Rolling Hills leads wave of fitness clubs reopening outdoors

It may not be business as usual, but Martha Domont has found a way to revive her Rolling Hills fitness club this month while most competitors remain limited by the resurgent pandemic.

Domont converted her 7-acre Novato property into an outdoor athletic haven with the help of almost 50 shaded tents she bought during the coronavirus shutdown. There’s a popular “Muscle Lawn” with strength and cardio machines near the entrance followed by a dozen tennis courts, two pools, spin classes and yoga set up on a spare court — all outside.

Rolling Hills requires members to wear face coverings — except for when exercising — and make reservations for each activity as part of their contact-tracing efforts. Monitors enforce the guidelines at every fitness area, which receives a thorough 15-minute cleaning hourly.

Since plans to reopen were postponed last month, other fitness clubs around Marin are following in Domont’s footsteps. Tiburon Peninsula Club (TPC) moved operations outdoors last week and the Sausalito Fitness Club is slated to join them next week with the added precaution of daily temperature checks.

The county’s best practices for outdoor recreation businesses include maintaining 12-person pods, contact tracing and screening for symptoms.

“We have a sports court that we converted into five different stations,” TPC general manager Dan Miller said. “We’re also building a fitness turf on the other side of the tennis courts with more stations for outdoor fitness.”

For Domont, COVID-19 hit close to home.

“My son-in-law has had COVID and it was brutal,” Domont said. “His father died from it and his sister had it and his mom had it. I do not want to be responsible for one person getting it.”

So far, Domont says, she has received nothing but rave reviews from members eager to resume workouts in a safe environment. The new system has brought families back to the club, where they can reserve a pod in the pool divided by noodles.

“It’s a public safety thing, in terms of kids learning how to swim,” said Regina Riordan, also a nurse and former lifeguard. “It’s great for me to work out, it’s very healing. There’s a mental health piece to it, of course, but for the kids it’s a safety thing for sure.”

Rolling Hills even offers free child care while parents enjoy the facilities.

“It’s the only way we can work out,” Sean Wehrman said. “I have three kids under the age of six. Without this, we’d have no other way of coming to the gym.”

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