Modern gym interior with various equipment

Gov. Doug Ducey’s latest executive order to slow the spread of COVID-19 last week blindsided those who work in the fitness industry and drew defiance from at least one major chain of gyms.

“We had just been getting things going,” said Maddi Briguglio, a personal trainer at Jab Fitness in Tempe. “Clients had just been getting into their routines, trying to adjust to the new changes of the maximum people and wearing masks and those types of things.”

Ducey also closed bars, water parks and movie theaters until at least July 30, citing an ongoing surge in COVID-19 cases.

Mountainside Fitness responded with founder and CEO Tom Hatten filing a lawsuit against the governor and opting to keep doors open at all locations. 

The gym was cited Tuesday and the Scottsdale location’s chief operating officer was cited with a class one misdemeanor. Phoenix police also visited the Mountainside Fitness gym at Ray Road and 48th Streets.

“The employees have been advised and officers are working to make contact with the owner,” Sgt. Mercedes told AFN when asked if that facility had been cited.  

“This could be any business, anytime, anywhere,” Hatten said in a press conference

Larger gyms such as Mountainside Fitness have the funding and resources necessary to fight to keep their doors open. The company ranked No. 31 on Club Industry’s Top 100 Health Clubs of 2019 list with $45 million in reported 2018 revenue.

Whether or not gyms have a direct correlation to the spread of the coronavirus is an ongoing discussion.

“Yeah, I think there’s other variables,” said Dr. Grant Padley, orthopedic surgeon specializing in sports medicine for TOCA at Banner Health. “I mean, that’s the problem with the asymptomatic carrier is we don’t know where it’s coming from or who had it. 

“So, I don’t think there’s any direct correlation with training per se. However, if you do have positive people and positive athletes and they continue to train in close proximity to others, that’s simply not wise.”

Those who have been hit the hardest by Ducey’s executive order are smaller, boutique-style gyms.

Michael Costa, co-owner of Burn Total Body Conditioning in Scottsdale, said, “I don’t think we were even challenged to socially distance. I mean, it was pretty easy. CDC guidelines: done. Social distancing: done. … Everyone was very much staying in their lane. To have this order with us in it was a little shocking.”

Many personal trainers were also left scrambling.

“This is my only source of income,” said Terrence Mielus, a lead personal trainer at EōS Fitness in Ahwatukee. “It is literally pulling the rug right out from under me. I can’t train clients or make money. It’s just as simple as that. It’s like a mechanic not having cars to work on. Long story short, this job feels very volatile.”

Personal trainers are often independent contractors. They use a gym’s space and pay them in order to use it. Without gyms being open, some are searching for other options for work.

“The biggest thing was honestly just looking for ‘Plan B,’” Mielus said. “It’s a lot of uncertainty and a lot of questions for sure. Right now, we’re just going to wait and see how these 30 days go.

“If I get word that we’ll be closed for longer, I might have to find another option. It could be something completely random like driving for Lyft or working at a grocery store. Anything that will keep me financially stable.”

“Fitness is important,” Mielus said. “That’s the best immunity booster: taking care of your health, simple as that.”

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