I went mask optional at Tucson Strength last week when the governor said the mandates were no longer law. I have received some feedback and a small handful people are not happy, but most are happy we are no longer requiring it.
The biggest reason we went mask optional is that my highest risk population of 60 and above are vaccinated. Many of my younger clientele that have wanted to get vaccinated are also vaccinated. We have a 13,000sqft facility and are never near capacity. The only documented incidents from gyms spreading the virus were in small studio settings where people were partaking in HIIT/Spin classes training closely together, and that does not apply to our gym.
We are still holding our higher intensity classes outside for the time being since people tend to breathe heavier in those situations.
Though you can exercise while wearing a mask, it isn’t optimal. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. The WHO still suggests to NOT wear a mask while exercising. The CDC up until a few weeks ago did not suggest it. They recently just changed that but with no data to back it.
Many people wearing masks in the gym are buying “highly breathable” sports masks which completely defeat the purpose of wearing a mask if it is letting air in and out freely (which is important for exercise). If air is moving easily through a mask it isn’t protecting anyone except to make people feel safer. There are nearly no peer reviewed studies of people wearing a t-shirt on their face that proves it stopped the spread of the virus. It’s not like we were all wearing N95s.
When the Gov said we had to enforce masks in the gym I followed suit. I did not stand on that hill to die and resist the mask mandate for gyms even though I know many other small locally owned gyms didn’t enforce it. I didn’t want to put my business in jeopardy and there was no vaccine available and my clients appreciated it.
Fast forward to today. It’s a different situation. I am not going to stand on the hill of forcing people to wear masks while they are exercising when I don’t have to. The fitness industry in general has moved to mask optional and I have chosen to follow suit. Nearly all membership driven gyms in the state have gone mask optional.
Just as I did not tolerate anti-maskers giving us a hard time when we were enforcing the mandates, I will not tolerate pro-maskers getting in our face about not enforcing it.
If you are not wearing a mask and you see a group of people in the gym wearing masks, don’t be an asshole and get up close to them. Give people distance. I will not tolerate any type of negativity one way or the other. People are free to chat with me about this, but I will not argue or get into a heated debate. If you find yourself having “strong” feelings on this cool down before opening a discussion.
I also had a direct phone conversation yesterday with Juan Ciscomani, Governor Doug Ducey’s Senior Advisor. He reassured me the County and City Mask mandates are unenforceable.