Fitness fans welcome chance to work out

Linda and Bud Rennard, of the Village of Bonita, use the equipment at MVP in Brownwood. The couple has been working out at home and power walking since the gym closed amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kim Counts wants to continue her weight-lifting routine. Ron Brown is eager to get back to the gym to help with his back issues. Both Villagers were able to get back to improving their bodies and health on Monday. Brown headed to MVP Athletic Club in Spanish Springs and Counts headed to the fitness club at Rohan Recreation Center.  After weeks of gyms being closed across the state because of the COVID-19 pandemic, many reopened on May 18 after Gov. Ron DeSantis signed an executive order allowing it. But the fitness clubs at Mulberry Grove, Colony Cottage, Fenney, Laurel Manor, Rohan and SeaBreeze recreation centers, as well as the MVP Athletic Club locations in Spanish Springs and Brownwood, waited longer to ensure they were fully prepared for guests. Those locations reopened Monday with some limitations and modified hours but ready to welcome back members.

Fitness Clubs

At the fitness clubs located within regional recreation centers throughout the community, the reopenings were a welcome sight for those who have missed their nearby exercise facilities.

Counts, of the Village of Hillsborough, relies on the fitness club at Rohan Recreation Center for both its weights and the socialization it provides her and her partner. They work remotely, and come for lunch.

Counts, a former bodybuilder, has been unable to maintain her weight-lifting routine without the equipment provided at the club. After calling nearly every day for weeks seeking updates on the facility’s reopening, she finally got the update she was hoping for in Recreation News.

“I checked the paper and it said ‘June 1’ and I was like ‘Thank goodness,’ and we came right down.”

The Villages Recreation and Parks Department waited to reopen to have enough time to communicate new opening plans, go through proper training and make scheduling changes, and are now glad to be open to residents, said John Rohan, director of the recreation department.

“It is another positive moment as our department continues to follow the governor’s phasing-in plan for safe operations of fitness clubs,” Rohan said.

The fitness clubs are operating at 50% capacity — depending on how many machines each center has — and guests can only work out for up to one hour. Social distancing of at least 6 feet is being practiced, staff are required to wear masks and several sanitation stations are provided. The department is asking fitness club guests to clean equipment before and after using it to ensure everyone remains safe.

“The residents have done a great job welcoming the directives,” said Kathleen Foltz, a fitness club attendant at Mulberry Grove Recreation Center. “They’ve even been happy, it seems, to be told what to do, so that they can stay safe themselves. You can just really tell they’ve missed coming in here these last few months.”

MVP Athletic Clubs

The MVP Athletic Clubs in The Villages had guests ready to come back in and workout too, guests like Brown.

Brown waited outside the MVP Athletic Club in Spanish Springs — a mask and gloves in hand — Monday morning. He was ready to get back in shape.

“I really miss it,” the Village of Briar Meadow resident said.

He stopped by the MVP in Spanish Springs last week hoping it was open and was disappointed when he saw it wasn’t yet.

Brown used to go to the gym two to three times a week.

He has lower back issues and many of the machines there have helped alleviate that pain. Since gyms have been closed he has been staying active by taking walks, but his back problems have worsened.

“The machines make a huge difference,” Brown said. “The machines you have here you can’t get at home.”

The MVP locations in The Villages are opening with a phased approach. Some services are not available, such as the towel service and showers,  according to the MVP Sports Clubs website. The locations are having guests practice social distancing, limiting the amount of people in the gyms at once and closing down temporarily a few times a day to thoroughly clean the area.

Operations have been going well, said Beth Ehinger, director of the MVP Athletic Club in Brownwood.

She encourages people to try and go out to any gym if they can.

“I know it’s a little scary for some people, but the best way to prevent illness is to take care of yourself and the gym is the great place to keep growing and stay healthy,” Ehinger said.

The reopening couldn’t come soon enough for Village of Lake Deaton resident Jim Mersey, who is recovering from a January knee surgery.

“I’m trying to get my strength back after having my knee replaced and, with no weights at home, all I can do is just stretching and that’s about all,” said Mersey, who went to the MVP in Brownwood on Monday. “So it’s beneficial to work with the equipment I don’t have at home.”

Daniel Comins was happy to be back at MVP as well. He usually uses the free wights and pulleys while at the MVP in Spanish Springs.

When at home during the stay at home order, the Village Santo Domingo resident worked out for two hours each day using the treadmill at his home and free weights.

He’s glad to be back at MVP because he can use more equipment he didn’t have access to before.

“And it’s nice to be among human beings,” Comins said.

Staff writer Summer Jarro can be reached at 352-753-1119, ext. 5404, or Staff writers Drew Chaltry and Cody Hills contritibuted to this article. Chaltry can be reached at 352-753-1119, ext. 5233, or Hills can be reached at 352-753-1119, ext. 5286, or