Some of the Licking County’s college athletes train together during the offseason at Showtime Strength & Performance in Newark.
GRANVILLE – Clint and Tami Cox have been able to continue training their three kids at their facility, but they dearly miss their extended family.
The co-owners of Total Athletic Development in Granville will welcome them back with open arms when the facility re-opens Tuesday under the state’s RestartOhio plan. It has been a gut-wrenching last two months since the coronavirus pandemic reached Licking County.
“It was hard at the beginning because we would get personal messages, ‘Hey, can I come train?’” Clint Cox said. “For us to have to tell people no — it’s the only reason we built the facility — it was tough to tell people you can’t come here. It’s good to have those kids that have trained with us since they were 8 years old and been there place to go to be able to have them back.”
Since facilities were closed in mid-March, owners across the state have expressed frustration over watching other “essential” businesses continue to operate. Many small facilities emphasize one-on-one interaction and training in small groups making social distancing easier.
Finally, owners received word May 14 from Lt. Gov. Jon Husted they could proceed toward a return to business. Husted announced several sports with no or limited contact also can resume Tuesday.
“I hadn’t watched any of (Gov. Mike DeWine’s) conferences in a few weeks, and my clients were the ones that started texting me,” said Nick Showman, owner of Showtime Strength & Performance in Newark. “I was reading a book, and I went to check my phone. Then, it became an anxious waiting game of we can open, but what do we have to do and how many people are we allowed to have?”
The guidelines for re-opening include requiring or suggesting everything from screening processes, extensive cleaning, facility capacity limits and equipment usage.
Storm Strout, CEO of CrossFit Veneration in Johnstown, said the two-month shutdown has been an opportunity for facility owners to re-evaluate their procedures and increase their vigilance.
“We have made some quality improvements, and those that we have made will stick around forever,” Strout said. “We have rose to the occasion. Our cleaning procedures have always been professional and top of the line, but we have highlighted a couple areas we could improve. As far as the functionality and practicality of how we run a class, we are putting a 16-person limit, which I am most excited about because it allows a quality coach-to-client ratio.”
Showman noted much of his business already is appointment-based, so that will provide additional record of who comes and goes. Before DeWine’s initial stay-at-home order in late March, he already had made plans to take many of the precautions that have been required and even a few more.
“Facilities like ours have an advantage because everything is more controllable,” Showman said. “We are going to stay way under the number of people we are allowed to have just because our people don’t stay stationery. There are moving parts. The distancing guidelines we have no issues there. I was very surprised and very happy to see the news that we were opening, and once the guidelines came out, I felt even better.”
The Buckeye Valley Family YMCA will also reopen all of its branches on May 26. The first phase will include wellness centers in Newark, Pataskala and Zanesville with limited hours of operations. Additonal phases will include pools, group fitness classes, locker rooms, child watch and additional hours.
“When we closed our facilities in March, we did so to protect the health and well-being of all our staff, volunteers, members and participants. As we now reopen our facilities, we do so with that same commitment to keeping everyone who enters our doors safe,” director Ed Bohren said in a statement.
Tami Cox said those using TAD will generally be initially limited to those clients already working with staff personal trainers or the facility’s sport coaches. She hopes to allow walk-ins and team use of facilities as more guidance is provided.
Many of TAD’s athletes are college students like Nikki and Katie Cox, who are members of the Bowling Green women’s soccer team, or younger. They have been forced to train at home with limited or no equipment while attempting to not only maintain fitness but also mental strength in advance of an upcoming school sports season.
“There are a lot of kids that have been off for a couple months that are just ready to get back to doing activities,” Tami Cox said. “Trainers develop a relationship with people, and when you have to go without seeing them for two months, that definitely makes it difficult on everybody.”
Two months ago, Strout assigned each of his members a personal trainer, and Veneration has continued with an extensive at-home workout plan.
For some, that has become a new normal, adding remote training to busy work and family schedules. For others, the return to a supportive but competitive environment will be welcome.
“Our facility closed, but our gym never closed,” Strout said. “The thing we have heard most is that is the only bit of normalcy they had through all of this, and now being able to work together in person is like icing on the cake.”