Back to work (out): Ann Arbor’s Advantage Strength putting safety first

By Shelley Daily

What’s it like to be back at the gym?

Advantage Strength’s members share their experiences

“I finally found a place I liked, and then Covid hit,” says Rich Medlin, who joined Ann Arbor’s Advantage Strength and Conditioning in late February, just weeks before gyms closed for Michigan’s stay-at-home order.

“I was feeling fitter and I liked the efficient workouts,” he says about his strength training classes. He tried Advantage’s online offerings but missed in-person coaching, so when outdoor classes were allowed later in the summer he became a regular. Medlin joined a small group at the 6 a.m. class each day—often catching the sunrise from Advantage’s big tent in the parking lot on Oak Valley Drive.

In early September, Gov. Whitmer announced that gyms could reopen and Medlin was among the first members to get back inside.

With safety protocols in place, “it feels very comfortable to me,” says Medlin, 55, an ER doctor. “People are very respectful here and I like that it’s focused on people over 35.”

Each strength training class has a maximum of four participants and a coach—and a marked entrance and exit limit contact with the incoming class. “I consider what’s a reasonable risk,” he says. “My medical brain is always thinking of how to minimize exposure.”

Individual workout areas are taped off for each participant—“about a thousand square feet apiece,” Medlin says. “We each have our own equipment that’s wiped down. They take our temperature coming in and we wear masks.”

Advantage owner Brian Sipotz says the switch to the mandated safety protocols was relatively seamless.

“We’re less of a gym and more of a personal training studio and have a lower capacity, so we were already set up for success,” Sipotz says. “Businesses that relied on higher volume are looking at only about twenty-five percent capacity right now.”

For Advantage member Sunghee Lee, 45, who also bikes and plays hockey, she couldn’t wait to get back to in-person workouts.

“There was no comparison for me,” says Lee, a university professor. “Going to the gym is a marker in my day—you need to step away.”  She was a regular at Advantage’s outdoor classes before moving inside the gym in September.

She’s stayed with Advantage “because they push you, but not over the limit. Before Advantage, I used to have small injuries but now I don’t.”

She says she has “no hesitation” about going indoors “after seeing the set-up,” although she admits that wearing masks while exercising is “not pleasant.” Lee’s found a way to motivate herself. A fellow member suggested that wearing a mask is like being in high-altitude training. “I like that idea so I decided to embrace that mantra.”

Sipotz says “after months and months of quarantine and limited activity people are saying they don’t feel good or feel sluggish. We want them to know you can get help with your fitness now, in a safe way.”

For those not ready to venture indoors to exercise, Advantage also offers a virtual membership via Zoom classes, as well as a phone app that delivers at-home workouts with a library of on-demand videos.

About Advantage Strength
Advantage Strength opened its doors in April of 2012, and has been offering quality strength training and athletic development programs ever since. After a 7 year professional hockey career, Brian Sipotz founded ASC with the goal of bringing intelligent, responsible, and effective training to youth, teens, adults, and teams in the area. The training systems used at Advantage were developed with Darryl Nelson from USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program. Darryl is a leader in the sports performance industry, and his expertise has allowed Advantage to develop the most highly regarded training system in the area.

Advantage Strength
2121 Oak Valley Drive Ann Arbor, MI 48103
Online HERE