This article was written by BenitoLink intern Andrew Pearson.
For five years Oasis Fitness & Yoga operated on Maple Street near the Hollister Post Office, but within a few weeks they will open the studio floor of their new location at 35 Fifth Street, Suite D, for classes and exercise.
Desirée Mirassou, owner and manager of the facility, said that during the early days of the coronavirus, her customers and fitness trainers avoided public places like Oasis for fear of COVID-19, and as a result she considered shutting the gym down before San Benito County ordered residents to shelter-in-place in mid-March.
Rent, mortgage, utilities and other costs accumulated even during the shutdown, and “the kicker,” Mirassou said, came on June 13, the day after she reopened.
“My landlord informed me that since my lease was up on July 1, he wanted to raise my rent,” Mirassou said, adding that it was an increase of more than 100%. Oasis “immediately had to shut back down and move.”
It was especially painful for Mirassou because she had remodeled the interior shortly before the shutdown. She also worked hard during the shelter-in-place to make the facility comply with social-distancing and hygiene protocols.
Other fitness centers have also reported taking financial hits from the shutdown. Mark Preader, owner and instructor at the Enterprise Academy of Martial Arts in Hollister, said his gym was fortunate and received an Economic Emergency Disaster Loan from the government. Besides that, he said, “Everyone has been so supportive of us.” Enterprise has taken on 15 new subscribers since San Benito County entered Stage Three of reopening on June 12.
Meanwhile, Danny Kelly, owner of Main Street Kickboxing in Hollister, said that only a third of his clients have returned to his gym since Stage Three began. He explained that kickboxing is more contact-based than yoga or fitness training, or even many of the martial arts that Enterprise offers.
“Our gym is the kind of gym where you come in and you’re motivated by the atmosphere and the people around you,” whereas “with Zoom you’re in your living room or your bedroom” working out alone, Kelly said.
Courtney Evans, owner and instructor at Kamal Yoga, said that she was remodeling her business at the beginning of the shutdown. Her 13 yoga instructors, all independent contractors and local mothers, have had no income from yoga for over 90 days.
Evans’s other projects, including volunteer yoga lessons for juvenile detainees and adults with special needs, have also been canceled by the shutdown.
Both Evans and Kelly are dissatisfied with the official response to the coronavirus, which they said seems to reduce health to mere avoidance of disease.
“What we’re dying from is obesity, heart disease, and poor eating,” Evans said. She suggests that, instead of just sheltering-in-place, people have an exercise routine every day and pay attention to the foods and drinks they consume. Kelly said he wished the official response had told people how to boost their immune system[s] and promoted a holistic, lifestyle-encompassing response to the virus.
Oasis, Enterprise and Kamal have offered classes and services during the pandemic. Oasis posted videos of their fitness sessions to YouTube, where the public can view them at no cost.
Enterprise instructors conducted private lessons through Zoom.
“We learned many, many different ways to train our members that don’t involve person-to-person contact,” Preader said, so that Enterprise can now hold socially distant martial arts sessions in their gym.
Kamal Yoga was shut down for the first four or six weeks of shelter-in-place, after which Evans began instructing clients over Zoom. Later, as the county opened up, she visited homes and businesses to give private yoga lessons.
All four fitness centers say they conduct strict sanitation regimens between classes. The state guidelines for fitness centers don’t require people to wear masks when exercising, but clients still must wash their hands, maintain physical distance and avoid public places if they’re sick.
Updated July 1 guidelines state that people are exempt from wearing masks if: “Persons who are engaged in outdoor work or recreation such as swimming, walking, hiking, bicycling, or running, when alone or with household members, and when they are able to maintain a distance of at least six feet from others.”
As for the new Oasis facility, Mirassou said it will have “higher tech, more streamlined equipment” and offer more specialized classes than the old one did.
“Even though it’s kind of a negative situation, getting our rent hiked up, we’re really excited about the change,” Mirassou said. “We know having to shut back down is actually a positive, to give people more of a chance to get comfortable and stay home for a little longer, and we can create something beautiful in this time. With guidelines everyone will know where they need to be.”
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