AUSTIN (KXAN) — Wearing a mask at Texas gyms is now optional. However, in some gyms — even with mask optional — you almost can’t tell Gov. Greg Abbott ended the statewide mask mandate.
The majority of gymgoers wore their masks Wednesday morning at 24 Hour Fitness in the Hancock Center, even though they didn’t need to.
General Manager OJ Stevenson wasn’t surprised.
“Everybody here, even before today, was pretty cooperative when it comes to masks,” he said.
Club member Carson Meinholz, who chose not to wear a mask, wasn’t shocked either.
“This is Austin, Texas. I’m not surprised whatsoever. I’m just very happy that they’re giving it up to the individual a little bit more now because, again, that’s what it comes down to. I believe in the good of the people, people can do what’s right. They can take care of themselves without the government forcing us to cover up our face.”
Many gyms around the area are offering different options when it comes to what they’re allowing and what safety precautions they’re taking.
“We decided to develop what we call a ‘club [within] club’ experience, so one part of the club is where masks are not required, but encouraged, and then we have another part of the club where masks are required,” Stevenson said of this 24 Hour Fitness gym. “The idea is just to make sure that we accommodate as many people as possible no matter their comfort level.”
Reactions to the ‘club within club’ zone option
The “club within club” zone is equipped with cardio and strength equipment but has restrictions along with mask requirements. The area is maintained at 10 percent capacity with limited equipment, Stevenson said. However, it offers gymgoers who want to wear a mask some peace of mind while working out.
Gymgoer Terri Lee, who wore a mask, utilized the zone in what used to be the gym’s basketball court. She believes the gym made an important decision.
“Not everyone will feel comfortable working out in an indoor, enclosed space with other people that aren’t wearing masks,” she said.
Lee noticed those who chose not to wear a mask and shared her reaction:
“Not great, I don’t really think it’s very responsible. It’s a little bit disappointing to have the governor make that announcement, and also for 24 to change the rules, but I guess we’re already making calculated risks, so we’re just doing what we can to keep ourselves safe.”
Carson Meinholz thinks otherwise.
“It’s nice to not have the judgmental eyes when my mask slips down. This is the land of the free, right? So how can they force some people to mandatorily wear stuff on their bodies, over their face. That was always a little bit frustrating for me and for a lot of people, too.”
“You’ll see a few people poking around here without masks on, but I think give it more time as it becomes more normal, it’ll be all okay. I mean, every one cuts corners. Not everyone in here follows every rule of every guideline every second of the day, so who are we to judge?”
Meinholz isn’t opposed to the “club in club” zone though. He thinks it’s a “great” option for those who want to wear a mask.
“If you need an extra accommodation, it’s gonna be there for you, but leaving it up to the people I think is the biggest thing, my biggest takeaway here,” he said.
He doesn’t have safety concerns.
“If you have risks in which you need to be concerned, go ahead and stay home, but otherwise we all gotta keep moving. We can’t be stagnant for too long.”
24 Hour Fitness is still promoting social distancing throughout its clubs along with safety protocol signage. The staff has cleaning procedures, along with cleaning supplies for its club members. You can learn more about the gym and stay up-to-date with changes on their website.