Gyms to reopen soon, but will stay outdoors, online

Shannon Reardon of Saranac Lake lifts a weighted barbell with 10-pound weights on either side toward the end of a CrossFit class held by BarkEater Training’s Paul Slebioda in a parking lot behind the gym on Wednesday. The CrossFit sessions are held outside during the coronavirus pandemic, but gyms will be allowed to start reopening later this month. (Enterprise photo — Aaron Cerbone)

LAKE PLACID — Local gyms are preparing to reopen their doors next week after state officials said they will allow them to offer indoor services starting Monday, Aug. 24.

Some gyms in the region still will offer outdoor classes or online options for members.

Each facility will be inspected by the Department of Health before it can open, which will take a little while, as county health officials are overloaded with coronavirus work. It is likely many gyms will not open exactly on Aug. 24.

Traci Wagner, general manager at Adirondack Health’s Medical Fitness Center in Lake Placid, said she has spoken with the Essex County Department of Health and was told they are very busy. The state’s order mandates that local health departments inspect each facility within two weeks of its reopening, which means most will likely open near the start of September.

Gyms will have a 33% occupancy limit. Face masks and social distancing will be required at all times while working out.

Air circulation and filtration is a requirement. They will need MERV-13 air filters at a minimum or must have a heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) professional document their inability to do so and adopt additional ventilation and mitigation protocols from the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Communal showers will not be allowed, and individual showers must be cleaned between use.

CrossFit Lake Placid

Nicholas LaScala began managing CrossFit Lake Placid’s outdoor workouts on Aug. 2, so he said this is sort of a “reopening” of the facility for him. The state began letting gyms offer outdoor fitness and yoga classes on July 6, but CrossFit Lake Placid started its outdoor offerings at the beginning of August.

LaScala said members have made the most of the coronavirus restrictions this summer, holding rigorous body-building sessions in the parking lot of the facility on Saranac Avenue.

“Obviously, we’d rather not work out in the rain,” LaScala said. “But being outside prepares us for what a lot of us like to do: hiking and mountain biking. People are actually kind of liking it.”

LaScala said he will continue outdoor sessions even after reopening indoors. Indoor workouts will focus more on strength and skill training, which involve fewer high-heart rate workouts and less breathing. Cardio and high heart-rate workouts will be done outside, where masks are not needed if members socially distance.

LaScala said working out with a mask is possible but uncomfortable.

He said the gym has two private bathrooms with showers which it will clean between uses.

He said the gym does not have air conditioning and relies on a fan bringing in air from the outdoors. This air circulation technique will need to be either approved or modified.

LaScala said the gym is offering a free month to new members.

Adirondack Health’s

Medical Fitness Center

Wagner said the fitness center’s 1,000 members have been waiting to return to the gym since it closed, to continue rehabilitation from injuries and medical events, resume their Fit for Life programs or just visit with their gym community.

The fitness center has not been collecting dues since it closed, but it has offered virtual programs for members.

Because the gym caters to a population often at higher risk from the virus, she said some people may not want to come back. She said she hears from plenty of members, though, who have grown accustomed to working out at the facility in its one year of operation.

“I think a large majority of them are really eager to get back in,” Wagner said. “We were a big part of their lives.”

She said staff have distanced equipment and a sanitation team will be cleaning high-contact areas. As part of the Adirondack Health hospital system, the facility has been equipped with air filtration equipment.

Wagner said working out with a mask is just one more adjustment people will have to make when returning to the new normal.

“There’s been studies out there that have been conducted about working out with a mask,” Wagner said. “Your body will adapt.”


Jeremiah St. Louis owns SLove Health Club and said he is grateful the state finally guidelines for gyms to reopen.

St. Louis said the health club has a tight space and no flat, spacious area to offer outdoor sessions, so it has been closed over the past five months. He has taken the time to knock off some items on his “to-do list,” adding new spaces and installing HEPA filters to meet the state mandate.

St. Louis said he has created a online workout system for members, but he is hearing from many who are excited to return to the gym.

“A lot of people are getting very stir crazy,” he said.

Being in-person at a gym surrounds people with an atmosphere of accountability, and seeing friends and athletic peers there allows people to support and push each other.

“I’ve always found for myself it’s easier to get a more productive workout while you’re at a physical location rather than at home,” St. Louis said. “There’s a lot of distractions and rationalizations at home.”

Still, not everyone is rushing to come back.

“Some people are apprehensive coming back to the gym,” St. Louis said. “I’ve heard a lot of people who are interested in not returning until there’s a COVID vaccine.”

He said his membership has taken a hit this summer and the thanked the gym community for helping out with donations.

“It’s been challenging, that’s for sure,” St. Louis said, “But we’ve got a lot of good community support.”

Tupper Lake Zumba

Darcy Varden runs Zumba classes in Tupper Lake and said she plans to continue hosting outdoor sessions, as she has been this summer.

She said if working out inside means wearing a mask is required, she will just continue socially distanced Zumba outside, as to not subject herself or others to masked Zumba.

“I do not think I could exercise with a mask on myself,” Varden said.

She said she’s been holding 10-20 member sessions at the Municipal Park on the shore of Raquette Pond, where fellow athletic leaders Nancy Merrihew and Kay Pauquette have also been holding exercise classes.

Varden said before the pandemic they were all holding classes at the emergency services building. Now they work out at the bandshell or the Rotary pavilion.

Varden said she will continue outdoor sessions, as long as the weather permits.

Fitness Revolution

Jason McComber, owner of Fitness Revolution in Lake Placid, was not available for comment by deadline, but he told the Lake Placid News in late March how stressful the closure has been, leading to more bouts of insomnia.

“It’s terrible,” he said. “At night, I’m my own worst enemy. You’re thinking about what tomorrow’s going to bring, what bad news you’re going to hear. … Some people find solace in sleep and therapy in sleep. For me, it’s just the opposite. I’m a pretty active-minded person anyway, so this is just made it worse.”

Fitness Revolution on Saranac Avenue has adopted exercise options for its members at every step of the reopening process. Its trainers began offering online workouts for free on March 20, four days after the gym closed, streamed live on the gym’s Facebook page. And it began offering outdoor classes on July 6, the first day the state said it was OK. On Monday, the Facebook page posted, “Keep calm. We are reopening soon!!”

Gyms in the Tri-Lakes region are doing what they can to bring more people indoors … before the snow flies.

Lake Placid News Editor Andy Flynn contributed to this report.


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