Gov. Whitmer closes gyms and fitness centers

Michael H. Hodges
The Detroit News

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued an executive order Monday morning closing all gyms and fitness centers through Mar. 30.

In addition to gyms and a wide range of public accommodations including restaurants, bars, libraries, casinos and museums, the order also specifically shutters recreation centers, indoor sports facilities, indoor exercise facilities, exercise studios and spas.

Kenneth Martin, of Madison Heights, works out his triceps Saturday at The Royal Oak Gym.

At Royal Oak Gym, manager and owner Matt Brimer is philosophical.

"It leaves me kind of upset and bummed," he said, "but nothing much I can do. No point getting too mad about it."

The governor's order mandates affected businesses close by 3 p.m. Mon., Mar. 16, but Brimer says that hasn't stopped people from coming beforehand. 

"We've got about 15 people here right now," he said just before noon. 

In some respects, gyms and fitness centers find themselves in a better position than restaurants, for example, since health facilities often rely on memberships, rather than a pay-as-you-go system. At Royal Oak Gym, Brimer estimates they've got about 1,000 members, though also take walk-ins who pay a daily rate. 

The membership model, which accounts for the majority of his clients,  "might shield some" owners from the worst impacts of a shut-down, he said. Most of Royal Oak Gym's members, he adds, are on monthly memberships. 

Asked whether he thinks he'll actually be able to reopen April 1, Brimer said, "I sure hope so." 

Thomas Deschamps of Farmington Hills makes his way into Powerhouse Gym in Novi for one last workout a few hours before the public gym and all others in the state of Michigan close at 3 p.m.  Monday by executive order of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

But another gym-goer who got in one last workout before Powerhouse Gym Novi closed Monday afternoon was uncertain whether the situation really warrants such draconian steps.

"I'm miserable," said Thomas Deschamps of Farmington Hills. "Not only am I a frequent gym goer, but I'm also an executive chef at Granite City in Northville. This affects everything."

He points to the drop in new cases in China, and suggests Europe's also seeing improvements -- though recent figures coming out of Italy and Spain challenge that. 

"I just think losses in income for everybody who works in a restaurant and other facilities that have been closed outweigh the risk," Deschamps said. "I don’t think anybody should have been ordered to close unless we’re under martial law." 

Zagros Zangana, of Waterford, does dips during his warm ups Saturday at The Royal Oak Gym.

But there's no reason you have to lose all the gains you might have racked up in recent months, says trainer Johnathan Lamonte Sails-Walker, who under ordinary circumstances works at Crunch Fitness in Warren.

He and fellow trainer and husband Brandon Walker-Sails are launching a series of YouTube and Facebook exercise videos people can plug into while the metro area's gymnasiums are shuttered. 

"Don’t stop just because the gyms are closed," Sails-Walker said. "A lot of people have been working hard since the beginning of the year, and you don’t want to lose those gains. Stay motivated, stay focused."

Sails-Walker, who has a Master's in exercise science from Wayne State, says you can still get in your workout with materials you probably have right at home.

"If you don’t have equipment," he said, "I’m going to teach you how to improvise. You look around your house – if you don’t have a yoga mat, go to the next best thing, a bath towel. No dumb bells? You can use canned goods."

Clearly, since Sails-Walker makes his money by training clients at the gym, he's not wild about the closures. But he understands where the governor is coming from. 

"Working out at the gym is good," he said, "but you have to realize you’re in a closed setting. Everybody’s breathing the same air, and might not be wiping down their equipment properly."

Sails-Walker says the videos will cover a wide range of workout possibilities. "We're going to do stretching, lifting, and some cardiovascular-type stuff, all the way from beginners to high-intensity training."

To find Sails-Walker on Facebook, just search for his full name. 

To find the pair's YouTube exercise videos once they're up online, search for "Faith, love and fitness with J&B."

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Twitter: @mhodgesartguy