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After sweating it out at home, O.B. gym-goers gather once again

Exercise classes move indoors once more — or not


Since gyms across New York state were given the green light to reopen by Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Aug. 24, many Oyster Bay facilities have been welcoming back their clientele in recent  weeks.

Fitness centers, which may reopen at 33 percent capacity, require customers to wear face coverings, and ventilation must meet state guideline.  “Localities have a role here,” Cuomo said on Aug. 17. “They have to inspect gyms before they open, or within two weeks of when they open.”

“We were just able to open about a week and a half ago,” Amy Garvey, the owner of Oyster Bay Yoga and Glen Cove Yoga, said on Sept. 9. “We passed our inspections, and now we’re having some socially distant indoor classes. We’re doing live-streaming of the classes so that people can participate online if they aren’t comfortable coming into the studio or they’re not comfortable wearing a mask in practice.”

Garvey said it was nice to welcome clients in once again and, she added, it was those clients who helped keep the studios around, because many of them continued paying their monthly membership fees.

And since Oyster Bay Yoga can only have seven clients in at a time, they don’t have to feel left out if there isn’t room for them in the class. “We have a few outdoor classes that we’re doing right now that are spaced out at Mill Neck Manor,” Garvey said, “and then I also have another website called ‘Practice at Home,’ where we have a whole database of on-demand yoga classes.”

“We’re trying to offer as many different types of media as we can to everybody right now during this very strange time,” she added.

While clients and instructors were nervous about wearing masks, Garvey said, everyone adjusted quickly. “They were a bunch of troupers about keeping their distance and keeping their masks on so that we can continue to do the yoga practice that we love and miss so much,” she said. “It’s just so nice to be able to be together. We’ve been doing the online classes throughout quarantine, but it was really nice to see each other again.”

Oyster Bay Yoga client Jean Rodgers, of Bayville, said that while wearing a mask isn’t her favorite thing, it’s “doable,” and she’s happy to be back.

“For me, it’s good to get back, because when you’re home it’s easier to have an excuse,” Rodgers said. “When you’re here, you’re here for an hour. The atmosphere is great. They’re friendly people and I enjoy it.”

“Everything is set up within the guidelines,” Rodgers said. “Amy is very stringent on wearing the masks — it’s as clean as it could be. She’s sanitizing. She’s very careful about it, so I feel very comfortable.” 

At Oyster Bay Kickboxing, clients began returning to in-person classes about two weeks ago. Prior to reopening, the studio continued online classes but stopped charging membership fees. Grace Ievolella, who works the front desk, said that clients were very happy to return to their classes, and were adjusting to wearing masks.

According to the American Council on Exercise, most people can safely exercise while wearing a mask. They should monitor how they feel during workouts, however, because masks do slightly restrict airflow. Dizziness, lightheadedness and shortness of breath are signs that someone should slow down.

Those who work out with masks on, according to the council, should reduce the intensity of their workouts, especially if they involve routines such as high-intensity interval training, which stresses the cardio-respiratory system.

The council also suggests that people with pre-existing respiratory or cardiovascular conditions be extra cautious when exercising while wearing masks. Those with obstructive pulmonary disorder, asthma, chronic bronchitis, pulmonary fibrosis and other lung conditions should consult a medical professional before exercising with a mask on.

Many New Yorkers maintained that gyms, like restaurants and other spaces open to the public, should have the right to reopen. That’s why the New York State Fitness Alliance was created, to advocate for gym, studio and fitness center owners, employees and clients as the pandemic dragged on. The organization made the case that fitness centers are necessary for people to maintain physical and mental health, and that, with the proper guidelines, they present a minimal risk for the spread of Covid-19.

In fact, the alliance cited statistics from Member Experience Management that the ratio of Covid-19 cases to fitness center visits nationwide is 1 in 42,731, or just 0.002 percent, with 1,155 cases of the virus reported out of a total of more than 49 million visits to more than 2,800 locations in 47 states.

As Cuomo announced that gyms could reopen, he added that the state’s Covid-19 infection rate was the lowest it had been since the pandemic began. Now it is even lower. “Congratulations to New Yorkers. New Yorkers did what everyone said couldn’t be done,” he said. “Going forward, we must protect the progress by keeping the infection rate down.”