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Finding a Balance

It’s break time at the YMCA at Austin Rec Center and Elyse Hebrink looks like a ghostbuster.

She wears a backpack full of disinfectant as she walks up and down the aisles, spraying down equipment in a flash.

A couple of blocks away, Troy Williams, owner of IMPACT fitness, is marking off lines for social distancing and figuring out how he is going to teach his “hands on” martial arts classes without any physical contact.

Area gyms are opening their doors due to reduced regulations, but that does not mean they aren’t worried about the COVID-19 pandemic.

At the YMCA, members are only allowed to enter the building if they have a reservation for a time slot and some activities are still being limited. For those who have made the trip to the gym, it has been worth the wait.

Dan Reed has been a member of the YMCA since the 1980s. He was one of the first ones through the doors when the YMCA reopened its doors last week. He was thrilled to get back at it and work on some weight lifting and cardio.

“I was looking forward to it immensely, because I’m not motivated enough to work out at home. Now it’s just getting back in the swing of things. I was waiting patiently for it to reopen,” Reed said. “It’s been really quiet. There’s probably a half a dozen people up here. I was surprised how low the numbers really were. I guess people are still holding back and waiting to see what happens.”

Bryce Becker, Director of Healthy Living at the YMCA, said the facility has gone above and beyond in its efforts to keep all members safe.

The class sizes have been limited, social distancing is being enforced and there is a 30-minute clean down period every hour.

“We want to make sure everybody feels comfortable coming into our building,” Becker said. “We’re starting with kind of a soft opening and the recreational area will be limited.”

At this point, nobody can stay in the facility for more than an hour. The pool is open for individual laps, but the family pool remains closed. Masks are required for anyone entering and leaving the facility.

The YMCA is still offering curbside and virtual classes, but the facility will continue to push forward towards a “full open” as it is allowed to do so.

“It’s different. We were only open a month after the grand opening for this spectacular facility and we had to shut down. It’s noticeable,” Becker said. “This place was packed before and it was a ton of fun, and now with people having some reservations and us having some control, the numbers are a bit down. We’re trying to keep everybody safe. That’s our number one priority. We’re trying to go over and above with the reservation system and the lines on the floor.”

Williams spent much of the pandemic providing online classes for free and he even virtually handed out a couple of belts to students who made strides over the break. Now he’s ready to get back to face-to-face teaching as IMPACT Fitness is planning on opening up its doors on July 6.

Williams is limiting the use of equipment and no weights will be shared. He will also utilize exercise bands for the gym’s FAST camp this summer.

“The challenge is going to be the martial arts part of it. We can do the fitness part of it and we can keep our six feet of distance with that,” Williams said. “We’re going to have the four and five year olds wear masks. They’ll look like little ninjas doing karate. You’ve got to make light of it with a four or five year old’s mentality.  We want to get it back to somewhere normal.”

IMPACT is going to limit its class sizes to 20 or less and it will create a safe learning environment for all of its students.

“I’m a hands on guy and if someone’s pushing their hands this way, I move it, but I can’t do that anymore,” Williams said. “It’s going to be a lot of verbal instructions.”