Stoughton fitness centers pumped for recovery – News – Holbrook Sun

The adrenaline was palpable at Elite Health & Fitness, a multi-level fitness and physical therapy center on Stoughton’s Central Street. The facility where sports heroes such as Olympian Jim Craig and Red Sox star Mo Vaughn received care now is hoping to bounce back stronger than ever from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Co-directors and co-owners Peter Rappoli and Keith Callahan have been friends since before they attended Stoughton High School together. Callahan, a physical therapist, and Rappoli, a personal trainer, decided to pool their talents into the franchise almost 20 years ago.

“We started off in a small place in Stoughton,” Callahan said. “We ended up building this place with our bare hands in 2010 on an old pig farm.”

A huge male figure greets everyone at the door reminding people with a sign to wear masks, be respectful and practice social distancing.

“We figured this would make a statement,” Rappoli joked.

There are two physical therapy clinics, one for the general public and a separate one for athletes like Vaughn, who had Rappoli as his personal trainer during his days with the Sox and Angels. The facility boasts an indoor track and rooms including cycles, specialized weigh machines, treadmills and hydromassage chairs. One out of every three is available for use due to social distancing, and they immediately are sanitized.

The owners also installed self-sanitizing handles on some of the doors that kill bacteria and viruses.

He noted that three Division 1 collegiate athletes – a soccer player and two football players – were at the center that day.

“They don’t even know if they’ll have a season this year,” Rappoli said. “That’s the challenge.”

The duo worked to make the environment more inviting for returning customers. Callahan, who also is a carpenter and an artist, used the time during COVID-19 to create scenic environmental murals throughout the complex.

“We wanted to make people feel relaxed while they worked out,” he said. “Everyone has been going through enough with the pandemic.”

Jen “Coco” Fellini has been a member for 18 years. She started doing a bootcamp, returned for physical therapy and came back to keep in shape.

“Everyone’s been here for years, so its reputation speaks for itself,” she said. “I was in a body brace, but they brought me back. I was dying to get back after COVID”

“I had no concerns coming back here,” added Bill Hanney, who has been a client for 16 years. “They always do a great job. And, from what I see here, they have gone above and beyond keeping everything clean. They are back, better than ever.”

Another Stoughton gym owner, Tom Martini, who has owned and operated 24/7 Family Fitness on Tosca Drive for 20 years, said he is thrilled to have clients return after four months.

“The members who have come back are ecstatic,” he said. “And I am so excited to have them. We have done everything to prepare for them.”

The 50,000 square-foot center boasts a 25×10-yard saltwater pool, professional boxing room and ring, women’s-only fitness room and an indoor track. Amenities including the saunas and steam rooms cannot be used due to COVID-19 restrictions.

“My place is huge, so I am very fortunate,” Martini said. “There are plenty of places to stay away from each other.”

COVID-19, however, has placed fears in even the most devoted clients. Some fitness aficionados of nearly two decades have returned, but others have hesitated – at least for now.

“The elderly people are petrified to come back,” Martini said. “This is their resource for fitness. I’ve had maybe one in 20 older people come back because they just don’t want to take the risk.”

As a smaller business, it is harder for him to bounce back than corporate chains.

“I wanted to hire back all of my people,” he said. “Right now I am interviewing because I have four staff people who have returned. None of the others want to come back if they can make $600 a week on unemployment.”

Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation, or FPUC, automatically boosts all Americans’ unemployment payments by $600 per week. That provision of the $2.2 trillion CARES Act expires on July 31 unless Congress acts to extend it.

Martini considers this a blow in what already will be an uphill climb to the industry’s rehabilitation.

“The recovery plan was not well thought out,” he said. “People should have been paid what they are making now, not $600 a week. And why should people who are businesspeople like architects get that money, when it is the small businesses like the gyms and the restaurants that have been struggling?”

For example, Martini said he received a Payback Protection Payment (PPP) loan, which was designed for small business owners to keep their employees on the payroll.

“But the business was shut down, so I couldn’t use it,” he said. “And if I don’t have employees because of the way the benefits were given out, it just doesn’t make sense. The whole thing is ludicrous the way it was passed.”

Martini invested his life’s savings into 24/7 Family Fitness. About 75{50531db320f8e8a316d79d6a285e47c71b6e4f6739df32858cb86474d7e720e9} of his expense go toward paying the bills, such as electric and taxes. The bills kept coming, but the income did not.

“I’m not looking for extra money,” he said. “I just want to be able to take care of my bills. I want to be able to put me back to square one, before the pandemic. But the local officials don’t understand it’s hard to pay the taxes now.”

Both gyms are hoping everything will work out well in the new normal.