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January 2021

Club Fitness in Times of COVID

By: Steve Eubanks

It was once the place you went to convalesce. Famous sufferers of respiratory ailments like Doc Holiday, who died of tuberculosis, migrated to Arizona for clean air and dry heat. But in 2020, few states suffered more from the ravages of COVID-19. With an older-than-average population, many of whom, like Holiday more than a century ago, had retired to the desert because of underlying health conditions, Arizona was ripe for an airborne virus that attacked the elderly.

But while many businesses locked down, golf and other recreational pursuits associated with clubs thrived in the desert. The Ranch at Desert Mountain, for example, includes more than 20 miles of hiking trails, horseback riding and a 33-acre wilderness amenity in addition to a 42,000 square-foot clubhouse that has a fitness center, physical therapy and personal training.

Of course, there are the standard amenities you’d expect to find at a top-end club – golf, tennis, croquet and a pool. Like many places throughout the country, pickleball took off at Desert Mountain during the pandemic. Outside of golf, it is the most engaging sport that can be played with friends in a socially distant and responsible way. 

“At Desert Mountain we’re fortunate to have lots of wide-open spaces and areas to use for fitness and wellness classes, as well as a temperate climate well-suited to outdoor activities,” said Arnaldo Cocuzza, who oversees all recreation within the clubhouse and wilderness areas.  “During COVID, we have created an ‘outdoor studio’ adjacent to the grass tennis court. This studio holds equipment needed for a variety of fitness classes such as boot camp, yoga and H.I.I.T. (high-intensity interval training), plus individual equipment that allows members to work out on their own as well.

“In addition, the clubhouse courtyard now features open-air spinning classes. Fortunately, we have nine tennis courts and three different playing surfaces (grass, clay and hard court), as well as six pickleball courts, so our active racquet sports enthusiasts still have plenty of options. Our two pools allow members to swim when they’d like or by pre-scheduled time slots.”

As government regulations changed, Cocuzza adjusted the club’s health and fitness protocols.

“Obviously, we had to abide by county guidelines,” he said. “But as restrictions were lifted or amended, we were able to adjust access to our indoor facilities. Currently, members make appointments to come to the fitness center, indoor weight room and cardiovascular equipment. We limit the number of people in the space at any given time, according to local guidelines, and equipment is wiped down after each use. Each day at noon, the facility is closed for an hour to undergo an electrostatic cleaning process.”

Fitness became therapy for many members during the height of the pandemic. But, as always, golf remained the center of the club.
“Our community is known for the excellence of its golf courses and to say that golf has been popular during COVID is an understatement,” Cocuzza said. “We recorded 140,000 member rounds in 2020.”

That, under any circumstances, is about as healthy as it gets.


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January 2021 Issue


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