Fitness centers still adjusting to COVID future | News

Plattsburgh — The majority of people aren’t as frequently interrupted by COVID-19, but when the virus first came rushing into people’s lives, gyms and fitness centers were hit hard, immediately closing their doors for an extended period.

How are those health clubs holding up now?

Some were able to rebuild, others are still struggling.

Tori Valentine, the general manager of Plattsburgh’s Planet Fitness, explained it has been a process to get to the point they are at now. Right after the pandemic hit, all Planet Fitnesses across the country were shut down for four months.

As the dust started to settle, limited capacity rates were introduced and fitness junkies could get back to doing what they love. The franchise even integrated their own form of social distancing: “social fitnessing,” Valentine said.

At the end of 2020 and into 2021, members still weren’t showing. It took until around March of 2022 for most of the regulars to return. That month, the franchise deemed it was safe to lift their “social fitnessing” restrictions, and by June 2022, all member COVID related restrictions had been lifted, Valentine said.


They are at a point where they are essentially breaking even, almost reaching the member attendance rates they had pre-COVID.

“We are still looking to drive those numbers up a little bit more just because we have lost a lot of people from the pandemic,” Valentine said.

Even though the attendance rates are improving, not everyone who used to come to Planet Fitness wants to return.

“We’ve actually had a couple members cancel their memberships just because they’re still not ready to come back to a gym setting with COVID,” Valentine said.


Julie Murnane, a long time member, has been going to Plattsburgh’s Planet Fitness for about five years. Back in 2020, the decision was simple for Murnane to stop coming to the gym.

“I didn’t come during the pandemic because I care for my in-laws who are both 90-years-old,” she said.

It wasn’t until just last year, 2022, she felt comfortable returning to her regular gym habits.

“The minute everything cleared up I started back because I just feel so much better when I exercise,” she said.

As well, the staff routinely cleans all the machines and other amenities, implementing a revised disinfecting schedule for staff to follow.

“We do our best to stay on top of the cleaning as much as possible,” Valentine said.


For The Klubhouse, business started when the pandemic hit. Krystal Lewis and Kathi Grabda are co-owners and instructors at The Klubhouse teaching a plethora of group exercise classes. Some of their most popular classes include spin, high-intensity interval training, zumba, core classes and strength classes.

“We opened right in the middle of COVID, so August, 2020,” Grabda said.

When people couldn’t go to their favorite fitness center anymore, The Klubhouse provided outdoor classes in large spaces, so the community could safely exercise and be together in an isolating time.

“Not a lot of other places were doing that,” Grabda said.

They opened during the height of the pandemic, and since, have felt the blow of fluctuating turnout, especially when cold and flu season hits.

“When sickness rates go up, we see a decrease in attendance,” Grabda said.

“I think they’re COVID shy, so it keeps them away,” Lewis noted.


Yet, even with the instability they face depending on the season and illness rates, they have had immense growth in their small business over the past couple years.

“I would say over the last two years we’ve definitely grown with attendance; the population here has expanded significantly,” Lewis said.

Grabda noted another major hit for some fitness centers are members who invested in at home gym equipment back in 2020.

“They get used to working out by themselves and now they like it, and they’re not coming back to the gym.”

Both Grabda and Lewis advocate for the group exercise setting due to the high energy atmosphere and comradery from members.


However, some fitness centers in the area weren’t as lucky. Stephen Galietta is the owner of J S Fit in downtown Plattsburgh. His business and livelihood were rattled when COVID hit. It crippled the customer base he once had.

“People were apprehensive about coming back into a gym and fitness setting,” he said.

“All my members went elsewhere.”

Nowadays, Galietta’s fitness center is much more intimate, working with a smaller group of people on a one-on-one basis.

“Less people and more personal training. That’s how I had to transform what I do here.”

Not to mention, COVID also affected his financial revenue. He’s rebuilt his business to the best of his ability with personal training and a single group exercise class for seniors.

On top of this, he’s also had to adapt his J S Fit safety precautions.

“You have to be symptom free to be in this gym setting,” he said.

“When you’re 100 percent fully recovered we can get you back on the schedule.”

But this wasn’t how it used to be and there has now been a generational shift due to COVID. In the past, “You were instructed when you don’t feel well, if capable, go to the gym and sweat it out,” Galietta said, which couldn’t be more opposed to today’s standards.


Transitioning into a new world with COVID wasn’t all grim for him though. Incorporating more personal training has been a rewarding experience for him.

“I’ve grown to enjoy the one-on-one’s and working with people and using my skill set and my background to really help people change and heal,” he said.

“I’m humbled and inspired by my members’ diligent work and consistency.”

One population he works with often are individuals with adaptive needs.

“One of my members was able to go to the Special Olympics and take home a gold medal,” he said.

He also learned going through COVID that he enjoys working with a new demographic, with most of his members being 40 and above. As a functional training coach, he focuses on “Improving the quality of our lives through movement, mindset [and] meditation.”

Even though he can make light of the situation, he said he will never be able to get back to the number of memberships he once had.

“We were a community. It wasn’t just coming to the gym and exercising,” he said.

“That community will never be what it was, with all those members.”

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