5:30 pm alarm to ring in spin class. They are constantly waiting for the ab-crunch machine. Sweaty body masses were blowing leg and foot a few feet away, followed by a squeaky shower and wet hair that reached the office before the master arrived.

American gym habits were always a problem and an expense. And then came the pandemic.

So what? As the world reopens – or at least we hope so – the industry of injured health clubs is facing a demand to boost the gym’s renaissance. Will this happen? Or will the training warriors, after a year of exploring virtual and external alternatives, come to see their old gyms as a fitness anachronism, like Clinton’s Richard Simmons ’“ Disco Sweat ”VHS workout?

Consider Henry Lihn, 40, a tech entrepreneur in Manhattan. Prior to the pandemic, he used to go to the Equinox gym in SoHo or Greenwich Village at least four mornings a week to lift weights, box, or do yoga.

Now he would not dream. “The gym is a hotbed of Covid bacteria and hamster wheels,” Mr. Lihn said. “I’ll never come back.”

Instead, Mr. Lihn has taken on a socially distanced outdoor regime: he rides his bike on the West Side Highway twice a day, plays tennis on Brooklyn’s public courts, and walks to the signposted crossbars. The wind on his face, the sun on his cheeks, is hooked. A few weeks ago, he canceled the gym.

Uncertainty about the Delta variant does not encourage regular group exercises. “I’m not interested in going back to the yoga studio,” said Heidi Kim, a 33-year-old Los Angeles tech consultant who recently reinstated mandatory masks for indoor public spaces. “Among the many things I want to do inside, sweating with strangers isn’t on the list.”

Instead, Ms. Kim keeps fit with outside distances and muscle toning courses at the fitness center, the Sculpt Society.

Others believe that they no longer have to pay $ 200 or more a month to invest in some home exercise equipment and get the same results for exercise.

“Working at home with Beachbody on Demand and free training for Instagram agents has worked very well for me,” said Danielle DeBoe Harper, 44, creative director of Cleveland’s home appliance company. “So for now, at least, my budget priorities no longer have any online items for membership in the gym.”

It’s also an added convenience to travel back and forth to the gym, turn into workout clothes, and not have to shower because the workout can take as long as it does.

Others have found that the sense of community and socialization they have found in a fitness club can be replicated beyond that.

After closing the equinox branch, 34-year-old Harry Santa-Olalla, an auctioneer living in the Dumbo neighborhood of Brooklyn, created a fitness capsule to sweat in mountain sprints and snorkels with some friends last summer, including actor “Thrones Games”. Kit Harington.

Working in that tight crew helped them motivate each other and keep them based on each other in a difficult time. “Two other friends have joined today,” Mr. Santa-Olalla said. “They’re coming together for a barbecue on my roof tomorrow. That would never happen in a gym.”

This sense of camaraderie can also be found at home, teaching spinning classes in the Peloton team and personal trainers in Zoom.

“I walked 4 days a day every day from the first day I owned the peloton,” said Amy Line, a 32-year-old elementary teacher in Calgary, Alberta, who left her expensive gym and personal trainer for a Peloton team called the Lonely Bikes Club. .

In a year full of isolation, fear, and, in her case, grief (her husband died of a Covide-related illness last year), her new routine gave her the feeling of being a member. “Because of the elegant bike that goes nowhere,” Ms. Lin said, “I’ve somehow moved on.”

Another fitness pandemic hack – Zoom personal trainer – has maintained its appeal even after the gyms reopened. “People love it,” said Michael Gabryszewski, a 26-year-old personal trainer from Rhinebeck, NY. “It eliminates commuting, which is a big hurdle to fitness. So you can do four or five instead of one session a week because it doesn’t take too much time out of your schedule.”

It seems that gyms and virtual trainers maintain strength. According to a recent survey by McKinsey & Company, 70 percent of people who used online fitness programs in the pandemic plan were retained in the long run.

All of this seems untrue for the future of gyms, as it has been a bet in American culture since at least John Travolta wore short shorts and grinded in aerobics classes in “Perfect” in 1983.

22% of the nation’s fitness facilities were permanently shut down during the pandemic, according to the IHRSA Global Health & Fitness Association, which saw 1.5 million workers in the industry lose their jobs since the pandemic began.

“Being closed for six months was clearly a very dark time,” said Todd magazine, CEO of Blink Fitness, a national chain of health club markets that suffered from quality and layoffs. “We’re mostly a brick mortar.”

But there are also reasons for optimism. Lots of obsessive sweat wearing Lycra seem to be hearing StairMaster’s siren call again.

With some Covid restrictions eased, gym traffic has returned to more than 80 percent of pre-lockout levels in January 2020, according to a recent survey by financial services company Jefferies (noting that gym members achieved a record level in 2019, according to the IHRSA).

The bounce is evident in Blink Fitness, where enrollment in the last month is usually a slow season for gyms, which was equal to January 2020, usually for gymnasts who are trying to make good decisions for the new year.

Gold’s Gym International, which filed for bankruptcy in 2020, was recently bought by RSG Group, a German fitness company, for $ 100 million. The 24 Hour Fitness chain, which closed 100 clubs and ran for Chapter 11, went bankrupt last December after a restructuring.

Businesses are booming even in some smaller gyms. “Our numbers have been stronger than ever in the last quarter,” said Jenny Liu, president of Dogpound, which focuses on one-on-one training with high-end boutique gyms, TriBeCa and West Hollywood locations.

In the case of some gym geeks, there’s a bigger reason to go back to the gym: it’s something people didn’t even think of doing before the pandemic.

Last July, Sarah Goldsmith, 36, a communications associate for a Washington DC public affairs company, returned to her previous Covid gym routine: almost daily, usually starting around 5:15 p.m.

“I’ve been hurt almost every day since then,” Ms. Goldsmith said. “For me that’s a big part of feeling normal again.”