Better, but not great.

That’s the word from fitness centers that are still working to rebound from the pandemic.

“Some people are still scared. They just are. But we’re getting busier. It’s just not like a few years ago,” said Eric Sash, owner of Snap Fitness on Commerce Drive in North Mankato.

Jon Jamieson, owner at JP Fitness at Madison East Center in Mankato, said they were busy over the summer and then saw a typical drop-off in November, ahead of the holidays.

“But overall it’s been pretty steady. We’re riding pretty high going into the new year. It seems some people are getting ahead (of joining in January). We had 10 new members recently.”

John Kind, executive director of the Mankato YMCA, said its pre-COVID membership of 9,600 fell by half last year, with the Y losing membership every month of 2020, beginning in March.

“But since February of this year we have gone up every month, including the summer months when we normally go down. We are now above 6,000. So things are better, but it’s not back to the way it was.”

Sash said the latest spike in COVID isn’t helping.

“As a business owner I want to be positive, but realistically it’s not going to be as good a year (in 2022) as a few years ago.

“The start of this year was definitely better than 2020, but not good enough.”

Sash said being a smaller fitness center helps him. “The advantage for me is that the lower traffic in and out of here is a big draw. It’s a quieter place, not like the big ones.”

Snap Fitness has been there since 2008, with Sash buying it from the corporate office in 2015.

For Jamieson, it’s a little harder to compare pre- and post-COVID business.

Until 2020 he was in a small space downtown, before moving to the spacious location on the hilltop. Recently he added 1,000 square feet to the center, for a total of 7,500 square feet.

He also bought some artificial turf he will be able to lay down outside the big garage doors in the center when spring returns.

“And we added some new instructors for group programs and yoga programs. And we’re updating our regular group programs to make them a little more exciting and intense,” Sash said.

Kind thinks things may not go back to pre-COVID normal even when the pandemic is past.

“I don’t know if it’s ever going to be back the way it was. More people are learning to do things on their own and don’t need to go to a gym.”

But he thinks the Y has a draw that will eventually bring people back.

“People are social animals, and they want to be around other people. A lot of people here say this is their second family. They do group classes or are on the bikes next to other people they know.

“The Y isn’t just a lot of treadmills and things, there are social areas all over the building and coffee and newspapers and classes to put people together.”

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