PROVINCETOWN — It happened just weeks ago, when he was shopping: Lorenzo Wigfall pulled on a pair of jeans and realized — to his horror — that it was too snug around the waist. It’s a common discouragement for many, but to Wigfall, it was earth-shattering.
“I was crying,” he said. “I mean, God, it was so embarrassing. I’ve never had that problem — ever, ever, ever.”
Wigfall — musclebound in a muscle tee, fresh off a workout at Provincetown’s Mussel Beach Health Club — is one of hundreds of full-time and part-time residents in Provincetown for whom fitness is more of a passion than a pastime. The gym is as frequent a destination for them as Herring Cove, and a day without lifting seems incomplete. Exercise is “everything,” Wigfall said. “Looking good, feeling good — all of it.”
So, when the Covid-19 pandemic touched down in March, fitness aficionados not only had to contend with the stress of isolation and toilet-paper hoarding, but also the shuttering of gyms and subsequent erosion of a religious routine. Those four-odd months of makeshift workouts were “horrible,” Wigfall said. “Difficult. Sad.”
Once phase three happened in July, however, Provincetown’s fitness buffs flocked back to the gym with newfound determination — and a bit of newfound pudge.
Pre-lockdown, Scott Eischen and Mike Bruning — a buff Boston-based couple — knew exactly where they’d be five times a week: at the fitness center, doing intensive cardio and free-weight workouts. When gyms were shut down, the first thing they, too, did was cry.
Then they rushed to buy two sets of elastic resistance bands online. At the local sporting goods store, they snagged two of the last 20-lb. dumbbells in stock.
Their impulse to stock up on personal fitness equipment (even if the dumbbells were dinky by their standards) proved widespread in the fitness community.
“In the very beginning of the lockdown,” said Dave Oliver, owner of Cape Tip Sportswear in Provincetown, “I started getting all these calls: ‘I’ve gotta get out of the house! I’ve gotta have sneakers!’ ”
Oliver and his staff began delivering athletic shoes to homes throughout the Outer Cape. And then, after a few weeks, the requests Oliver fielded expanded in scope.
“All of a sudden, everybody wanted dumbbells,” he said. “And yoga mats and bands. We were getting asked for stuff like that constantly. No one’s ever asked me for those things before. People wanted to be doing real workouts.”
Even gym rats who managed to get hold of exercise equipment (no easy task at a time of endless back orders) struggled to stay active during their months at home.
The bands and dumbbells Eischen and Bruning bought to substitute for free weights were not a perfect solution, or even a good one. “It sucked,” said Eischen. “It was awful.”
Dan Squire, a D.C. resident, was used to spending four or five days a week on ellipticals and Nautilus machines. During lockdown, he bought kettlebells, biked, and went for long walks. “It was fine,” he said. “But the thing about a long walk is, well, it takes a long time.”
Before the pandemic, Christopher Somma, who splits his time between Durham, N.H., and Provincetown, was training for his first Ironman triathlon. He lifted five times a week and supplemented that with swimming, running, and biking. When Covid hit, with no access to a pool and no at-home gym equipment, most of his routine evaporated.
He forced himself to get creative, taking online yoga and CrossFit-style classes and using his 60-lb. bicycle as a weight. One woman in a class of his used a skillet; another used her dog. Wigfall replaced his usual regimen with a stream of at-home projects: pruning, digging, planting, painting — plus pushups.
The Provincetown fitness buffs interviewed for this article agreed on three points.
First: working out during lockdown was terrible. Second: being back in the gym is wonderful. Squire called it “absolutely great.” Bruning and Eischen found it to be “a huge relief.” And Wigfall: six minutes past Mussel Beach’s closing time, “The lady had to get me out of there with a crowbar.”
And third? The pudge. “I kept making brownies and stuff,” said Somma. “What else was there to do? I put on a couple pounds. I think everyone did.”
Such a plight might be detrimental to Provincetown egos, but it’s a boon for Oliver, who has been selling shirts and shorts at elevated numbers. “Nobody’s stuff fits anymore,” he said. “Everybody just kept eating.”