By shortly after noon Monday, Wes Littlefield had conducted 10 personal training sessions at Littlefield’s Gym, the personal fitness facility he and his wife, Kendra, own in Oakland. Littlefield expected to conduct 10 more one-on-one training sessions in the afternoon. It was the first day gyms like his were able to open since Gov. Janet Mills issued her emergency orders in response to the Covid-19 crisis in mid-March.
“It’s nice to see some of the athletes back,” Kendra Littlefield said.
Fitness centers were among the business allowed to open this week with the loosening of restrictions in 12 of Maine’s 16 counties, albeit with strict guidelines. Gyms can be open for personal instruction only, with both client and personal trainer wearing protective facemasks and social distancing. Classes of fewer than 10 participants may be offered if conducted outdoors. All equipment used must be thoroughly sanitized after use.
Curtis Miller, who owns Miller Fitness in Skowhegan, was also able to open his gym. He and four trainers, including his wife Kianna, have offered one-on-one training and classes in space behind his gym all week. Miller opened a second gym in Newport seven months ago, but that’s in Penobscot County, one of the four counties not yet open.
“At least it’s people in the gym. It’s not ideal,” Miller said.
While gym owners are happy to be open, even in a limited capacity, some acknowledge the new guidelines are too restrictive.
“People want to get back in here. I get five, six calls a day asking when we’ll get back open,” said Ryan Chamberland, who owns United Fitness in Winthrop and Augusta. “This is our heyday. This is when we make money. April, May and June, people want to work out before the summer.”
While closed from mid-March until Monday, some gyms were able to keep members engaged by offering online classes, or letting members take equipment home and providing daily workout plans. Waterville’s Champions Fitness Club, offers numerous live classes throughout the week on its Facebook page, taught by eight of the gym’s personal trainers and class instructors. The Facebook Live classes are open to anybody, not just Champions members.
The workouts are recorded and embedded on Champions’ Facebook page, so if anybody finds a workout they particularly enjoyed, they can do it again.
“They’ve been so well-received,” said Lisa Lambert, Champions fitness director. “We’ve had a great time doing them.”
Champions will not open to one-on-one instruction, and doesn’t plan to open until the next phase of Gov. Mills’ plan goes into effect June 1, Lambert said. The gym’s size and large membership roll, which Lambert said is approximately 2,500 members, makes opening for one-on-one sessions unfeasible.
Scott Bolduc, who owns Waterville’s Crossfit137, and Ali McLaughlin, who owns Waterville’s KV Crossfit, each let members take equipment home for online instruction.
“When we decided it was time to close, we came up with a plan to keep members engaged,” Bolduc said. “I set up in my garage here at home. It worked pretty well. We programmed home workouts, based on what equipment people had.”
McLaughlin planned to open Thursday for classes of 10 or fewer people.
“We lent out a lot of equipment, and it took time getting it back and cleaned,” McLaughlin said. “I had workouts every day for people to do remotely, and videos.”
On Monday, Bolduc began teaching small classes at Colby College’s track, where people had plenty of space for social distancing. At the gym on Kennedy Memorial Drive, Bolduc marked off 10 feet by 10 feet sections in which each individual could work out with plenty of space. Members also will have their temperature taken before entering the facility, Bolduc said.
“We’re taking it seriously. We want to get fit again,” Bolduc said.
The gym owners also said they have lost some memberships during the pandemic as people have lost their jobs. However, the owners also said that most members have been patient and supportive.
“We understand, because a lot of people aren’t making money. We hope to get them back when they’re able to work,” Miller said. “A lot of members asked us to keep charging them because they were working and know we’re a small business.”
Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242
— to www.centralmaine.com