Forced To Close Because Of COVID-19, Gyms Work Out Ways To Keep Workouts Going


Fitness centers in the Gainesville area are encouraging members to incorporate their laptops into their workout routines.

As of Tuesday, March 24, Alachua Country has 37 cases of COVID-19, according to the Florida Department of Health. Gov. Ron DeSantis ordered gyms to close statewide to help slow the virus’s spread in Florida.

As the world shuts down in response to the pandemic, local businesses that rely on hands-on interactions like fitness facilities are left to develop innovative ways to stay afloat.

Gyms have attempted to move to their fitness instruction online, uploading videos on apps and websites to reach their members.

“We are encouraging our members and the community to embrace doing different things,” said Debbie Lee, Gainesville Health and Fitness’ senior marketing director.

Lee and her gym are developing ways to serve members while they practice social distancing. Instructors have started filming YouTube videos that members can use to work out at home. Some have already been posted.

Gainesville Health and Fitness has more than 400 employees. Lee said it is taking steps to ensure these employees continue getting paid.

“Our staff is the most important,” she said.

Members, she said, will be able to freeze or cancel their accounts by calling the gym. However, even those who choose to cancel will still have access to the free workout apps and videos, some of them offered in partnership with Les Mills workouts and TRX training.

It’s a chance to try new workouts and let your body feel something different, Lee said.

Elegant Body Pilates owner Jacqueline Valdez is trying to provide training for her clients, too.

She plans to release dance videos for her members to follow along at home. She also has plans to form a small group of three members to go outside and dance, following the Centers for Disease Control’s guidelines on social distancing.

“It’s hard when students are proactive and wanting to get fit and then their routine changes,” Valdez said.

Although fitness centers are finding alternatives for their members, the executive order to have them close shops means lost income, said Valdez.

The studio offers classes in pole dancing, pilates circuits and personal training. Valdez runs the studio herself. She is trying to come up with ways to keep her 20 members engaged while the coronavirus puts in-person instruction on hold.

Valdez relies on her pilates studio as her main source of income. She said she’s scared her utilities will shut off in her studio, and her members won’t be able to return after things blow over.

“I’m not sure when I’m going to be able to return back to work, so that’s really frightening,” Valdez said.

Personal trainer Austin Beck, 32, said he continues to serve his 25 clients online through Skype. He’s offering discounted rates for new clients in hopes of continuing work.

“I understand the need to close populous gyms because of the risk, but people still need to keep their health in the front of their priorities,” Beck said.

People don’t want to pay for a fitness trainer when they have other matters to worry about, so he’s concerned his business will suffer.

David Hanson, 36, evaluation coordinator for the University of Florida and the Institute of Food and Agriculture Sciences family nutrition program, used to go to Crossfit 352 five or six times a week before it closed.

The gym is setting up free zoom workouts and providing free equipment rentals to help members stay fit, he said.

“I am hoping to get back into my groove soon,” he said.

About Hannah Rarick

Hannah is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing

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