COVID-19 impacting local fitness centers

In the small town of Homer, Alaska residents are finding ways to stay active while fitness facilities begin to reopen

On March 23, Mary Jo Cambridge, owner of Alaska Training Room (ATR), closed her doors to in-person classes. Shortly after, she started holding workout classes over the video conferencing app, Zoom.

“I lent out equipment after the first week,” she said. “I never missed a workout.”

Although she kept up with her classes, Cambridge was worried about her business. Government mandates at the time allowed for outdoor workouts, but classes were difficult to coordinate with unpredictable weather.

“If we go another month, that is going to hurt my bottom line that has already decreased 40% since day one,” she said.

On May 11, Cambridge reopened for in-person classes while following the government mandate put in place on May 8. The second phase of reopening allowed for indoor activities at limited capacity.

“I will utilize hospital grade disinfectant which is certain to kill C19 or any other bug that wants to linger on surfaces,” she said. “I am going to mask up for my safety and theirs.”

After consulting with medical professionals in the Homer area, Cambridge has created a set of rules and guidelines for the facility:

• Masks must be worn in all common areas:

entrance, restroom, changing area, etc.

• Participants must stay within their marked 10- by-10 areas while exercising.

• When each person is in their area, they are allowed to remove their mask as long the 10 foot distance is maintained.

• Each area has hand cleaner and disinfectant wipes.

On May 22, under phases three and four of his Reopen Alaska Responsibly Plan, Gov. Mike Dunleavy allowed all businesses, including gyms, to reopen fully. Campbell said did not plan to reopen ATR any further as she waited to see how the influx of holiday visitors will affect the community.

Even though there are established guidelines, some members are still unsure about returning. Deb Lowney, a member of ATR, is still wary of the new arrangements. She converted her guest house into an exercise room when the gym first shut down.

“Since we have our own space right now, we might hold off to see how it’s structured and our comfort level with that structure,” she said.

Along with her husband, Ralph Broshes, Lowney completes ATR style workouts in their exercise space, but they are less creative in varying their workouts and tend to do the same exercises every time. The new arrangement is not the same as the in-person classes.

“I miss ATR,” she said. “It was a set routine and the social component made the workout so much fun.”

In addition to the ATR fitness classes, Lowney stays active by taking advantage of the beach and hiking trails in Homer.

“I walk the dog a minimum of three to five miles a day,” she said. “I am so thankful to live where there are outdoor options.”

Lowney is not the only community member enjoying the outdoors during this pandemic. Many college students are back home because of university closures and they are soaking up the time outdoors.

“I go on a lot of walks,” said Katie Clark, a first year student at the University of Oregon. “I walk around Anchor Point and down on the beach. It’s usually just me and my dog.”

As gyms and fitness centers begin to reopen it is important to keep in mind the safety of others and yourself. There are lots of ways to stay active in a the community while maintaining social distancing measures.

“We may not all be in the same boat, but we are definitely all weathering the same storm,” Cambridge said. “Let’s keep up our standards of practice and keep this disease at bay.”

Rylyn Todd is a Homer High School graduate who just finished her first year studying Journalism and Mass Communication (with a concentration in public relations) at Colorado State University.

Rylyn Todd poses for a photo on Feb. 20, 2020, while attending college at Colarado State University. (Photo courtesy of Rylyn Todd)

Rylyn Todd poses for a photo on Feb. 20, 2020, while attending college at Colarado State University. (Photo courtesy of Rylyn Todd)