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Gyms Struggle To Stay Afloat As The Coronavirus Pandemic Continues

BOSTON (CBS) -- With millions of Americans staying home, the demand for virtual workouts and fitness equipment is up. But as the economy gets ready to reopen, gyms are taking steps to make sure they don't go under.

"We hit March and suddenly we hit a brick wall," said Back Bay Boxing Owner John Murray.

Murray said members of his Newbury Street gym work out in a space that's less than 1,000 square feet. Pre-pandemic, the setting and the sparring drills were part of its draw.

"You're working in a paired environment, you're only 3 feet away from somebody. So we really have an obstacle to get over and I'm not sure how we're going to go about it," Murray said.

Murray doesn't know when he'll be able to reopen. As costs like rent, insurance and utilities build up, he tries to break even by hosting virtual workouts several times a week. Members like Hannah Dumont say the classes help her keep a routine.

"The difference being at home is that you don't have a counterpart. He leads shadow boxing routines and so instead of boxing mitts you're just holding weights," she said.

Back Bay Boxing owner John Murray does a workout in a mirror. (WBZ-TV)

And with equipment virtually impossible to find, Murray sold what he had so members could participate.

"I've even gone back to my wholesalers looking for mass orders of weights for people. Even wholesalers seem to be out," he said.

Community gyms like Cambridge Healthworks are also facing challenges in preparing to operate under a new normal.

"Without being open, we have little ways to generate revenue. Yet many of our fixed costs are still very high," said Healthworks Partner Matthew Harrington.

Healthworks is a family business and part of a network of gyms that's been in operation for 42 years. Harrington said they're retraining staff, stocking up on hospital grade disinfectant, launching a reservation system for all workouts and asking members agree to wear masks.

"We're testing out new layouts and new traffic patterns to maintain social distancing at all times," Harrington said.

But even with all of those precautions in place, people may still be too nervous to return.

"We do understand some people may not be comfortable. We have seen a tremendous amount of cancellations already," Harrington said.

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