Thursday, June 4, 2020 | 2 a.m.
The first sign of Happy Hour Fitness and Social Club is visible a half-mile away on a recent Monday morning.
A man in a sweat-soaked gray T-shirt labors down the side of the street as part of a workout-ending run. A few hundred meters away, in a long driveway, a couple lunges through a resistance-band exercise on the hot, black pavement, while another man off to the side pushes a weight sled across a 20-yard patch of turf. More activity rages inside the garage-converted gym in the southwest Valley, as one woman planks in the east corner while two people on the opposite end go through a dumbbell routine.
On the second weekday since Gov. Steve Sisolak permitted gyms to operate again as part of Phase 2 of Nevada’s coronavirus reopenings, attendance is strong at Roxanne Lavin’s private personal training business.
“We were busy right from the second we opened back up,” Lavin says between squat sets. “I think clients were anxious to get back.”
Lavin stays in constant motion, coaching clients through five circuits and probably inhaling a liter’s worth of disinfectant from 5:30-9 a.m., when Happy Hour is open for morning sessions. Not only has she amassed her own armory of Lysol spray, Clorox wipes and hand sanitizer, but she also now requires all members to bring their own supplies to clean stations every eight minutes before moving on to the next portion of the workout.
From small, locally owned training businesses to corporate-run gyms, the workout experience will likely look this way around the Valley for the next several months. They’re all doing their best to comply with the state’s new requirements, which include strict social distancing, a 50% occupancy limit and rigorous sanitization.
“We’ve been working night and day, and through the weekends, to make sure we have the right training and content for our team members and customers,” says Kevin Siegel, vice president of member experience at Life Time Athletic. “We’ve invested heavily in cleaning and socially distancing at our clubs with EPA hospital-grade disinfectants and signage. We’re giving the safest and best experience to our customers.”
Life Time reopens its two local locations, in Henderson and Summerlin, on June 4, a few days later than chains like Las Vegas Athletic Clubs, which restartedMay 30, and EoS Fitness, which reopened June 1. Siegel, who’s based out of Henderson, says the company might have waited even longer had it not been for feedback from local customers indicating they wanted access to the gyms as soon as possible.
Life Time’s corporate office sent out an email to members with videos detailing its new safety plans and a survey asking when they wanted gyms to reopen. “Las Vegas had the highest confidence of that survey of members ready to come back,” Siegel says. “We had an overwhelming response once our customers saw our cleaning protocols and standards.”
Lavin reports the same level of eagerness, estimating she has seen 75% of her clients in person since it has been permitted. The other quarter still feel more comfortable receiving online coaching. On-demand video training sessions became the focus of fitness brands like Life Time during quarantine and will continue to be available to those who prefer working out at home.
“We were heavily in the creation process before the closures, but we were able to speed it up very fast and deploy that to our customers and offer complimentary streaming during the closures,” Siegel says. “We had more than a million views in the first 30 days, which was exceptional. We had no idea what the market was, and now we’re going to continue to invest in that space and offer great content to our customers going forward.”
In statements, both Life Time and LVAC explained that they didn’t foresee the 50% maximum occupancy guideline being a problem, because their clubs are so large and rarely reached that threshold pre-pandemic. To help stave off overcrowding, they’ve released timeline data that was previously kept private.
Members can now look up graphs charting the busiest and slowest times throughout the week to plan their workouts. Smaller businesses like Lavin’s are finding other ways to space out foot traffic. She has expanded her availability by an hour and has moved to more flexible start times, allowing clients to stop in at their leisure.
“I’ve given them a longer time frame to come in, and it works out perfectly because the people who come late stagger themselves from the people who are early,” Lavin says. “I’ve had to structure my workouts differently to allow time at different stations, so we have time to clean those stations before the next. It’s changed the way I program for sure, but it’s given me a better flow.”
Masks are optional at gyms under state protocols, but none of the 10-12 people who cycled into Happy Hour over a 90-minute period wore them. They will be available for sale at a nominal charge for members at Life Time and LVAC, with both companies requiring employees to wear them at all times.
Operators are acting with a great deal of caution in returning, and patrons appear excited to get back in the gym.
“Because everyone wanted to come back so badly, they’ve been willing to do whatever compliance they’ve needed to do,” Lavin says. “I think they realize with all the things going on, taking care of yourself and taking care of your health is by far the most important thing. Yes, you can wear a mask or gloves and sanitize, but if you’re not healthy overall, there’s always going to be that underlying fear, more so than someone who’s really focused on staying healthy and staying in shape.”
This story appeared in Las Vegas Weekly.