Malverne, West Hempstead fitness programs find new success

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Everyone can come up with a list of events and activities that have been affected by the coronavirus pandemic. For fitness junkies, or just regular folks who enjoy the gym, it has been extremely difficult to find places and times to work out.

Now, however, as Covid-19 fades (despite recent increases), gyms and fitness centers in Malverne and West Hempstead have been thriving, with group classes returning at normal capacity and restrictions lifted.

At Kayo Boxing in West Hempstead, owner Michael Corleone has been busy for the past year. Corleone, of Franklin Square, said he installed new air filters for his gym in 2020, the facility is sanitized regularly and hands-free sanitizer dispensers were added. He also spaced out punching bags to adhere to social distancing regulations.

“My name is well known in the community and Nassau County,” Corleone said, “so hopefully they’ll see that I’m a legit guy running a legit business.”

Confident in his popularity and the gym’s upgrades, Corleone attracted several newcomers to boxing from different parts of Long Island. One of Kayo’s regulars, Lorenzo Thomas, has trained at the gym for two years as part of his therapy as he recovers from a traumatic brain injury he suffered in 2013. As his motor functions vastly improved, Corleone began posting videos of Thomas’s progress on the gym’s Instagram page last year. In February, one of the videos went viral on social media after it was reposted on ESPN SportsCenter’s social media accounts.

“To find the joy in training somebody who is just looking to be better than they were yesterday, that’s the best,” Corleone said.

Although many found it difficult to find the motivation to exercise during the pandemic, established gyms overcame that obstacle by engaging their customers through virtual sessions. And as restrictions have lifted, gym-goers have been motivated to return, find their spotters, workout partners and favorite instructors and pick up where they left off.

Gyms have proactively informed their customers about new practices, safety precautions, and fitness options available to them. At Fitness 19 in Malverne, a state-of-the-art facility, equipment has been spread out and the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system has been updated, but operations are largely back to normal, with masks requirements lifted for those who are fully vaccinated.

“This is a unique town that really rallies behind the businesses here,” said Fitness 19 owner Michael Hobbs. “I’d just like for people to know that we’re doing everything that we can do to make sure that our members are completely safe.”

After closing completely in the spring of 2020, RAF Strength & Fitness, in West Hempstead, is back to its normal hours of operation. The gym requires all of its patrons to work together to ensure their safety. They must wipe down the equipment after they use it, and a professional cleaning service is brought in regularly. The RAF team stocks the gym with wipes, hand sanitizer and cleaning supplies.

“We’re blessed to have so many amazing members,” said RAF Co-owner Mike Lisi. “We’re happy with the way things are going.”

For those who are still wary of working out in a gym, there are plenty of virtual fitness classes available — including through venues such as the West Hempstead Public Library, which offers strength training, yoga, Zumba, tai chi and more. They have drawn as many as 60 participants to a single session, according to library Director Regina Mascia.

“My mother is one of them who enjoys the yoga program,” Mascia said. “She’s got a yoga mat in the living room, and she loves it. The registration is phenomenal, and I was shocked. I’m glad people are taking advantage of our programs. The staff is really working hard, and I’m really glad that things have taken off.”

To learn more about the library’s programs, go to www.whplibrary.org/adult-programs.

Nakeem Grant contributed to this story.

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