CrossFit Facility in Phoenixville Goes the Extra Mile to Create the Safest Environment for Its Members

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Top left: Iron Cross Athletics co-owners John and Nikki Warnek.

A CrossFit facility in Phoenixville has welcomed back members for group exercise after a safe and successful re-opening under the state’s COVID-19 protocols.

John and Nikki Warnek are co-owners and head coaches at Iron Cross Athletics, a CrossFit facility on West Bridge Street in Phoenixville that offers group workouts for all ages throughout the day. However, like other gyms and exercise facilities where people congregate on a regular basis, they were mandated to shut down in the spring due to the pandemic and to concerns about spreading the virus.

“Our membership is based on coming to group classes, and people have really been missing that social connection with the pandemic,” said Nikki, whose business offers up to nine group classes a day, from 5 AM-7 PM. “Last March, we shut down and thought it would only be for a few weeks, but it wasn’t until 104 days later that we were allowed to reopen.”

During that downtime, Nikki and her husbandwere busycreating a COVID operating plan by re-arranging their facility to create individual workout stations with adequate spacing, reducing class sizes, and developing strict protocol for cleaning and mask-wearing. They also invested in an industrial air ionization system that fights airborne viruses and bacteria – all to the benefit of devotees of CrossFit, an exercise regimen that has been around since the 1990s but has exploded in popularity in the last decade.

CrossFit involves high-intensity workouts with a focus on lifting and strength work.

“We believe that fitness isn’t just about cardio, which is what a lot of people focus on,” said Nikki. “There is so much more. You need to have good cardiovascular endurance, but you also need to move well and be flexible and strong. What sets us apart from other high-intensity workouts is our focus on form and strength. Our program includes barbells and kettlebells, in addition to bodyweight movements like push-ups and pull-ups, and traditional cardio exercises, too.”

Nikki and John plan a different workout every day of the year, a strategy that keeps members from getting bored and also offers great results by ensuring the body does not get accustomed to a particular workout and therefore does not stop adapting.

“We provide the workout, but we also provide the coaching to make sure you are doing it safely; there is a huge educational component to CrossFit,” said Nikki. Even during the shutdown, they conducted Zoom classes and made sure daily workouts were posted on the facility’s blog. “People put their workout results and photos on the blog, and a lot of members said it helped them get through the pandemic, knowing they weren’t alone.” 

By the time the state’s green phase of reopening lifted the stay-at-home orders and reopened the economy, Iron Cross Athletics was well on its way to prioritizing the health of its returning members.

“It’s important to us to do whatever we can to create a safe environment where members feel comfortable coming back,” said Nikki.

New and retuning members will notice a number of protocols the facility now has in place. Warnek is proud of the new distancing that allows 10 feet of space between the 14 new workout stations they created. The facility is also conducting full cleanings every day, cleaning high-touch surfaces several times a day, requiring members to wash down equipment after every use with disinfectant wipes, and mandating that everyone wash their hands when they arrive and leave.

And with the updated order by the Pennsylvania Department of Health requiring universal face coverings indoors, her facility now requires masks full-time.

“It’s important for us to follow that mandate,” said Nikki. “It makes us feel really good about the safety that we are offering.”

Additionally, a new air cleaning system was recently installed that features the ionization technology that many schools, hospitals, and airports have adopted.

“We’re getting ahead of the curve by installing this,” said Nikki. “We view it as the cherry on top of what we are offering to create the best environment for our members.”

For those who are not yet ready to return to Iron Cross Athletics, or for potential members looking for a private alternative workout, Warnek offers personalized programming that enables anyone to work out in the comfort of their own home. Although she admits her business has lost some members who see the new safety protocols as roadblocks to their workouts, she has observed that the vast majority of her members appreciate what has been done to provide them with a safe, clean environment. 

“Our responsibility is doing everything we can, so that if someone unknowingly comes in with the virus, it’s not going to spread,” she said. “We’ve createdan environment that’s clean, where you are socially distanced and wearing masks, and where you are protected by a new air technology as an additional barrier, so you have confidence that when you visit our facility, you have an extremely low risk of getting COVID.”

Click here to learn more about Iron Cross Athletics.

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