with what we have.”