HARLINGEN — Wearing gloves used to be a personal choice when lifting weights or working out at a gym. Now, it is mandatory.
Gymnasiums in Texas have been closed for almost two months. Now many of them are re-opening after Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order to expand openings.
On Monday, those who have been longing to work out in a place besides their garage or at a park will have the opportunity. Yet, there are guidelines to follow and only a 25 percent capacity is available.
According to the executive order by Abbott, locker rooms and shower facilities must stay closed.
Equipment must be disinfected after each use, gloves should cover all fingers and if a person decides to bring their own personal mat or towel, it must also be disinfected after each use.
However, gym members and owners in Harlingen expect a large number of people to come back Monday.
A few have already made plans to hit the gym and say the guidelines are not bothersome to them. Gym owners agreed — embers have been asking when re-opening would start.
Denise Sluck, owner of Iron Core Gym at 221 Harrison Ave. in Harlingen, opened her doors on Friday and Saturday for members to pay and be ready for Monday.
“I didn’t want it to get extremely crowded and a rush of people standing or waiting outside,” Sluck said.
The gym missed its one-year anniversary in April, but according to Sluck closing for the shelter in place order did not affect the business too much.
“Luckily, none of our staff were affected by COVID-19. Financially it does affect you since money wasn’t coming in, but not greatly. Our landlord was lenient and worked a good deal with us and understood and that was a huge blessing,” she said.
Sluck was worried about her employees and members and said a few members were upset the gym had to close.
“People thought we made the decision to close but we had to and after a while they understood,” Sluck said.
Even though no one was allowed to work out at Iron Core, Sluck hired a disinfectant company to clean while its doors were closed.
Sluck is currently pregnant and said she wanted to disinfect and clean as much as possible.
“For the first three to four weeks we locked up and did not come in. After we started coming back into the gym and took care of cleaning,” she said.
Members would ask Sluck to open for them but she said she insisted on following the mandate and did not plan to reopen until a date was given.
“The rules make me feel more comfortable even at 25 percent capacity. That is about 43 people, but we are dropping to 35 in case I and my husband come in,” she said.
“It is what we are comfortable with. One big rule is the full hands gloves and some people were confused on what kind of glove it was. The governor did not specify. But I did my research and any mechanical glove is recommended. I am not being picky about it,” Sluck said.
The showers rule does not apply to her business but lockers are being closed off. However, Sluck said the gym had to adjust for the social distancing rule and a few of the cardio equipment will be closed off as well in the meantime.
Sluck said she is not forcing anyone to wear a mask except for her staff, but she is advising her members to do so.
“We have hand sanitizer all over the place and before and after hours we are disinfecting,” she said
When it comes to personal equipment, Sluck said she hoped members were not bringing yoga mats or other items which need to be disinfected after every use.
Maintaining social distancing could be hard, she said. If people are from the same household she cannot tell them to stay six feet apart but will encourage others to do so.
“We are really excited about opening up. I am excited about the rules because they can’t fight us about it since they are set by the governor,” she said.
“We are absolutely confident we are going to provide the best service when it comes to cleaning and disinfecting,” Sluck said.
Jason Gandia, a trainer at Iron Core, had not been training for two months but said he was excited to be back.
“I’ve had a number of people get with me because they are expecting long lines and now more than ever they are interested in personal training opposed to 25 percent, they would have a safe spot,” Gandia said.
Gandia advised his clients to buy gloves at Home Depot or Lowe’s instead of using rubber gloves since they tear. He said every station will be cleaned after each use and precautions will be taken as mandated.
“I think it is going to be a 50/50. Some people are not going to the gym, they are not ready and scared, but others are ready to get back. Not everybody is motivated to work out at home, they need to see other people working out,” he said.
“Knowing they got up, went to the gym, hit it as opposed to walking to the garage and come back. Some people do get motivated at home and get it done but many are going to go to the gym,” Gandia said.
Ethan Ibarra, 17, a football player at Harlingen High School, will come back to his training with Gandia after working out at home.
“We work out at school all the time but during the shelter in place we were getting on Zoom every morning and did game day workouts,” Ibarra said.
“There is a big difference between working out at your house than at a gym because I don’t have the same weights or material. It is really hard to work out at home,” he said.
For Ibarra having to wear gloves does not bother him.
“Most people wear gloves when working out. There is not really a difference. I am scared though since I don’t know what people have but I am confident they are sanitizing and being cautious,” Ibarra said.