With mask requirement and uncrowded facilities, Lawrence recreation center users feel safe working out

photo by: Nick Krug

Shelley Diehl, Lawrence, exercises during a masked workout called TRX on Thursday, Nov. 12, 2020 at Sports Pavilion Lawrence.

Clad in her workout gear and a pink mask, Karen Gideon was dozens of feet away from others in her workout class Thursday morning. That’s the way she likes it.

Gideon was originally “very nervous” to join a group class through Lawrence Parks and Recreation due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but she knew she had to do something active for her health.

“I needed to do something physical and my muscles were wasting away,” Gideon said. “My classes at another gym were going to be too crowded — too many people.”

Once she saw how big the group workout room was and learned the maximum number of people that could be in a class, the 59-year-old felt more comfortable.

On Thursday morning, she was one of three participants in her TRX class at Sports Pavilion Lawrence. Typically, they have five. That’s the number the class is capped at, said recreation supervisor Jo Ellis. Other classes, such as yoga and Zumba, have a max of 10.

photo by: Nick Krug

Karen Gideon, Lawrence, exercises during a masked workout called TRX on Thursday, Nov. 12, 2020 at Sports Pavilion Lawrence.

Ellis said all class sizes have been limited, some as drastically as cutting the typical number of participants in half. And everyone is required to wear a mask. Despite the precautions, many community members are hesitant to return. Ellis said that they generally offer around 45 classes, and that there are only 12 going on right now.

But 68-year-old Shelley Diehl “couldn’t wait to get back.” She had no hesitation signing back up for classes once they became available. Like Gideon, she said she couldn’t let the progress she’d made on her fitness waste away. She also feels comfortable since everyone wears a mask, even though it makes the workout a bit harder.

“It’s a little more difficult to breathe and speak with a mask on, but other than that everything’s the same,” Diehl said of her class experience.

photo by: Nick Krug

Shelley Diehl, Lawrence, exercises during a masked workout called TRX on Thursday, Nov. 12, 2020 at Sports Pavilion Lawrence.

Instructor Melanie Johnson has been a fitness instructor through Lawrence Parks and Recreation for about 15 years, and she said COVID-19 has altered the way she now conducts her classes, including the TRX class.

TRX stands for total resistance exercises. Each class participant on Thursday did bodyweight suspension exercises using TRX systems that are attached to the wall. Johnson said she would typically do hands-on correction, but now she stays six feet away. She also used to do more cardio drills, “but having to breathe heavily through a mask is really challenging.” Even the normal exercises she does in class can still leave participants a “bit breathless.”

But Johnson said it’s important for community members, especially seniors, to maintain their strength and mobility.

photo by: Nick Krug

Melanie Johnson, Lawrence, leads a masked workout called TRX on Thursday, Nov. 12, 2020 at Sports Pavilion Lawrence.

Outside the group workout class Thursday morning, dozens of community members were taking advantage of the track, weight room and cardio equipment inside the Sports Pavilion. Due to the location’s large size, everyone was spread out.

Gary Bjorge, who was in the weights area, said he feels like the facility hasn’t been too crowded.

“I feel like it’s safe here because there’s hardly anybody here,” the 79-year-old said.

photo by: Nick Krug

Lawrence resident Gary Bjorge, 79, pulls down on a machine while working out on Thursday, Nov. 12, 2020 at Sports Pavilion Lawrence.

The Parks and Recreation centers reopened in mid-October with limited hours. On Monday, additional hours were added as part of a slow and methodical reopening process. In addition to Sports Pavilion Lawrence, the Community Building, East Lawrence Recreation Center, Holcom Park Recreation Center, Prairie Park Nature Center and Indoor Aquatic Center are also all open with limited hours.

On Tuesday afternoon, neither the Community Building nor Holcom Park Recreation Center had anyone inside working out when the Journal-World stopped by. And on Thursday morning around 10:30 a.m., no one was in the East Lawrence Recreation Center working out. Employees in each facility said the maximum number of people they’ve seen working out in the facilities for drop-in use at the same time was less than 10 people.

Luciana Jabur was in the weight room at the Sports Pavilion on Thursday morning and said that when the facility reopened, she returned immediately.

“I felt comfortable because it’s mandatory to wear the mask,” she said. “If they were not requiring people to wear the mask, I don’t think I would be comfortable at all coming here.”

Jabur said she works out five to six days a week, and that since she’s been working from home, going to the rec center has been one of her only chances to get out and see other people. She said she rarely sees the facility crowded, and that she finds it to be very clean. But Jabur is still cautious about wiping down her equipment.

“I wipe down before I work out and I make sure to wipe up after,” she said. She even brings her own hand sanitizer.

photo by: Nick Krug

Lawrence resident Jim Cravens, 79, grips a couple of free weights with sanitizing wipes while working out on Thursday, Nov. 12, 2020 at Sports Pavilion Lawrence.

photo by: Nick Krug

Shelley Diehl, Lawrence, exercises during a masked workout called TRX on Thursday, Nov. 12, 2020 at Sports Pavilion Lawrence.

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