Fitness centers close, now what? Gym staff offer exercise tips

Now with the gyms closed, people have to think of alternatives to stay fit. Lakes area fitness experts offer some tips.

Joan Peterson, owner of FitQuest Athletic Club in Baxter, checks a member in Tuesday, March 17, before the gym had to close at 5 p.m., as ordered by the governor. Peterson said she has been in business for 15 years and has never had to close her business, stating it all is so surreal. Jennifer Kraus / Brainerd Dispatch

Fitness centers in the Brainerd lakes area and across the state are closed following orders by Gov. Tim Walz, leaving members to think of alternative ways to stay fit.

Fitness centers closed at 5 p.m. Tuesday, March 17, and, as of now, are scheduled to reopen at 5 p.m. March 27. Area gyms closing included Brainerd Family YMCA and Planet Fitness, both in Brainerd; Takedown Gym, FitQuest Athletic Club and CrossFit Grow, all in Baxter; and Anytime Fitness in Brainerd.

“I’ve been open for 15 years and I’ve never been mandated to close,” Joan Peterson, owner of FitQuest, said. Peterson said the mandate did not surprise her as the governor was closing many businesses statewide in an effort to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

“A lot of people go to gyms. Luckily, we're a very spacious gym, so we don't have to be close to each other very often. But, we have to do our part just like everybody else to curtail this thing and we have to weather the storm until it's over. We were already taking extra cleaning measures, using extra solutions and doing what we could to help.”


Peterson said the pandemic is scary for a number of reasons and everyone needs to do their part to help so everyone can get back to business as usual.

“This is a historical event that hopefully we can look back and say we did that and we are stronger for it,” Peterson said.

Peterson said the one nice thing is the weather is starting to warm up so people can get outdoors to be active. They can go for walks, go running or biking. Other tips for people to stay active is to do body resistance exercises, such as push-ups, sit-ups or anything using their own body weight.

“Just keep moving the best you can,” Peterson said. “I mean, hopefully this is just a week.

“We are kind of a big family here. We have a lot of people who use this gym not only for recreational exercise, but for the social aspect. Members have called me about the closing and disappointment doesn't even cover the feelings people are having. I mean, going to the gym is a huge part of their life. This is surreal.”

Traveling north on Highway 371 up the road from FitQuest, Joe Ciardelli, manager at Takedown Gym, said before hearing about the closing of the gyms, staff had a plan in place on how they were going to cut back and how they're going to keep their member and the community safe, by keep people 6 feet apart.

Takedown Gym
Joe Ciardelli, manager of Takedown Gym in Baxter, offers some advice on how people can stay fit at home while the fitness centers are closed until at least 5 p.m. March 27. Jennifer Kraus / Brainerd Dispatch


“We had already cut back our classes and we were going to limit the amount of people we had in there,” Ciardelli said. “We want to protect our staff, we want to protect our gym members and we want to protect everybody that we can inside the Brainerd lakes community. So we had a plan in place. Obviously, that changed ... so we're doing what we've been told to do. Again, our No. 1 goal is to keep everyone as safe as we can.”

Ciardelli said exercise is a great stress reliever and right now everyone’s stress is at a high level. Takedown Gym created different social media groups where members can interact outside of the gym. The gym also will post live exercise classes for people to do at home and offer tips on what people can do at home during this time.

“You can do them with your kids that are at home, off of school, you can do them with other family members and anybody that's quarantined in your space,” Ciardelli said. “Our hope is to bring a smile to everybody's face and keep everybody as healthy as we can.”

Ciardelli said people will have to also be creative in finding ways to stay fit. He said after emptying a gallon of milk jug, people can fill it up with water and use it as a weight.

Anytime Fitness posted on its Facebook page for members to use the Anytime Fitness app. The app provides coaching and access to more than a thousand workouts. Members may download the app from the Apple or Android app stores and they will need the number on the back of their key fob to activate.

The Brainerd Family YMCA is in a different boat compared to other gyms, as the entire facility was converted into an emergency day care, CEO Shane Riffle said. The Y announced early this week it would offer new day care services following the growth of the coronavirus cases in the state.

The YMCA for years has offered several child care and youth programs, including its YMCA Kids Camp, Kid Corner, after school programming and youth sports and activities.


Outside of the day care, the YMCA notified adult members right away about the fitness portion being closed. Members are encouraged to watch online classes. The YMCA has licenses for group fitness apps such as MOSSA and Y360.

“Right now it’s great to be outside,” Riffle said. “Go out and ski at the Arb or take a walk with your family.”

As a public service, we've opened this article to everyone regardless of subscription status.

JENNIFER KRAUS may be reached at or 218-855-5851. Follow me at on Twitter.

Takedown Gym
Joe Ciardelli, manager of Takedown Gym in Baxter, offers some advice on how people can stay fit at home while the fitness centers are closed until at least 5 p.m. March 27. Jennifer Kraus / Brainerd Dispatch

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