At 91 years old, Joe Murguia realized long ago that working out was key to longevity.

Even in the midst of a pandemic, his dedication to fitness remains as strong as ever.

Murguia was among a small contingent of members lifting weights early Thursday afternoon at Dubuque Community YMCA/YWCA.

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“I’ve got some dumbbells at home, but it’s just not the same,” he said. “You can’t get motivated in that environment. When I come in here, it makes me want to work out.”

Gyms throughout the region were forced to shutter for the better part of two months amid COVID-19 restrictions.

As they begin to ease, fitness centers are reopening, and members slowly are returning to their old ways.

The Dubuque Y reopened Monday. With officials overseeing strict safety measures and many members reluctant to return, there has not been an immediate return to normalcy.

Officials recorded 77 “check-ins” Monday and 94 Tuesday — about 15% of the Y’s normal average at this time of year.

“The ones who are coming back are really eager and excited to be here,” said Danielle Shea, director of marketing and communications. “There are others who are choosing to wait for a while and see how things play out.”

PLAYING IT SAFE

Peosta (Iowa) Community Centre reopened its doors May 15. Executive Director Stacey Bauer said local residents and employees alike eagerly awaited that moment.

“As employees, we’ve been seeing it empty for the past two months,” she said. “We hope we never see it like that again.”

Local officials are cognizant that COVID-19 continues to pose a risk. Moreover, they are aware that fitness centers — which feature sweaty members and shared equipment — could hasten the spread of the virus if safety measures aren’t in place.

At Peosta Community Centre, cardio equipment has been moved to ensure 6 feet of social distance and the middle lane of the track has been closed. Even the use of stairways has been altered to ensure that people are moving in the same direction, rather than passing each other.

At the Dubuque Y, similar measures are in place.

The wellness center is limited to 40 patrons at a time, while the weight room is restricted to 10.

The gym can be used for pickleball, but basketball is not permitted, due to the direct contact involved in the game.

EASING BACK IN

Fitness centers in Illinois are one week away from taking their first steps toward normalcy.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker this week announced that gyms can reopen on May 29. Initially, they will be restricted to one-on-one personal training indoors and groups of 10 or fewer for outdoor classes.

In Wisconsin, gym owners have been free to make their own decisions since the state’s Supreme Court overturned restrictions established by Gov. Tony Evers last week.

Anytime Fitness opened its Platteville location on Tuesday, with significant restrictions. Club Manager Drew Richard said the fitness center is capping its occupancy at 27 people, or 25% of its typical occupancy.

“We expected a line out the door when we first reopened,” Richard said. “So far, I don’t think we’ve been over the 15-person mark at one particular time.”

Jess Redfearn, owner of High Vibe Fitness in Platteville, has chosen to wait until June 1 to reopen her business.

“I decided it was best to go with a slower, more cautious approach,” she said.

RETURN TO NORMALCY

Murguia said he wears a mask almost everywhere he goes, but he elected not to wear one during his workouts and said he feels safe.

“The equipment is spaced out, and people seem aware of keeping their distance,” he said.

Ed Bandstra, of Dubuque, lifted weights a little more than 6 feet away from Murguia on Thursday afternoon.

It was his second time visiting the Y since it reopened this week, and the benefits have been immediate. Bandstra said he has slept better and his back- and neck aches have dissipated.

“It’s been great to be back, but it does feel pretty empty here,” Bandstra said. “Over time, it will fill up. It feels like a gradual return to normalcy.”