It’s been a tough few months for Barry Stover, co-owner of RipCity Fitness in Ripley. His business had to close due to the COVID-19 health situation.

“We finally got to re-open on May 18,” he said. “It was exactly two months to the day after we had to close in March.”

For Stover, a physical therapist, the concern was for his business but also for his clientele. Knowing the importance of physical activity to both the body and the mind, he was worried that the impact of the virus would be greater without access to the gym.

“Being able to work out, being active affects emotional wellbeing as well as physical,” Stover said. “And in the height of the pandemic, there was a lot of anxiety. Having an outlet is very helpful in dealing with that.”

Being active wasn’t an issue for Stover and his employees during the closure. They took the time to do what many area businesses did. They cleaned, they painted, they cleaned some more. Many of equipment seats got reupholstered.

Knowing that social distancing was going to be an issue when the facility was able to open, Stover and his team prepared for that as well.

“We’ve done some rearranging,” he said. “As much as possible we’re providing the distance that’s required.”

Some other changes have been enacted including limited capacity in the facility. Stover opted to allow 35 into the gym at one time. This includes the various classes being offered. Masks are being required upon entering the facility, but not while exercising. Restrooms are available but locker rooms and showers are not.

“It is physically dangerous to wear a mask while doing a workout, especially an intense one,” Stover said. “So we are asking our patrons to wear a mask coming in and our staff will be masked as much as possible. Our main priority is the social distancing.”

Cleanliness has always been important in the fitness facility. Hand sanitizers are placed at multiple spots on both floors of the gym.

“We have always used an excellent anti-bacterial cleaner,” Stover stated. “We are now asking our clients to help us. We are providing spray bottles and paper towels for them to wipe down the machine before and after use. We will be cleaning too, but It’s hard for our small staff to keep up with the need.”

Stover realizes there is still some fear of coming to the gym.

“We have to respect the virus, but we can’t let it stop us from doing things that will benefit,” he said. “And I know some people are wary of masks during exercise. But as a health professional, I know that wearing something over the face while exercising is not feasible or healthy. I want to reassure everyone again that we don’t require that.”

Before the COVID-19 hit, the gym was extremely busy Stover said. He knows it will take a while to build back so the county’s support is extremely important.

“We are a full gym,” he said. “We offer full weights, machine exercises, rubberized walking track, and much more. Our classes are back up and running too. If they are held inside, the limit is 10 people but if they’re able to go outside, that limit is only guided by enough room to social distance. Most classes are free with membership.”

As an incentive to attract people to the facility, Stover and his business partner Max Knapp, are going to run a summer special.

To Stover the bottom line is the fact that physical activity is vital to good health.

“We’re following all the guidelines and asking our members to honor those,” he said. “We’re as clean as we’ve ever been. The biggest means of prevention of any disease is being healthy. Activity is essential and we’re providing as safe an environment as possible.”

RipCity Fitness is open 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. (Monday through Friday), 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. (Saturday), and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. (Sunday). For information call 304-372-8381.