Devon Lathrop finished a set of bench presses, glanced around the spacious environs of Foley’s Fitness in Scarborough and sighed.

“Been dreaming about working out for three months,” he said. “Now I’m here and it’s like Christmas.”

Wednesday was reopening day in Cumberland, York and Androscoggin counties for fitness centers, nail salons, tattoo parlors, brewery tasting rooms and restaurant dining rooms. Gov. Janet Mills lifted restrictions on indoor dining and exercise, as long as the facilities follow health and safety guidelines designed to slow the spread of COVID-19 infection.

Foley’s, which opened in December, had been operating at a limited capacity since May 11. That’s when one-on-one instruction and outdoor classes of no more than 10 participants were allowed to resume after a statewide shutdown in late March.

Foley’s Fitness in Scarborough had a good turnout on Wednesday, the day gyms reopened in Maine. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Gyms and fitness centers originally were scheduled to resume more robust operations on June 1, but the Mills administration adjusted its plans after studies raised concerns about virus transmission among people exerting themselves indoors. On June 12, gyms and fitness centers in the 13 Maine counties with fewer cases of coronavirus were allowed to reopen.

“We’ve had a pretty steady turnout all day,” owner Mike Foley said. “People are cautious, but there’s definitely a new energy in here.”

Foley’s gym opened at 4 a.m. Wednesday, and he said about 30 people arrived in the first hour to work out. That’s about 20 fewer than in pre-pandemic mornings at the spacious center, which boasts 28,000 square feet with a ceiling 33 feet high and “state-of-the-art air conditioning,” he said.

State guidelines encourage facilities to increase the percentage of outside air. They also note that face coverings, while encouraged, are often impractical for people engaged in vigorous exercise, so the normal 6-foot physical distancing “must be increased to 14 feet as respiratory droplets can spread farther during strenuous exercise.”

For that reason, Foley said his gym will continue to hold all 53 of its weekly cardio classes outside. Machines have been spread out and others cordoned off to ensure proper distancing. It was 70 degrees and sunny during the noon hour Wednesday as spin class members pedaled stationary bikes in the parking lot.

Sydney Clough, an employee at Foley’s Fitness in Scarborough, cleans a stationary bicycle on Wednesday, the day gyms reopened in Maine. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

The federal Paycheck Protection Program allowed Foley to retain all his trainers and other employees, who “pretty much all came back,” he said. “We’ve had no issues with employees not wanting to come back.”

Kelsey Martel, 31, is a trainer who was working out on her own Wednesday.

“I was excited to come in and see everybody in action,” she said. “Since we’ve been allowed to, I’ve been training one-on-one clients inside almost every day.”

Martel is also a server at the Foreside Tavern in Falmouth, and is scheduled to work in the restaurant this weekend. She expressed no reservations about exercising inside with others.

Jessica Caterina performs hamstring curls at Foley’s Fitness in Scarborough on Wednesday, the day gyms, nail salons and tattoo shops were allowed to reopen in Maine. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

“As you can see, our staff is super diligent and they’ve been working around the clock to make sure it’s as clean as possible,” she said, noting two nearby colleagues with spray bottles and towels, wiping down equipment. “We have signs everywhere. We’ve had this protocol in place long before we were allowed to open indoors, so I think we were ready for day one.”

Josh Berberich, 22, of Portland is a recent graduate of St. Joseph’s College who said he is more aware of those around him, particularly if they’re coughing or showing any other symptoms of a possible infection.

“You just kind of keep your distance from them, from a safety standpoint,” he said, still breathing hard from a series of squats.

None of the two to three dozen people observed working out at Foley’s Wednesday around lunchtime wore a mask or face covering while exercising. The staff was masked up, however, from the front desk, to those toting spray bottles, to Foley.

Jessica Caterina, a 35-year-old competitive bodybuilder from Portland, said she had no qualms about returning to an indoor gym after three months of running and doing calisthenics at home, as well as exercises that rely on her body weight, such as push-ups and pull-ups.

“It’s been pretty hard,” she said between sets of hamstring curls. “I use the gym for a lot of stuff, not just physical exercise but mental, emotional and social (well-being). It’s important to stay active, because that’s one of the things that’s going to keep us healthy.”

Some fitness center operators in Greater Portland, such as Planet Fitness, announced plans to reopen Friday. Others, such as the YMCA of Southern Maine, decided to remain closed until further notice.

Josh Berberich performs squats at Foley’s Fitness in Scarborough on Wednesday. Some fitness centers in Greater Portland announced plans to reopen, while others say they will remain closed for now. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

The organization’s president and CEO, Helen Breña, issued a letter Tuesday saying the YMCA was excited about the lifting of restrictions and looking forward to welcoming its members back soon.

“There are a number of factors to consider, including how to limit the interactions between the children in our Summer Care programs and members using our facilities, in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” she said in the letter. “Our reopening timeline will look a little different than the state’s.”

Debbie Duryee, co-owner of Crisp in Scarborough, said her studio will offer limited indoor classes beginning Monday.

“If you can’t wear face masks, you have to be 14 feet apart,” she said. “That means we can get eight people into our yoga room and seven in our boot camp room. For most businesses, that’s not going to pay the bills, so we’ve got to keep up the outdoor classes as well. We’re going to do a hybrid.”

Nancy Nguyen is already fully booked for pedicures and manicures at Get Nailed Beauty Lounge off Commercial Street in Portland.

“It feels like I never left,” Nguyen said. “I posted (Tuesday) we were available to open, now I’m booked for the whole month. It’s exciting, I’m happy and grateful people still want to support us.”

Allyssa Power, left, works on the nails of Jade Woods of Gorham at Get Nailed Beauty Lounge in Portland on Wednesday. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Like all businesses, Nguyen has stepped up sanitation and social distancing procedures. The shop takes 15 minutes to clean between clients, and customers have to wear masks, sanitize their hands, get their temperature taken and sign a waiver when they arrive, she said.

New work protocols aren’t the only thing that’s changed. Nguyen said some of her staff would not come back on payroll after she received funding from the federal Paycheck Protection Program because they preferred to stay on unemployment with enhanced benefits.

She brought on a new employee and is hiring for two positions.

“It’s a blessing in disguise – it will work out and be good for us,” Nguyen said. “I’m moving on; they didn’t care if they had a job to come back to.”

Tattoo artists also were allowed to resume inking clients on Wednesday, but some Portland studios opted to delay reopening.

Allyssa Power wears a facemark and shield as she works on the nails of Jade Woods of Gorham at Get Nailed Beauty Lounge in Portland on Wednesday. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Tsunami Tattoo on Forest Avenue in Portland said in a  Facebook post Monday that it was still aiming for a July 1 reopening, the date tattoo shops were allowed to open under the state’s original reopening plan.

Waiting “affords us the proper amount of time to reschedule missed appointments, confirm projects already on the books, thoroughly sanitize the shop and work together as a team to make sure our new protocols and procedures are firmly in place and communicated to our clients,” the shop said.

Dark Harbor Tattoo Society on Exchange Street in Portland said it would reopen Friday. Wicked Good Ink, also on Exchange Street, said on Facebook that it was allowed to reopen, but was contacting every existing appointment it had scheduled previously. Other shops did not answer phone calls or respond to voicemails and emails sent Wednesday.

Back at Foley’s Fitness, Maggie Madder of Saco looked around the facility from atop a stair-climbing machine and said she was excited to return.

“It’s usually busier,” she said. “This is pretty quiet. I have a feeling more and more people will start showing up.”

Staff Writer Peter McGuire contributed to this story.

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