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Jean-Robert on the myths about gym safety during COVID-19

Going to the gym has always been about staying healthy, but the landscape of fitness facilities is changing

By Lauren Glendenning
Brought to you by Jean-Robert’s Gym
Jean-Robert’s Gym is providing gloves for all members, which are mandatory while working out.

Jean-Robert’s Gym is providing gloves for all members, which are mandatory while working out.
Jean-Robert’s Gym is open in Aspen, Willits

Jean Robert’s Gym is open for members with extra safety measures in place. In addition to large open spaces, high ceilings, meticulous cleaning standards, mandatory gloves and other precautions, the gym is also able to use contact tracing should a member ever test positive. In the two months since reopening, this has not happened. 

For more information about membership, visit http://www.jeanrobertgym.com.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit Aspen and business closures went into place, Jean-Robert Barbette didn’t panic. Instead, he mapped out a plan that would keep his namesake gyms open and his members safe. 

Barbette’s second gym, in Willits Town Center, hadn’t yet opened when the pandemic hit. Opening was a miracle in and of itself, he said, but the immediate surge in membership interest proved the decision was the right one. 

“People out there want to get in shape,” Barbette said. “You need to make sure you stay healthy and go to the gym to stay strong.”

With this philosophy in mind, Barbette set four objectives for his gyms: Stay in business; safely reopen the Aspen location once public health orders allowed it; open the new Willits location; and remodel the downstairs space in Aspen to provide at least six feet of space between all equipment. 

“It was a 1-2-3-4 punch and now we’re just happy to be open,” he said. 

Fitness equipment at Jean-Robert’s Gyms have been rearranged to provide maximum physical distance for members, and the gyms are not offering any day passes for non-members as yet another way to minimize exposure risk to COVID-19.
Fitness equipment at Jean-Robert’s Gyms have been rearranged to provide maximum physical distance for members, and the gyms are not offering any day passes for non-members as yet another way to minimize exposure risk to COVID-19.

The future of gyms

With limitations on how many people can gather indoors, Barbette anticipates a massive shift in group fitness and big box gyms. When the business model is to get as many people in the door as possible, that’s not going to work during a pandemic. Gold’s Gym and 24 Hour Fitness, for example, have already filed for bankruptcy and announced closures of hundreds of locations. 

“The boutique gyms are going to survive, especially those tailoring to a higher-end market,” Barbette said. “The future of gyms is high-end, well equipped — everything has to be top notch.”

Jean Robert’s Gyms have been focusing on semi-private and private personal training sessions. In the semi-private sessions, groups of 2 to 3 people typically book together and already know each other.

Jean-Robert’s Gyms have started up group fitness classes again, limiting each class to six people. 

“Both of our group fitness rooms are very big. In Aspen, we have 22-foot ceilings and amazing ventilation — six people in that room are very spread out,” he said. “I do think the future of group fitness is going to change. I don’t see anybody wanting to pack into a class with 20+ people anymore.”

Jean-Robert’s Gyms are ‘cleaner than your house’

Many people assume gyms are dirty, but Jean-Robert’s Gyms are being cleaned ‘round the clock. From a full-time cleaner throughout opening hours to a night crew that cleans and disinfects showers, bathrooms and other surfaces, Barbette is willing to bet his gyms are cleaner than most people’s homes. 

“No one is having their house cleaned 10 hours a day,” he said. 

The gym is also providing gloves for all members, which are mandatory while working out. Air filtration is also new and high-tech at both gyms, Barbette said.

From a full-time cleaner throughout opening hours to a night crew that cleans and disinfects showers, bathrooms and other surfaces, Jean-Robert Barbette said his gyms are cleaner than most people’s homes.
From a full-time cleaner throughout opening hours to a night crew that cleans and disinfects showers, bathrooms and other surfaces, Jean-Robert Barbette said his gyms are cleaner than most people’s homes.

Large spaces, contact-tracing technology

Jean-Robert’s Gym in Aspen is 12,000 square feet — the size of a big home in Red Mountain. Fitness equipment has all been rearranged to provide maximum physical distance for members, and Barbette notes that he’s also not offering any day passes for non-members as yet another way to minimize risk. 

“The last thing you want is some guy from Florida or Texas or one of the states with large outbreaks going on, who’s been on a plane, coming in to work out for one hour — it’s too much risk for such a nominal amount of money so I’m not doing it,” he said. 

Thanks to a barcode system on the doors, Jean Robert’s Gyms are able to trace when members were in the gym. In the event a member tests positive, the gym can use this software to contact other members who may have been exposed. Thankfully, in the two months since reopening Aspen and opening Willits, Barbette said they haven’t had to use this technology. 

Toned physiques need expert guidance in real gyms

Barbette’s philosophy with Jean-Robert’s Gym has always been to provide a premium experience, and now he’s doubling down. Anyone who thinks they can adequately tone and sculpt their bodies at home using bodyweight and internet videos is misinformed, he said.

“You’re never going to meet a professional bodybuilder or fitness model who works out solely at home,” he said. “We have 120 pieces of equipment at Jean-Robert’s Gym — this is how you tailor a body, by working on specific muscle groups. You need to do strength conditioning in the gym with weights and resisting equipment, guided by an expert, and you need this in addition to biking, hiking, skiing and other activities.”

A personal trainer can see things going on with your body. Is there weakness in your quadriceps muscles? Are your shoulders hunching forward? Are your hamstrings tight? 

“You can’t get this guidance online — forget it,” Barbette said. 


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