By Adam Hunsucker
MONROE, La. (AP)—In the seven years since Cesar and Allison Camacho founded INFIT, the couple have paired a unique approach to fitness with an engaging, personal touch to help members achieve their goals.
The goal at INFIT is to redefine the gym experience. The Monroe-based facility, located at 1816 Glenmar Avenue since 2017, offers personal training and group classes alongside weight management and nutrition coaching.
A loyal following has kept INFIT afloat during the novel COVID-19 pandemic. Some members even continued paying dues instead of freezing their accounts after Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards' stay-at-home order closed exercise facilities for two months.
Those same people were waiting at the door when INFIT reopened its doors on Friday, May 15.
“As soon as the Governor announced we could open up, my phone started blowing up,'' Cesar said. “Our members were ready to get back and the feedback we received from them was so positive in the sense that everyone wants to do their part.
“Anybody that has a small gym will tell you that you don't do this to get rich. You make your membership to pay your rent and pay your employees and that's about it.''
In Phase 1 of the Resilient Louisiana plan, gyms and fitness centers reopened under certain restrictions. No establishment can exceed 25 percent occupancy, all employees must maintain social distancing and wear masks while interacting with the public, and with the exception of bathrooms, all waiting rooms, lobbies and other areas where members of the public can congregate are closed.
Touchless check-ins, hand-sanitation stations and “cardio distancing,'' where machines are taken out of service to maintain social distance, became industry standards while facilities made the preparations required in Phase 1.
“When the guidelines came out on Thursday (May 14), we had a cleaning service in the gym that night to get everything ready,'' Cesar said.
INFIT held virtual workouts during the shutdown and will continue larger classes, like Zumba, via Zoom. Smaller classes and bootcamps have resumed in an in-person format.
Donna Ponder, the owner of Blue Sky Yoga studios in Monroe and Ruston, has made both options available since reopening on May 16. Blue Sky members can choose between smaller classes at both studios while unlimited subscribers have access to a series of virtual classes via Vimeo.
Online signup is required at blue-sky-yoga.net.
“We've measured the rooms and the practice rooms and both studios will hold eight students plus a teacher while following the social distancing guidelines,'' Ponder said. “A good many of our members stayed with me and it's nice to have them back.''
The Monroe Athletic Club and the Wellness Center of West Monroe, two of the area's largest, multi-purpose health clubs, both reopened on May 15 with personal training and limited child care services. Classes resumed at both facilities on Monday, May 18.
The MAC has permanently extended its weekend hours from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday while the aquatics area and “MAC Shack'' opened with a reduced capacity on Saturday, May 23.
Moore Health and Fitness in Monroe has also reopened but is targeting June to resume classes.
“We're just trying to give our members an opportunity to come back at this point,'' said Charles Moore, owner of Moore Health and Fitness. “We'll begin phasing things back in slowly until we can operate at normal levels again.''
The Century Village Athletic Club reopened on May 18. In addition to the Phase 1 guidelines, Century Village is not allowing super-set workouts, limiting members to one piece of equipment at a time, or use water fountains.
CrossFit gyms CrossFit 318 in Monroe, CrossFit West Monroe, CrossFit West Ouachita, CrossFit Chivalry in West Monroe, CrossFit Iron Pelican in West Monroe have all reopened under the Phase 1 guidelines. All Hours Fitness in Ruston celebrated the reopening by holding a midnight workout on May 15.
Planet Fitness franchises in Monroe, West Monroe and Ruston plan to reopen in mid-June.
The Wellness Center is requiring temperature screenings for entry and hand sanitization at the check-in desk. Masks are recommended when not exercising and child care is limited to one hour at the facility.
Octane Training in the Sterlington area is holding outdoor workouts on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings and virtual kettlebell classes via FaceTime on Tuesday and Thursday. Octane Training is located at 8649 US Highway 165 in the same shopping center as iNtenCity Fitness.
Anytime Fitness of NELA is offering a free first month to new members at their six Ouachita Parish locations in Monroe, West Monroe, Sterlington and Calhoun.
INFIT is exploring a challenge for members to drop their “COVID-15,'' or quarantine weight, gained during the shutdown.
“The guidelines will change as time goes on and we're keeping that in mind,'' Cesar said. “For now, we're just happy to have the doors open. Our members hadn't seen each other in two months and it's nice to get back to some sense of normal.''