Opinion | Please Gov. Whitmer, let my gyms reopen for my workers and members

Jayne Szukalowski is a small-business owner who operates several Anytime Fitness franchises in Northern Michigan.

For several months, we’ve been fighting to stop the spread of the coronavirus in the United States. During that time, people both here in Michigan and across the country have taken a number of steps so they can do their part to help, whether they are working from home, staying indoors on the weekends, or simply wearing a mask when they leave the house.

Sadly, this has also caused a number of unintended economic consequences as small businesses everywhere struggle to see their way through to the end of this epidemic. It’s been challenging for many to stay afloat while also keeping their employees on board and preparing to reopen. Small gyms have been especially hard-hit, as a recent appeals court decision requires them to stay closed in all but a few areas.

I run a number of Anytime Fitness franchises in Michigan and, despite a strong start to the year, our momentum was suddenly halted once the state’s stay-at-home order was put into place. However, just like other small businesses, we’ve been doing everything we can to both serve our members and keep our employees on the payroll. Everyone on our team knew we had to stick together during all of this, and we have thankfully been able to take this time to expand what we can offer to our members.

While we’ve been closed, we have revisited projects to help improve our facilities and have also expanded our services to include virtual workout sessions for members. We’ve even used these virtual workouts to set up different challenges to help raise money to benefit our community with donations to the Wounded Warrior Project.

While these virtual workout offerings have been a big hit and our members have really enjoyed them, we are also ready to begin reopening in a way that will allow members to come back in while going above and beyond to meet all necessary health guidelines. Many of our members are ready to begin coming back to our gyms, and we have a plan to welcome them back safely. In fact, small gyms are uniquely positioned to stay flexible and make adjustments to suit health officials’ recommendations.

Our gyms are small, which makes it easier to follow specific health protocols that will keep our facilities sanitary. This includes regularly cleaning the gyms with medical grade cleaning equipment, following social distancing recommendations, making sure hand sanitizer is readily available, and avoiding equipment sharing. Because of our gyms’ smaller size, we can also effectively limit the number of members in the facility at a given time.

Allowing small gyms like ours to begin reopening across the entire state will provide Michiganders with the outlet they need to work on improving their physical and mental health while building their immune systems in the process. These have been a tough few months for staying active, and gyms can provide a support system and a compass for people looking to get back into shape and achieve their fitness goals.

That’s why it is vital for our state government to allow small businesses, and particularly small gyms, to reopen in a limited capacity. Reopening will allow businesses to once again focus their efforts on investing in their work and their employees. Gyms have a unique role to play in the weeks and months ahead to help our state stay healthy, and we are both ready and able to meet the challenge.

My team is working hard to prepare for our reopening so they can get back to doing what they do best: inspiring people and changing lives. Beyond our local members, we have guests from all over the country – especially during our beautiful Michigan summers – and we take a lot of pride in helping them on their fitness journeys. While we may not have as many travelers visiting us this summer, we will still be ready to help everyone we can.

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Bruce Kirkland
Fri, 07/24/2020 - 6:13pm

I've been going to the gym for most of my 69 years. While I understand your pain I don't see how you can open safely

Kathi Geukes
Sun, 07/26/2020 - 9:11am

Thank you!! I feel the same way!! With all the huffing and puffing and sweating that goes on in a gym?? No way can they open safely and keep Covid at bay!!!!

Art Max
Mon, 07/27/2020 - 8:05am

But you must be getting bored in your bomb shelter, no? Paranoia kills.

Thu, 08/13/2020 - 12:57pm

Get a clue - COVID-19 is NOT transmitted by sweat.

Mike Billings
Mon, 07/27/2020 - 1:15pm

Maybe if you opened your eyes and actually read the thing, you would know.

Kevin Grand
Fri, 07/24/2020 - 7:55pm

Stories like this are really tragic, and show very a serious disconnect between public "servants" and their literal boss.

We have people getting assaulted, shot and stabbed to death (don't forget the thousands of dead Michigan seniors, either) because we're all supposed to unquestionably obey government edicts based on specious "data" & "science" that never is divulged to the general public.

Michigan's economy is a spiraling train wreck, with Lansing playing musical chairs with money in a vain attempt to make everything whole again.

That same public "servant" actually had the audacity to take it upon herself to differentiate between who is and is not considered "essential".

Hint: EVERY business here in Michigan is essential!

I'm honestly surprised that more people have not spoken out about this and just unilaterally taken it upon themselves to not only open up shop, but to do the other things as well that we had done prior to the current power tripping governor's latest escapades.

Demarcus Lewis
Fri, 07/24/2020 - 8:34pm

Thank you very much for your plea. I feel the same way and am desperate for gyms to reopen. The fact that the mental health benefits as well and the obvious physical benefits of the gym are being so marginalized and trivialized by the governor is disheartening. I pray that that something changes soon as I am beyond desperate to get back to my healthy lifestyle.

Sat, 07/25/2020 - 9:32am

I have been in agreement with the governor on most fronts, regarding the virus, but not allowing the gums to reopen saddens me. It’s so important for our physical AND mental health. Small gyms like Anytime fitness should be allowed to reopen ASAP.

middle of the mit
Sat, 07/25/2020 - 1:52pm

While I sympathize with your and others position, We have heard this argument about being able to open without consequences and yet..........Bars are still superspreaders, So are restaurants.

Are there going to be mask requirements when exercising? Are there going to be shields in place on every piece of equipment?





Will you take responsibility if your employees or customers get the virus, or are you hoping for immunity that your clientele and employees don't have?

Where is the concern for the safety of others?

It doesn't seem to be in supply in America.

Sun, 07/26/2020 - 3:12am

For the past 22 years I have exercised 5-6days/week. For sure, going to the gym is the one activity I miss most! I understand your desire to reopen and admire your altruism. But we are in a pandemic and this must be taken seriously. As much as I miss my workouts, under no circumstances will I return. The odds of contracting Novel Covid-19 are 50/50. The risk is too high and I will not gamble with my life.
Everyone should read The Great Influenza.
The only difference between 1918 and 2020 is that today we know better, but are not doing better. You cannot guarantee that no one will become sick and die because you opened your gym. The worse case scenario should also be part of your decision making process...the question is, can you live with 50% risk you cause to others? I wish I had an answer, but right now surviving consumes thoughts. It’s simply baffling that gyms are supposed to be places that promotes healthy living yet, medical and epidemiologist recommendations to stay closed are ignored. This is dire - please read about 1918.

Mon, 07/27/2020 - 9:10am

Every worker is essential. Everyone should have the right to decide whether or not they go to a gym, or a bar, a sports facility, or a concert. Workers and business should have the right to determine how they have their workspace set up and what gear they need. And as dreadful as it seems, we all have the right to decide whether or not we participate in what is called an unsafe event. New Hampshire says it best on every license plate - Live Free or Die.

Mon, 07/27/2020 - 6:10pm

Live Free or Die. No thanks

lifelong michigander
Tue, 07/28/2020 - 11:30am

Most of the states surrounding Michigan (Ohio, Indiana, Illinois) have opened gyms months ago. This circumstance is pure politics from our fair governor. I notice that all the gyms in the upper lower are all open. I Guess you don't have to follow the science, if you are in an area of the state near the governor's cabin.