Getting into a routine

Pandemic led to fewer gym visits in 2020; REC director optimistic members will return

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson
Dave Pearson, executive director of Fort Dodge Community Recreation Center, poses at the downtown REC. Pearson said gym memberships decreased during 2020, but believes those numbers are coming back in 2021.

Those used to working out on a consistent basis had to explore other ways to meet their fitness needs at certain points during 2020 when gyms were either closed or restricted.

Throughout much of March and April of 2020, public gyms had to shut down. About 95% of staff had to be let go during that time, according to Dave Pearson, executive director of Fort Dodge Community Recreation Center. Then, when gyms reopened, members had to social distance and certain equipment was off limits.

“Cleaning protocols were a big must for us,” Pearson said. “I wish I had a stat on just how much hand sanitizer we have gone through. We made adjustments to our hours of operation. When we did reopen, we basically just opened the fitness areas and limited class sizes and social distanced. We could only allow certain number.”

Pearson said the pandemic was a critical factor in leading to about a 15% loss in membership base throughout the year.

“The bottom kind of kept falling out going into summer and summer is always tough in a general year,” Pearson said.

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson
Melanie Lukowych, Fort Dodge, pushes herself while completing lunges during a workout at the REC Coliseum. As restrictions on gyms are loosened, more people are coming back to work out, according to Dave Pearson, executive director of Fort Dodge Community Recreation Center.

In recent months, those numbers have started to come back. Pearson is optimistic that trend will continue.

“We have really seen our numbers get back to about where they should be,” Pearson said. “They aren’t quite what they were, but we are right in line.”

Tanner Kampen, of Fort Dodge, typically works out at the downtown REC. During times when the gym could not suit his needs, Kampen opted to work out at a friend’s house.

“They have a home gym,” he said. “I did a lot more aerobic exercises at home and then I started running a lot and I still run like all the time now. It’s helped with my cardiovascular tremendously. I used to be into weights a lot more than I am now.”

During the summer, Kampen logged about 25 miles a week.

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson Members of the Iowa Central swim team make use of the downtown REC pool on a recent day in February.

“It was nice, so I ran outside,” he said.

Also during certain points, he would work out at CJ Bio America, where he is employed in the maintenance department.

Kampen said he gained about five pounds during 2020.

Currently, Kampen is back at the downtown REC where he lifts weights three times a week. He combines that with running 20 miles a week.

The biggest impact from COVID restrictions has been the availability of treadmills.

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson
Dave Pearson, executive director of Fort Dodge Community Recreation Center, right, visits with Eric Lundberg, of Fort Dodge, as he begins walking on a treadmill at the downtown REC. Lundberg said he runs four miles a day to stay active.

“Because I’m not able to run on the treadmill because it’s every other treadmill,” Kampen said. “In the mornings, you have to be one of the first ones on the treadmill or you can’t do it. Only one person in the sauna or the steam room.”

Kampen’s goals for 2021 include running half marathons during the summer.

Ryan Detvay, of Fort Dodge, also worked out from home during tough stretches of the pandemic.

“Once all the restrictions were lifted I started back up at the Humboldt REC,” Detvay said.

When he moved to Fort Dodge recently, he joined Anytime Fitness.

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson
Eugene Carlson, of Fort Dodge, concentrates on his workout at the REC Coliseum.

“During the winter months, I’m just trying to put on weight so I basically just stick to weights,” Detvay said. “I tend to stick to a push pull leg split. Two days on, one day off to give my muscles time to recover for a day.”

During 2020, Detvay said he lost weight.

“Since I was able to work out from home and it was the summer months that the quarantine ran through I actually lost some weight,” Detvay said.

His goal is to stay lean in 2021.

“This year I’m just trying to put as much muscle on as I can,” Detvay said. “Once the spring comes around I will diet down and try to lose all that unwanted fat from my bulk as I can.”

Detvay offered some advice for anyone ready to get back to the gym or someone starting for the first time.

“Another thing I want to do is make people that are newcomers in the gym to just realize that everyone starts somewhere and just keep doing you and don’t worry about what anyone thinks,” Detvay said.

Eric Lundberg, of Fort Dodge, has been a longtime REC member.

He runs 4 miles a day. been a member for like 30 years.

“I just do it to keep good physically and mentally and inspire my kids to live a healthy life,” Lundberg said. “And hopefully others to stay healthy and active.”

Throughout 2020, Lundberg kept running, whether that was in the gym or outside.

“I kept running even when the gyms shut down,” Lundberg said. “I ran outside. Didn’t miss a day. I feel like once you stop, all the negativity can affect you. Working out gives you mental clarity on your everyday life. Good stress reliever. I just encourage everybody, even if it’s just walking, to stay active every day.”

Lundberg said during the past year he lost 38 pounds.

“I started out doing 1 mile a day and up to 7 and now down to 4 so I’m not overdoing it,” Lundberg said. “Eating healthy, making healthy choices daily.”

Meanwhile, Pearson said he’s heard from members that said they gained weight throughout 2020.

“COVID really did a number on people,” Pearson said. “People were encouraged to stay home. People ate and hung out. And a lot of people have gained a lot of weight. At the fitness center we call it COVID weight.”

“People starting back up say they have gained 15 or 20 (pounds), they got out of the routine because it was encouraged to stay home, wanting to stay healthy,” Pearson said.

Being physically active can affect mental health also.

“Overall physical health, a lot of people have come back to the gym because they have stated and felt that they have put weight on,” Pearson said. “It’s not only physical heath, but emotional and mental health, too.”

Starting this week, Pearson said the REC will be offering membership specials.

“We are at a spot where we feel is that the community members are gaining more confidence,” Pearson said. “If we don’t jump on things now and try to reach people, you get warmer weather and it’s more challenging to get them in at the point in time.”

Masks continue to be required at the REC on the Iowa Central Community College campus. At the other REC locations, masks are not required.

“At our other locations you do not have to have a mask on although a lot of people do,” Pearson said. “We are taking so many precautions on sanitizing, disinfecting and keeping things clean. Some people wear masks and even gloves when they work out. You can do things to protect yourself or you could come during our slower times if it’s a big concern.”


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