Oregon gyms in ‘extreme risk’ counties adapt to COVID guidelines

One gym put up two large tents to house equipment for outdoor workouts. Another went with posting pre-recorded workouts online.

TIGARD, Ore. — Most businesses in Oregon have had to adapt to whatever 2020 has thrown at them and gyms are no different.

On a rainy Wednesday morning, members of Bay Club Portland in Tigard were busy lifting weights and getting their daily workout in.

“Working out gives me the ability to keep in shape, but also gives me mental relaxation and releases my stress from day to day business,” member Joe Alexander said.

Within 10 days of Gov. Kate Brown announcing a new set of COVID-19 regulations statewide, Bay Club Portland went to work and erected two large, 5,000-square-foot tents in the parking lot of their Tigard facility. 

Under Oregon state regulations, indoor recreation and fitness are prohibited in “extreme risk” counties. Outdoor gyms can have a maximum of 50 people.

RELATED: 29 Oregon counties listed as ‘extreme risk’ of COVID-19 spread

“We knew the importance of mental and physical well-being for our members and our associates as well,” said Michael Murphy, general manager and vice president of Bay Club Portland. “When the new guidelines came out, early December we were able to pivot and make the financial investment into these very large pavilions.”

The tents at Bay Club Portland house most of the workout equipment that was offered indoors. They are 75{50531db320f8e8a316d79d6a285e47c71b6e4f6739df32858cb86474d7e720e9} open to allow for constant airflow, and masks must be worn at all times. Online reservations must also be made for each half hour.

“This is incredible, we have treadmills, we have stair steppers, we have free-weights, we have selectors, we have so many options for them to do almost their complete normal workout and we continue to adapt to what we’re allowed to do from a guideline and safety standpoint,” said Murphy. 

A recent University of Oregon study found there to be no correlation between fitness centers and the spread of the virus.

“A cursory glance at Colorado’s COVID-19 case data showed that there were 59 different outbreaks reported from March 6, 2020 to November 18, 2020 which accounted for more than 9,700 positive COVID-19 cases. None of the reported outbreak settings were associated with traditional gyms or health clubs,” the Oregon Consulting Group, a U of O student-run consulting group, wrote in a summary of their findings.

RELATED: Oregon gym manager says closing hurts clients as much as business

Another Tigard gym called The House is a HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) workout style gym. 

It can’t utilize its parking lot for outdoor fitness because of liability concerns. Instead, the gym is posting pre-recorded workouts online.

“It’s definitely not the same. It’s hard,” said owner and training coach Mike Van Tassel. “It’s hard because I feel like they can see us, we can’t see them. It’s very hard to give back and it’s very hard to connect. People come to these type of places because they’re seen and heard.”

Van Tassel said it’s difficult for gyms to create two-week business plans, referring to the state updating the “county risk” map every two weeks.

“You don’t know if you’re going to be doing this for two weeks or four weeks or two months, so it’s hard to create a plan with your team and get everybody bought into what you’re trying to do,” Van Tassel said.

The Oregon Health & Fitness Alliance wrote a letter to Gov. Brown urging her to reconsider closing down indoor gyms, but instead allow them with certain restrictions.