Gyms across region reopen

  • A Greenfield YMCA member lifts in the dumbbell alcove in the expanded weight room. STAFF PHOTOS/PAUL FRANZ

  • Planet Fitness has reopened with restrictions. In the weight-lifting area, patrons are required to wear masks while lifting or using the machines. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Planet Fitness has reopened with restrictions. In the cardio area, only every third machine is available to maintain social distancing.

  • Grady Vigneau, CEO of the Greenfield YMCA, in the new Training Zone. STAFF PHOTOS/PAUL FRANZ

  • Planet Fitness in the Big Y plaza in Greenfield has reopened with restrictions. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Exercise trainer Phyllis Canon on Nautilus equipment at the Greenfield YMCA, separated by plastic sheeting.

  • Cardio equipment set up in the gym at the Greenfield YMCA. At present, only every other machine will be used to encourage social distancing. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • The Greenfield YMCA has been offering remote classes using Zoom. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 7/8/2020 4:57:33 PM

The YMCA branches in Greenfield and Athol, along with gyms across the county, have reopened as part of Phase 3 of the state’s reopening plan, but not without new safety measures and restrictions to minimize the spread of COVID-19.

YMCA of Greenfield

YMCA CEO Grady Vigneau said the Y has been working with a small staff for the past four months, while other staff members worked from home.

“We’re in the process of rebranding, and as our members return, they’ll see the results of that,” Vigneau said. “We’re installing new equipment, we’ve got new programs, and we’ve reduced our membership options from 57 to seven to be inclusive to all.”

Barriers to membership were changed by removing “gold” and “silver” designations, for instance. The only memberships now available are youth, teen, young adult, adult, adult couple, senior and family.

The entire facility was cleaned and improvements were made, including refinishing floors, painting and installing plastic curtains between equipment so members can distance themselves.

Everyone must wear a mask, and cardio equipment is 14 feet apart, while all other equipment sits 6 feet apart. There are no health screenings, but everyone who plans to enter the building is asked not to if they feel sick or have a fever or cough.

Use of the pool and group classes, which start Thursday, are limited, he said, and members who are not comfortable joining classes in person can join them via Zoom at home. New equipment will be installed in the next few weeks, and a “grand reopening” will be held Sept. 1.

“We decided to do a soft reopening,” Vigneau said.

The new equipment includes some for the new Training Zone room that will allow members for workouts with a push-pull sled, medicine balls and a Keiser machine. That room will be ready in August.

Hand sanitizer and disinfectants for machines are available throughout the building.

Jayne Trosin, fitness and social responsibility director, said changes were going to happen anyway, but the pandemic made them happen more quickly.

“We’re looking at possibly offering virtual memberships as well,” she said. “We’ve been teaching virtually through the closing and some people have seemed to really like it.”

Trosin said there are always people who prefer to work out on machines at the Y, but there are also some who feel more comfortable doing so at home. She said currently no more than nine people are allowed in classes in person. The pool allows no more than four people during lap time and no more than six during water fitness.

Phelicia Howland, president of the YMCA’s board of directors, said the Y will operate on a budget of just under $3 million this year. Many of the building updates are being paid for through the budget.

“We’re a nonprofit, so we don’t expect to make money,” she said. “We’ve historically been conservative in our spending, but we need to do these things to make the experience even better for members.”

For more information on the YMCA in Greenfield, call 413-773-3646 or visit your-y.org.

YMCA in Athol

Athol Area YMCA Executive Director Jennifer Gordon said that when the nonprofit opened to members Monday, it wasn’t a difficult transition because the facility had remained open during the pandemic to offer emergency child care and for 20 men lacking stable housing who live at the Y. In addition, the agency provided emergency relief during the COVID-19 shutdown.

“We reopened the main branch on Monday, but we won’t open the Orange branch until next Monday,” she said. “We’ve worked with the Board of Health, the state and others to open slowly.”

Gordon said the Y couldn’t afford to buy plastic curtains to separate machines and people, so it has to promote social distancing instead. Everyone is required to wear a mask, except for outside classes, which it has been running since the end of Phase 2 in the state’s reopening plan.

The Y in Athol performs health screenings when people enter the building, and everything is done by appointment only.

“Each person can do cardio, for instance, for a half-hour,” Gordon said. “We allow one person in a smaller room and two in a larger room. The pool is open, but for very small classes and lap swims. We will be expanding as time goes on.”

Gordon said virtual classes and outdoor classes are continuing for people who don’t feel comfortable returning to the building yet.

“We’re all thrilled to see people return,” she noted.

The Y has opened its day camp in Orange to about 40 children, and its overnight camp in New Hampshire to the same number of children, and Gordon said they are doing everything they can to ensure everyone’s safety.

She said staff members have been trained in COVID-19 response so they know what and what not to do when dealing with the facility, members and other staff members.

“Life as we knew it has changed, but that’s the way it has to be,” she said.

For more information about the YMCA in Athol, call 978-349-3305 or visit ymcaathol.org.

Planet Fitness

Greenfield Planet Fitness General Manager Holly Crowell said her staff and the members were “ecstatic” to return Monday after the facility was closed for almost four months.

“We can tell people are smiling even though they have to wear masks,” she said. “We’ve been prepping for weeks.”

Crowell said the entire facility was sanitized and disinfected. While each member is expected to sanitize and disinfect equipment after use, staff members come behind them to clean as well.

“We have a daily checklist we follow,” she said. “We’re following the state mandates, as well as corporate mandates.”

Crowell said all equipment is 14 feet apart, as per regulations, and the facility is operating at 40 percent capacity, which means there are no more than 160 people in the building at once.

For more information about Planet Fitness, call 413-475-3543 or visit the gym’s Facebook page.

The Body Shoppe

The Body Shoppe in Greenfield reopened Monday, though it was open to physical therapy clients throughout the pandemic, so co-owner Liz Dolby said the transition to opening to gym members wasn’t as difficult as it could have been.

“We were already very familiar with the disinfecting process and such,” she said. “We’re following all CDC guidelines, and everyone is wearing masks and using hand sanitizer and disinfectants.”

Dolby said there is a special room where equipment is kept. It is disinfected before and after use, and some of the cardio equipment is blocked off to ensure people remain 14 feet apart.

“It’s definitely safe,” she said. “And we don’t have many people returning yet. I’m sure some are being cautious, which is not a bad thing.”

Dolby said fewer people tend to work out during the summer anyway, because they are outside or traveling.

The Body Shoppe has a screening process when people arrive, which includes taking their temperatures and asking questions.

“It’s great to have them back in the gym,” she said.

King’s Gym in Greenfield also reopened, but owners declined to comment. According to the King’s Gym Facebook page, the gym reopened Monday. Several restrictions will be observed.

“Everyone will need to wear a mask unless they are actually exercising,” the post states. “Other restrictions will be posted at the gym. Really looking forward to seeing everyone.”


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