WORTHINGTON — Fitness clubs and facilities are doing their bit to keep people fit after a lot of sitting during the early months of mandatory shutdown due to COVID-19.

In Minnesota, gyms, personal fitness and yoga studios, and martial arts facilities were able to reopen on June 10 at 25% capacity.

The Worthington Area YMCA, Prairie Rehab & Fitness and GreatLIFE Golf & Fitness Club all had plans in place to welcome back their members, with spacing and sanitation requirements keenly observed at all sites.

“We asked our members to stay with us during the shutdown,” said Meredith Daley, executive

director and CEO of the YMCA. “Our expenses continued, but we offered the options of putting memberships on hold or cancelling, and we waived our normal 60-day cancellation policy during that time.”

GreatLIFE suspended its membership billing for fitness club users during the facility’s closure, explained GreatLIFE general manager Ben Johnson.

“But as soon as we reopened, people returned,” he said. “We have made sure our equipment is spaced according to the guidelines, and no more than 10 people can be in the fitness area at a time.

“We also added more signage about cleaning, on top of the daily cleaning we do, because we want people to have a way to exercise while staying safe and healthy.”

Mark Gustafson, fitness manager at Prairie Rehab & Fitness, clarified that the facility’s therapy patients retained supervised access to the fitness area even during the shutdown.

“Otherwise, our fitness area was closed for 88 days,” said Gustafson. “Since we reopened in June, we’ve had a mix of people returning, but there may still be some nervousness for certain demographic groups about being out in public.

“We’ve had maybe half the regular numbers we usually see, but the main thing is we want people to stay active, whether that’s walking or biking outside or doing body-weight exercises at home.”

Gustafson detailed Prairie Rehab’s new routine.

“We require people coming in on the fitness side to wear masks, and we ask them to apply hand sanitizer both when they enter and leave,” he said. “There are spray bottles filled with sanitizer around the fitness area so people can wipe down the machines they use when they’re finished, and staff members sanitize all contact surfaces and locker rooms every couple of hours.”

“We’re on top of what needs to happen,” he added, mentioning that machines have been spaced out to a six-feet distancing guideline and when that isn’t possible, certain machines are marked to alternate exercisers at a safe space.

Staff at the YMCA have spread out weight machines on the main gym’s north side, with other fitness equipment also spaced differently than patrons were familiar with it being prior to the pandemic’s onset.

“Everything is appropriately socially distanced,” assured Daley. “And we have extra sanitizing stations and extra cleaning protocols, plus staff on hand at all times to offer members assistance in wiping down equipment in between uses to ease transition times.”

Members interested in YMCA group exercise classes had the chance to return to those workouts in mid-June, too.

“Depending on the size, some classes meet outdoors on nice days — or they meet indoors in the south gym,” said Daley, listing the Silver Sneakers group, Fusion and Strength Train Together classes among those once again up and running.

In addition, Daley said the Y was able to offer some of its normal summer youth sports programs, like T-ball, tennis and track and field — albeit with somewhat later start dates than usual.

“We moved forward with our programs, though on a little smaller scale,” said Daley. “We didn’t have as many registrants as in a normal year, but people still want to do things and be active so we are serving the community in every way we possibly can.”

To illustrate the challenges the Y faced, Daley mentioned T-ball.

“Kids used to share helmets, so we had to assign each child a helmet,” she said. “And we needed to pay attention to practice times, and add an extra staff person for temperature-taking and wiping down bats in between uses.

“Yes, there were challenges, but I feel we’ve overcome them in a really good way as we’ve shifted to meet the needs and demands.”

Daley is particularly pleased the Y was able to accommodate 35 five- to 10-year-olds for its summer camp. She credits the cooperative spirit of Minnesota West Community and Technical College, which has provided additional classroom space, for helping make it possible.

“Typically, we’ve had up to 54 kids involved, but we needed to keep a ratio of nine kids to one counselor and space out more,” Daley said.

“In some locations (in other towns) where they normally had 150 kids at camp they’re down to 30, so we think it’s good we could retain over 50% of our normal enrollment figures.

“We’ve been excited to be able to offer the camp opportunity because we knew there would be a need for it.”

Currently, the Y staff is gearing up for a four-day swim camp (open to youth ages six to 18) that is scheduled for Aug. 17-20.

“We really strive to be an outlet for fitness and well-being, with our focus areas of healthy living,

youth development and social responsibility,” said Daley. “We want to be good community partners and offer as many things as we safely can.”

While masks are required when entering and exiting and in all common areas, YMCA exercise enthusiasts are able to remove them (in accordance with state guidelines) while working out.

“We definitely encourage mask-wearing otherwise,” stressed Daley.

An advantage at Prairie Rehab, Gustafson said, is that he is a personal trainer and therapists are also on hand to make sure patrons are exercising properly and safely.

“We’re open, and people can still get personal attention here while exercising in safe ways,” said Gustafson.

Added Daley, “The Y is committed to providing the best experience we can, given the circumstances, and we’re keeping everything as clean as possible for member satisfaction and to ensure everyone feels safe coming in.”

For more information about programs and fitness opportunities, contact: Worthington Area YMCA, 376-6197; Prairie Rehab & Fitness, 372-2232; GreatLIFE Golf & Fitness Club, 376-5142.