Gyms and fitness centers are typically hot spots at the start of the new year, with many Long Islanders setting out to fulfill resolutions to be healthier.
But in an atypical year, when social distancing and masks are essential to public health, will local gyms still have that new year’s rush this January? They hope so — and they’re ready for it.
“At this point, almost a year into [the Covid-19 pandemic], we have all our bases covered,” says Christina Boccio, who is a trainer at and owns Beach Fit Training in Oceanside with her husband, Mike Boccio. “We’ve been clean before ‘clean’ was a thing, so a lot of our members feel very comfortable.”
Gyms on Long Island began reopening at 33 percent capacity at the end of August. In the past four months, Boccio says her fitness studio has slowly gained its members back, and then some, once people saw all the precautions the gym was taking.
Beach Fit, which specializes in total body resistance training (TRX), has spaced out its schedule, allowing staff members time to thoroughly disinfect and clean the facility between workout sessions. All are required to wear masks and social distance, as is required at every gym across the state.
The owners also added an outdoor tent for workouts in person, which they also livestream for members to follow along with from home, and they rented out equipment to them, so more people can participate than ever before.
“[The business] actually has done slightly better than we were doing last year when it comes to our member base,” Boccio says, “which I attribute to our outdoor sessions.”
To prepare for 2021, Bocci has been posting social media videos of members working out and speaking about going to the gym post shutdown. “Doing those helps people see what it’s going to be like,” she says.
“We’ve been clean before ‘clean’ was a thing, so a lot of our members feel very comfortable,” says Christina Boccio.
Meanwhile, the Sid Jacobson Jewish Community Center in Greenvale, a much larger facility offering a variety of fitness activities, is still seeing lower membership than usual, despite members gradually returning, says Audrey Kurland, the SJJCC’s health + wellness and membership director. She’s hoping to see that change in the new year.
“January is traditionally a busy time,” she says. “Last year I even saw an uptick in December — people didn’t want to wait.”
The SJJCC takes all proper precautions and tries to educate the community about the benefits of returning to the gym, which has an indoor track, swimming pool, basketball courts, and workout rooms.
Kurland says it’s been difficult, though, to get as many members as possible involved in their favorite activities. Right now, they need to reserve a time slot for any room or equipment they use, and there is limited space.
“We want everyone back, ” she says. “We count a lot on word of mouth — our members are our best ambassadors. That’s how we keep our doors open.”
Several Long Islanders in a Facebook group for Nassau and Suffolk moms reported feeling comfortable at their local gyms and attributed their gym visits to keeping them sane and healthy in these stressful times.
“Of course we wear masks, although it is not easy to breathe with them at times” says G. Murray, who frequents Better Body Bootcamp in New Hyde Park, “but the alternative, which is not going at all, is not an option for me. I feel that exercise builds up your immune system so I feel I have to go.”
There are also virtual gyms popping up. Bethann Bark Wolfe, a communications professor at Nassau and Suffolk community colleges, specializes in interpersonal relationships. She owns My Place Pilates, which offers virtual Pilates classes on Zoom.
“This is a really hard time for everybody socially,” she says. “Exercising in real time makes them feel like they’re doing something with a group. When you’re looking into each other’s houses and you see their plants, their pets, or kids, you feel like you’re spending time with people in their homes and that is very comforting to most people.”