SOUTH JORDAN – One year after closing their doors due to the COVID-19 pandemic, gyms in Utah started making a comeback, even as a national survey found about a third of former gym members will not be coming back.
"When we didn't have that gym, we lost the connection to the people we enjoyed," said Tyler Brink, a gym member at Life Time South Jordan.
Brink has been a member there since 2015 and used to go just about every day. Like so many other gym members, he was forced to change gears when gyms shut their doors in March 2020. Brink did what he could to exercise at home.
"But it wasn't the same thing," he said.
For Brink the gym atmosphere is unique. "Much different energy," he said. "Much more, you know, it's the connection."
When Life Time finally reopened two and a half months later with new cleaning procedures, mask and distancing protocols, Brink didn't hesitate to go back. Others have and some may not go back at all.
In a national survey by Run Repeat that included thousands of gym members in 20 states, about 70% of gym members had not returned to the gym. About a third didn't plan to return even after receiving the vaccine.
"I guess that maybe there's a sense of normalcy and a sense of healing about going back to the gym," said Rachel Mueller.
Mueller remembers the gym atmosphere well.
"We were obsessed going to the gym six days a week," she said.
I guess that maybe there's a sense of normalcy and a sense of healing about going back to the gym.
For her, exercise has always been about more than just staying fit. It has been "a way to manage stress and anxiety."
When the pandemic hit, she initially struggled with no place to work out. Like many others, she saw prices for home gym equipment go up. It took a while, but she and her husband eventually collected several weights and a treadmill that now sit in their guest bedroom. She hasn't looked back since.
"I've been able to get the same results, the same stress relief as I was as when I was going to the gym," she said.
"Our business is now starting to rebound which is amazing," said Bridgette McIver, general manager at Life Time South Jordan. "In this time of people feeling so disconnected from their families, from their neighbors from their friends, being here at Life Time six feet apart was a way for them to feel that connection."
McIver said about 1,000 people go through their gym each day, compared to about 1,200 before the start of the pandemic.
"Things are evolving and Life Time is evolving right with them," she said when asked about those who choose to stay home.
McIver said even after things are back to normal, they plan to continue streaming classes online for people at home.
Health guidelines are still in place at gyms, including wearing masks when you're not actively exercising and keeping your distance.