My gym re-opened about a month ago. The owners had listed online all of their guidelines about wearing masks, cleaning equipment, and maintaining adequate distances between users. I was suspect about how well people would stick to these guidelines. It’s a pretty low-end gym and I’ve always been a bit concerned about the cleanliness of the place. I clean the equipment both before and after using it because I’m pretty certain that the previous user wasn’t all that conscientious.
But it was cheap. As am I. We were a match.
Now with the coronavirus among us, I hadn’t gone back to the gym until today because I’m still a bit leery about interacting with others in closed spaces for extended periods. Especially when those places involve heavy breathing and sweat. We live in a part of the country with low (but increasing!) numbers of COVID-19 cases, and the risks of contracting the disease are relatively small. Nonetheless, I’m still not willing to face the masses bare-faced. We know the short-term effects of COVID-19 can be horrid, but there are also severe long-term impairments that we are only beginning to understand. I do not want to live my retirement days with scarred lungs, heart damage, and neurologic complications. There are just some things I’m not willing to risk.
I’m not a total recluse though. I swim at our recreaction center because I figure a chlorinated pool is pretty safe from the virus — but I won’t use the shower and locker room. And I bike ride with a friend for a few hours at least once a week. So I’m not exactly pure in my self-isolation.
I was missing my gym. It was time to give the place a go and see if it felt okay.
It did not.
The gym doors were propped open as I first walked in, likely to reduce user contact with the surfaces and increase ventilation. There was an unmasked young woman using dumbbells near the entrance. This was a less than welcoming sight, but probably okay. The place felt hot and sticky as I walked in further. I then saw that there were at least 20 people on various cardio machines, none with masks. I get it. Masks are a pain in the ass when you are trying to work out. That’s why I’m in the pool or outside for my exercise. Inside is a different story because the risk of transmission of anything is so much greater. The lack of masks just did not feel right to me.
I walked toward the check-in desk. There were 4 people behind the counter, which seemed crowded. I noticed that there were no plexiglass partitions that might have helped protect the workers from the public. Everything was open. Only one person wore a mask, and that one was draped from her ear, not around her nose and mouth. They were all busy with piles of envelopes, which were likely membership cancellations. I spoke to the young man nearest the check-in. I asked about mask use and he said that it was voluntary. I was welcome to use a mask during my workout.
I check-in and turned to look across the room. The sight of everything and everyone made me ill. I felt like I had walked onto a petri dish ready for some gross experiment. I turned back to the guy behind the counter and said, “I can’t. I just can’t do this. I have to cancel my membership.” As he started the cancellation process, he asked why I wanted to cancel. I said, “It’s the whole COVID-19 thing. I just don’t feel safe working out here.” One of the other guys behind the counter made a face and a snicker. Fuck him.
We finished the cancellation paperwork and I signed with the common-use pen on the pad. There were no “dirty” and “clean” pen jars — just one pen for everyone. I thanked him and took a palm-full of hand sanitizer on the way out.
So now I’m back on my own as far as lifting type workouts. I’m simply going to have to get more creative and make better use of the limited equipment that I have on hand. I think I will go back to some gym in the future, but probably not until at least this fall. And it certainly won’t be at my cheap gym.