Troy Moon, Pensacola State College
About 18 months ago, Caresse Galiza suffered a torn meniscus and a torn ACL in her right knee during a self-defense class.
Well, she definitely works in the right place ─ the Pensacola State College Milton campus L.I.F.E. Fitness Center, where there’s plenty of exercise equipment, weights and even an indoor, air-conditioned track. Galiza is a fitness instructor and helps run the Fitness Center with coordinator Butch Branch.
And yes, the Milton L.I.F.E. Fitness Center is open. In fact, it reopened on June 29, one of the first public facilities to reopen at PSC after the spring shutdown to protect against the spread of COVID-19.
The Pensacola campus L.I.F.E. Fitness Center just opened this week.
Employees as well as students who are enrolled in summer courses and who are already L.I.F.E. Fitness Center members are eligible to use the facilities. Students who are enrolled in fall classes, but not summer classes, must wait until the fall term to begin on Aug. 17 to use the Pensacola facility. The Milton L.I.F.E. Fitness Center is now open to members of the community, students and staff who are already members.
The Pensacola campus L.I.F.E. Fitness Center will be open from 6:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. and from noon until 2 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Milton L.I.F.E. Fitness Center hours are 6 a.m. to 9 a.m., 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. to 7 p.m., except on Fridays when evening hours are 2 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Saturday hours are 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. and Sunday hours are 8 a.m. to 11 a.m.
The L.I.F.E. Fitness Center has implicated new guidelines to prevent the spread of Covid-19:
• A temperature check will be taken upon entering the center.
• A limit of 30 minutes for each user.
• There will be a limit of six people at a time allowed in the center.
• Locker rooms, showers and restrooms inside the center will be off limits. Restrooms outside the exit doors will be available.
• A face covering must be worn at all times.
• Fitness Center users will use the normal entrance, while the exit door will be located on the opposite end of the facility.
“Butch Branch and Caresse Galiza worked really hard to develop a full safety plan to open the Milton Campus gym back to members,” said Milton Dean Jennifer Hill Faron. “We’ve had a ton of members come back who were really excited to be able to get back to working out.”
The Milton L.I.F.E. Fitness Center is one of PSC’s many gems. Not only is it used by students and employees, it is also popular with community members. In fact, Branch said more non-PSC folks use the Milton L.I.F.E. Fitness Center than students and employees.
“It’s us old folks,” said Larry Ricks, 72, who has been using the Milton L.I.F.E. Fitness Center for about five years now. “I love it. Everyone is friendly, and they make you feel at home.”
On a recent day, Ricks was going through his regular routine – 20 minutes on the cardio machines and then a weight workout. When the fitness center was closed through the end of spring and beginning of summer, Ricks would come out to the campus and walk the outside track. But with this heat…
“I was glad when they opened back up,” he said.
Still, Branch and Galiza didn’t open without deep, intensive cleaning and an implementation of new protocols.
“We did the research,” said Galiza, who has a Bachelor of Science degree in exercise science. “I looked at what other gyms were doing across the country and took notes and we came up with a plan.”
First, Branch and Galiza – mainly Galiza, Branch said – gave the L.I.F.E. Fitness Center a deep cleaning which included disinfecting every piece of exercise equipment, all surface areas as well as the rails on the steps to the second-floor track. There was also vacuuming of all floor areas and the installation of two cleaning stations with disinfectant for Fitness Center members to wipe down any surfaces before and after using exercise equipment – a requirement for usage.
Other safety protocols:
Water fountains have been turned off and members are encouraged to bring their own water bottles.
Every other cardio machine has been shut down to maintain 6 feet (social distancing) between members. Members also are required to stay at least 6 feet away from each other in all Fitness Center locations, including the track.
Temperature checks are given upon entrance and face masks are required.
Members must use hand sanitizer as they enter and exit the fitness center.
“Our first goal is to keep everyone safe,” Branch said. “That’s the priority and I think we have the protocols and guidelines to ensure our members’ safety.”
But Branch believes it was important to open as quickly as possible, as long as it was safe.
“We have a tremendous community base and we didn’t want to lose them to other gyms,” he said. “So we put this plan in place and ran it through the Dean and she moved it forward up the chain.”
Branch, Galiza, along with Milton Campus Police Officer Terry White, also did some outside cosmetic work during the shutdown, restriping parking areas and repainting handicapped parking spaces, as well as pressure washing the building exterior.
“It’s a special place and we realize it’s special,” Branch said. “It’s all about giving back to the College, giving back to PSC.”
“We had so many calls asking ‘When are you going to reopen?’,” Galiza said. “We wanted to reopen as much as they did.”
And concerning Galiza’s own fitness?
She’s much better and has finished her physical therapy rehabilitation.
“I’m doing a lot of the same physical therapy on my own now,” she said, taking a break from deep-knee bends with the use of two ski poles. “It’s really tough, but it’s getting better.”
She underwent two surgeries to help repair her knee.
“I can’t run yet,” she said. “But I’m slowing walking on the treadmill and picking up more speed. I’ll get there.”
Details: Pensacola, 850-484-1310; Milton, 850-484-4491.