TruFit Gym

Brett Dagenhart and Aridai Capote stand next to a poster that encourages hand washing and other sanitation measures inside the recently reopened TruFit Gym in Southern Pines.  Laura Douglass/The Pilot

There has been a lot of gray area in the statewide fight to slow the spread of COVID-19 — and gyms across the state are taking advantage of it.

Last weekend, several area gyms re-opened their doors using an interpretation of N.C. Gov. Roy Cooper’s executive order shared by the state’s attorney general. In a letter dated June 5, Special Deputy Attorney Phil Rubin said indoor gyms and fitness facilities could be used when exercise is prescribed or directed by a person’s medical provider.

“We’ve had a great response. Everyone is so thankful we are open,” said Hannah Ambrozewski of Anytime Fitness, which reopened on Friday at 9 a.m. “We do have a lot of doctors that refer patients here. People are coming in with their doctor’s note in hand, but we are telling them it is not necessary. We are not asking for proof.”

Ambrozewski said health privacy laws, like HIPAA and the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), discourage them from asking questions about a gym member’s medical history.

Instead they’ve upped their sanitation procedures and taken other precautionary measures. Social distancing stickers are spaced out on the floor, the water fountain is disconnected for now, and patrons are asked to limit their workout to 60 minutes during peak hours.

Similarly across town, TruFit Gym in Southern Pines has also reopened its doors to members with modified hours, limited capacity indoors, and cleaning protocols in line with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance.

“We’ve had a surprisingly good response. There has been a high demand for the gym,” said Brett Dagenhart, TruFit’s general manager. “We are following the 50 percent capacity rule. We are highly recommending that our members wear masks, but we don’t require it.”

TruFit, which has a large military-related clientele base, also installed a high-tech air purification system in the building and spent several days working with their staff on sanitation training as part of their overall readiness plan to reopen.

“Personally, I try not to be biased. But from a business standpoint, this has been devastating,” said Dagenhart. “We are trying to ease people into feeling more comfortable. There are guidelines, but no black and white answers. We are trying to ride that line.”

In an email letter to TruFit members, the club cited the ADA and a U.S. public health and civil rights code that prohibits anyone from interfering with their right to use the facility.

“We have had no negative response. It is all positive,” Dagenhart said.

FirstHealth of the Carolinas has also partially reopened its fitness facilities to members enrolled in their medically directed programs, including Exercise is Medicine and Rock Steady Boxing.

The rest of FirstHealth fitness facilities continue to operate on a modified schedule that includes outdoor group exercise classes and access to the pool. On its website, FirstHealth states that new protocols are in place, and safety is a top priority for both staff and members.

Other gyms and yoga studios in Moore County are also continuing to offer outdoor classes for groups of up to 25, in lieu of indoor programming.

“Everyone has to do what they have to do,” said Brandi Martin of Forte Fitness. “We have decided to run only outdoor classes for now. I am hoping we will have more clarification on June 26.”

That is the day that N.C. Gov. Roy Cooper is expected to announce whether the state will move into Phase 3 of the reopening plan. In addition, the General Assembly pushed forward a bill to Cooper on June 10 that would authorize indoor and outdoor exercise at fitness gyms with specific safety measures in place.

“We all thought we’d be reopening as part of Phase 2. Then we had to go back to the drawing board,” Dagenhart said. “But there is another part of this: people are missing not just the physical but the mental aspect. Working out is a medication for a lot of people.”

“We are a big advocate that health and fitness is an essential part of building up your immune system,” he added. “And there’s not a doctor out there that doesn’t recommend exercise.”

(11) comments

Melissa Swarbrick

Instead of judging, why not leave it up to each individual whether they workout in a gym or not. If you don't think it is safe, then stay home. Others need the gym for post-rehab, mental health, weight loss help, etc. Same with going to Walmart or marching in a protest. Anytime Fitness is BY FAR the cleanest gym I have ever been in. All employees are wearing masks and sanitizer is everywhere. To me, the risks are much less than many other activities I can think of, but to each his own.

Jim Tomashoff

Very ignorant comment Melissa. The concern is not that individual A may think it's safe while individual B does not and therefore stays away. The concern is that individual A may be infected and not realize it and accordingly gives the virus to several other people while at the gym, or outside, or in their own home. I would hope that a five-year old would understand this, but I guess not all adults do. I suggest you and Kent meet-up and have a good laugh at us "snowflakes" and don't forget to not wear masks and give each other a big hug good-bye.

mark satterfield

AnyTime Fitness is doing a great job of providing members with a clean & safe environment to workout .

Kent Misegades

A win for all who cherish liberty and choose not to be scared! How can anyone object to a few people getting healthy in a gym but have no issue with throngs of angry people in anarchist-led protests of whatever?

Dan Roman

For those who, like Kent, are not bright enough to understand it isn't a question of "liberty" or "scared", it's a question of public health. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness...

No life if you are dead, no happiness if you are desperately ill on a ventilator and the liberty to take the steps necessary to avoid death or illness from Covid-19.

PS: "..throngs of angry people in anarchist-led protests"?

Kent, who advocates "the truth will set you free" sounds like Joe McCarthy, frothing at the mouth, and lying thru his teeth.

The vast majority of the protests and those attending have been peaceful, with some exceptions, notably attacks by white supremacists, so called anti-fascists, the authorities and in a few cases violent protests.

Kent Misegades

A bad attempt at humor Dan. TDS now has you creating stories with no factual basis, par for the course for the left. I attended the second anti-shutdown rally in Raleigh. It was very peaceful and upbeat. We left the area cleaner than we found it. Contrast this to any of the protests in recent weeks led by the anarchists of Antifa and BLM. For instance in Raleigh, where even the office of the far-left rag IndyWeek was trashed. Which is actually pretty funny as they helped incite the violence.

Laurel Holden

Funny, Kent, with all your sensational talk of violence at the protests you haven't mentioned anything about the Boogaloo Boys. A member of that far-right, libertarian terrorist organization used the protests as cover to kill law enforcement agents in California. So, don't worry, people who share your views are participating in the violence as well!

Elizabeth Leonow

Kent, you are about one more sophomoric comment away from a Go Fund Me page for tin foil hats. Do you act like this to deliberately bait people?

Janet Cunningham

I find this business to be despicable. Why not be honest and say they are breaking the law meant to protect the citizens and are putting everyone at risk? You should not have goven free press to such an establishment when there are many, many admirable business to spotlight.

Cindy Ewan

I agree with you. They may not be honest but it is obvious that they are basically telling everyone to come on in and you do not need a prescription or note from a doctor. Sad and selfish.

Dan Roman

Went to TruFit Wednesday afternoon and worked out from about 1PM for about 90 minutes. None of the employees were wearing masks, none, not one. One guy working out was wearing a mask, one out of about 25. All but one of the boxes with large paper wipes that were there Monday were gone although paper towels were available thru the usual dispensers as were bottles of "disinfectant" which looks and smells like Windex. None of the cross-trainers were blocked off so no social distancing there.

TDS? Nope. DTS: Deranged Trump Supporter, as in 4F in the battle of wits.

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