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Trying to stay open, Central Coast gyms move outside

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Angel Russell/KCBX
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The new outdoor section of a gym in Nipomo.

The fitness industry has taken a huge hit as the state is trying to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.

For two-and-a-half months, Central Coast gyms were closed due to state mandates. Then fitness centers got the green light to open in some counties again in mid-June, only to be told to reclose just a few weeks later.

“We couldn’t have foreseen in a million years that it would happen two times,” said Chalyse Behm, owner of Anytime Fitness in Nipomo. She said she was relieved when Governor Gavin Newsom relaxed the restrictions.

“As soon as I saw the mandate say ‘if you can modify your business outdoors, go for it,’ it was not even a question,” Behm said. “We didn’t even have to have a discussion about it, we said alright, how are we going to get everything out in the parking lot?”

Anytime Fitness’ parking lot is now transformed into areas for treadmills, weights and rowing. Behm said staff sanitize everything between use and limit the amount of people who can workout at one time. The hardest part, she said, is moving the equipment in and out daily.

“It takes about an hour of effort—you know, it's for a gym—so we are lifting heavy weights back and forth,” Behm said. “It’s a lot of work and I'm very tired [laughs], but it's so worth it.”

Workout client Earl Boka said he showed up right when Anytime Fitness reopened because he said he needs to visit a gym for health reasons.

“I would say my life depends on it, with heart conditions and pulmonary issues,” Boka said. “Sitting at home certainly would not help me at all.”

For three months he tried to do workouts at home, but it wasn’t ideal.

“I have like a 1950s exercise bicycle, so it's pretty creaky and noisy,” Boka said. “I did it, but it wasn’t smooth.”

Now gym owner Behm is trying to make up for financial losses due to the closures, but she said the road ahead will still be a long one.

“Having to put people on unemployment or reduce their hours, it’s not fun,” Behm said. “Recovery will be a way off, for sure.”

Angel Russell is a former KCBX News reporter who started her career in journalism as a reporter and producer for KREX on Colorado's Western Slope; she later moved to the Central Coast to work for KSBY as weekend anchor and weekday reporter. She holds a BA in journalism from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, and playing guitar and piano.
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