‘Nobody wants to see the gyms shut down’: Fitness centers cope with new COVID masking rules

RedZone Fitness in Weston has never known life without restrictions.

The gym opened in July, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the facility’s members and staff have had to grapple with sanitizing, masking and socially distancing requirements ever since. That said, given the smallness of classes, patrons were able to stay far enough apart that they didn’t have to wear masks while working out, said Elana Goldblatt, part owner, studio manager and lead coach at RedZone Fitness

“People had to wear a mask while walking to their spot (and elsewhere in the gym),” Goldblatt said — just not while working out.

That has changed.

On Nov. 20, Gov. Ned Lamont signed an executive order that, among things, required patrons of all gyms and fitness centers in the state to wear masks at all times, “with no exceptions.”

Previously, establishments didn’t have to require that patrons wear a mask during workouts as long as they maintained at least 12 feet of social distance while exercising. The capacity limit at gyms was also reduced, from 50 percent to 25 percent.

The new regulations are an attempt to curb the spread of COVID-19 in Connecticut, which has spiked over the past several weeks. Requiring face coverings at all times can be potentially helpful in the gym environment, said Keith Grant, senior system director of infection prevention for Hartford HealthCare.

“One of the primary (COVID-19) symptoms that we’re most concerned with is coughing,” Grant said during a Tuesday press conference. “The mechanics of coughing is moving the actual particles forward. That is also seen with an increase in the rate of breathing, such as that which happen with exercising.”

Wearing a mask can help prevent those particles from being pushed out, and can keep spread down, Grant said.

Goldblatt said the new restrictions pose some challenges for clients. The gym offers different classes every day and, on Monday, the first day of classes at the gym following the mask requirement, RedZone had a cardio workout class.

“It was hard on Monday because it was a very intense day and the very first day (people were) wearing a mask to work out,” Goldblatt said. “But I think the longer you wear mask while working out, the easier it is. It’s like working out — the first day you do it is going be harder than the fifth day.”

It is another hurdle at a time that’s been full of them, but Goldblatt said if the new guidelines allow gyms like RedZone to remain operational, she and her clients will try to take them in stride.

“We are open,” Goldblatt said. “We still have clients. I will take this as a win.”

Greta Wagner, executive director of Chelsea Piers in Stamford, had a similar attitude. Before the new regulations, she said, “We had a few mask-free zones where people could work out because we had 12-foot distancing. It was very appreciated by clients. It made it much more enjoyable, when people could work out

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How To Cope With 2020 Election Stress

The 2020 election season has already been unlike any other, so if you’re feeling especially anxious about what the results might be, just know you’re not alone.

“Things are extremely stressful, due to the sheer fact that the election is mounting on top of all of the other factors we’re dealing with, like the [COVID-19] pandemic and social unrest,” says Thea Gallagher, PsyD, an assistant professor at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. “It feels like there’s a lot of pressure around the election and, if the results aren’t what you hope, it can feel like the world is ending.”

That can create an all-or-nothing atmosphere, which might make you spiral into worst-case-scenario mode at a moment’s notice.

There’s an undercurrent of fear, too. “In general, we become stressed when we believe that something we care about, or have a stake in, is threatened or being harmed,” says Craig Smith, PhD, associate professor of psychology and human development at Vanderbilt University. “Election Day can be highly stressful for people who care deeply about the outcome.”

Those feelings can be particularly heavy for people in marginalized communities. “Many are hoping for meaningful change going forward and, if you don’t believe that’s going to happen, that can feel stressful,” Gallagher says.

With all these different concerns factoring into your stress, it can be hard to think about anything but the election right now. And, while it’s okay to have it on the brain, there are a few things you can do to limit how frazzled you feel about everything:

1. Acknowledge that this could take a while.

“One of the things I’m warning people against is white-knuckling it until November 4, because there’s a chance this won’t be resolved in a day,” Gallagher says. Recognizing that and setting realistic expectations for how long there will be uncertainty around the election is important, she says.

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2. Recognize what you can (and can’t) control.

Aside from doing your part at the polls or volunteering for the causes you believe in, you can’t make the entire country lean the way you want them to. (Lame, huh?) Gallagher recommends practicing mindfulness to try to just focus on being in the moment. Apps like Stop, Breathe & Think offer free guided meditations to help you stay centered.

3. Be aware of how much news you’re consuming.

Yeah, you want to stay informed and, clearly, you should. But constantly reading posts and stories about the election can leave you feeling more stressed out than before, Gallagher says.

4. Set “breathers” during your day.

Schedule time throughout each day to take whatever necessary steps you need to put the election out of your mind, even just for a little bit, Smith says. During that blocked-off time, focus on things you love, even if

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