The reopening of gyms across the state has been welcomed by many, from the casual visitor to Olympic sport athletes, but new changes and safety precautions have changed the gym experience.
For Madison Zezzo, a senior at UNC who works out at Carolina Square's gym, new safety precautions have affected her typical morning workout routine. Pre-pandemic, she appreciated the early hours in the gym before starting her day, but when Carolina Square's gym reopened, it limited operation hours from 9:00 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Zezzo said she works from 9:00 a.m. to noon three days a week, forcing her to work out in the more crowded afternoons. For her, the new schedule seems to be more of a problem than an effective safety measure.
"Honestly, I really don't think the schedule does anything except condense the number of students in there at one time," Zezzo said.
In addition to the new hours, she is also unsure about how many people follow the safety measures because of a lack of enforcement. Zezzo has seen people not wipe off their machines, despite signs posted to inform residents of the new requirements. She is also concerned that Carolina Square isn't properly monitoring and stocking the gym with cleaning supplies.
"Twice that I have been in there now, they ran out of wipes to wipe down the machines," Zezzo said.
A representative for Carolina Square had no comment on new gym procedures or possible shortages of cleaning supplies.
Daniel Hogan, an exercise and sports science major who is a trainer at Lifetime Fitness, has had a similar experience comparing Lark Chapel Hill's gym to his job now. He has worked in a number of places in the fitness industry and believes that this lack of supervision and upkeep from apartment gyms may be due to a reduced financial need for the gym to stay open.
"They're not concerned as much about keeping the gym open. If they have to close the gym because people got COVID in there, it's probably not as a big of a deal to them as a fitness center," he said.
Hogan believes that monitoring is important because of how politically charged the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent precautions have become.
For him, the biggest change from working at a gym before the pandemic compared to after reopening is the amount of conflict that comes with asking people to abide by procedures. Before, he seldom had issues when asking people to clean machines or follow other gym guidelines, but now, he feels like even the simplest requests can result in conflict.
"A lot of people don't realize that these rules are in place to keep this place open, not to push their own agenda," Hogan said.
For Jon Sevier, a club rower at UNC who works out at Rams Head Recreation Center on campus, the monitoring that happens at on-campus gyms is welcome. While he finds the new procedures, such as limited squat racks, deadlift areas and the banning of spotters, a little difficult to work around, he understands that the new procedures and their enforcement are in his best interest.
"I'm very happy that they have those monitors, because while it is someone just watching you, I would rather have to deal with that than have the gym go away in a week and I don't have anywhere to strength train," Sevier said.
Even with all the changes, the gym remains an important part of people's daily routines and works as an outlet to work through school and pandemic stress.
"My mental health is going to rapidly improve now that I can just put everything that bothers me into a workout," Sevier said. "It was a very cathartic experience walking down the stairs of Rams on shaky legs after squatting."
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