Gyms may not see as big of a New Year resolution boost in 2021 because of Coronavirus concerns, but one local gym owner is speaking out against the fear of fitness centers.
Dr. Steve Czys of La Crosse worked in private practice for more than 10 years before becoming the owner of Eupraxia.
“I just found what most people needed more than anything was someone to show them how to exercise properly and add whole food eating with it,” Czys said. “When you combine the two, that’s where you get the crazy good results.”
When COVID-19 hit in March, his normal clients seemed to split into two groups. One group continued fitness plans. The other was too afraid to risk catching or spreading COVID-19.
“I saw people who were doing great, and then the government locked us down, and they completely fell off the wagon. That was really hard to see,” Czys said. “A lot of them have come back to get back on the right path, but there are people who are just scared to go to a gym because the public health department and other organizations, for no good reason, have people thinking gyms are some kind of super-spreader COVID hotbed.”
Czys said the actual case numbers show no reason to be scared of going to the gym. He argued that eating well, exercising, and practicing good habits can improve health. He also noted the term ‘gym’ is too broad to apply to all workout facilities, yet COVID-19 restrictions limited their businesses all the same.
“It’s not even in the same ballpark. Our gym is very different than another gym with low membership fees and high volume where you have a huge amount of people coming in and out all day long using the same equipment,” he explained. “Ours is periodic, group-based fitness with lower volume and more personable service. We’re both ‘gyms,’ but we’re such different business models that you shouldn’t even put them under the same umbrella.”
The inconsistency of restrictions across state borders also created frustration because Eupraxia has nine locations in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and New York.
“That’s really good evidence that the guidelines are based on nonsense,” Czys said. “Minnesota has different guidelines than Wisconsin, which as different guidelines than New York. They are all just making stuff up based on nothingness because if you actually had evidence to support something, it would be universal from state to state.”
He noted in New York, Eupraxia was locked down for months.
“We actually had to put a big circus tent out in the parking lot because we could exercise outside, but you couldn’t go into a building,” Czys said. “In Winona, they just had a lockdown, which again is ridiculous because you know Walmart is packed, but our gym with five people is dangerous. It’s gone past frustrating. It is hard to not be angry because it is just so stupid.”
Czys said it would be easier to accept restrictions if there was evidence that this model of business is dangerous in the pandemic.
“That doesn’t exist,” he said. “They feel like they have to do something just to say they’re doing something, and it is doing more harm than good.”
Fortunately, Czys diversified income to help keep his employees paid during the pandemic despite the decreased gym numbers. When put on the spot and asked to estimate the drop, Czys guessed they were down 20 to 30 percent from peak gym participation. Members who wanted to take a break during the pandemic had their memberships frozen until they were comfortable coming back.
“It is going to happen eventually,” he said. “I don’t think the vaccine is going to make a difference either way because even after you get the vaccine, you still have to distance and wear a mask and do everything else you had to beforehand.
There will still be limits. You still can’t have social gatherings, so I really don’t see how that’s going to make a difference. We will get back to normal, but this storm has lasted a hell of a lot longer than I thought it would.”