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As more people work out solo, new fitness equipment is hard to find 

Bike Junkie owner Douglas Rodriguez says there is

Bike Junkie owner Douglas Rodriguez says there is a shortage of moderately priced bikes and of items to repair them.   Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

With gyms closed and activities restricted due to COVID-19, consumers on Long Island and beyond are snapping up fitness and recreational equipment at high rates, depleting inventories and leading to shortages in even big-ticket items.

Fitness equipment like kettlebells, hand weights and dumbbells – hot sellers at the beginning of the pandemic – continue to be on backorder in many local stores and are being joined by pricier purchases like elliptical machines, treadmills, bicycles and even kayaks, according to multiple store managers throughout Long Island. In some cases, as in the instances of bicycles and kayaks, production has been halted or stalled by COVID-19, meaning that there’s currently no way to meet demand for either the items themselves or repair parts.

“It’s across the board. It’s everything,” said Scott Yule, Long Island regional manager of Fitness Showrooms, which has three stores on Long Island. “We’ve always been busy as a company, but I’ve been doing this 23 years and there’s nothing you can compare it to. There’s been a surge. …It’s just been insane.”

Yule said they inform their customers that some items could take anywhere from a week to several weeks to arrive. They don’t currently have dumbbells or hand weights in stock but expect to get a large shipment by the end of the month. Cardio equipment and strength training machines are also in high demand, he said.

“They can’t make it fast enough,” Yule said. An employee at Johnson Fitness & Wellness, with two Long Island locations, echoed the sentiment, and said free weights are sold out everywhere, and that orders placed now may not be fulfilled until fall.

This jibes with what’s being seen nationally, according to the International Health Racquet & Sportsclub  Association. Though they don’t track sale numbers, “since the early days of the lockdown, home exercise equipment has been in high demand, right up there with disinfectant and toilet paper,” said Meredith Popplar, vice president of communications.

“The popularity of home fitness equipment just shows there is demand and appreciation for the vital benefits of exercise,” she said. “Being fit and healthy is the best way to improve your immune system.”

On Amazon, the highest-rated free weights are often either sold out or require weeks-long wait times, though other retailers, including Target and Dick’s Sporting Goods, do have limited items in stock. But difficulties in procuring the weights – and, in some cases, the fact that heavier items are not easily shipped – means fitness connoisseurs have to get creative.

Marc Miller, the “Kettlebell Guy,” an Oceanside native who’s been featured in GQ and the Wall Street Journal, said he noticed the need early in the pandemic, and has spent the intervening months selling hundreds of dumbbells and kettlebells out of his car and through his Instagram handle, @marcmiller1980. The owner of Independent Training Spot, a gym with three locations in Manhattan, said sales are booming, even though sourcing and delivering the equipment means he needs to sell it at a markup. He’s done over 300 deliveries, from New Jersey to the East End.

“My [personal training] clients started talking to their friends and then I started supplying more people,” he said. “I’ll ask [a wholesale supplier], 'Well, how many kettlebells do you have, and how many 35-pound dumbbells do you have?' ... and I’ll just clean them out.”

And it’s not just weights that are hard to find. Douglas Rodriguez, owner of Bike Junkie, in Bethpage, said he wiped out nearly his entire inventory by April. Sales have died down considerably in the last two or three weeks, but since many of the bicycles are manufactured in Asia, he and other bike store owners aren’t being restocked, he said.

“Now what we see is a shortage of the items we need to repair bikes,” he said. “We have a very limited inventory. We have a handful of electronic bicycles, and if you were in the market for a $4,000 bicycle, I can sell you a bicycle. But if you’re in the market for a $500 bicycle, I’m going to have to apologize to you and say, unfortunately, there aren’t any.”

Danny Broadhurst, manager at Carman’s River Canoe and Kayak II, in Brookhaven, said there are simply “no boats to be had.” The interest has been there, but the company that manufactures their kayaks, located in Tennessee, hasn’t been able to produce them because of the virus.

People call “all the time,” to see if there are kayaks available, he said. “It’s constant, constant, constant.” Demand for rentals, he said, is about three times what it was last year.

The Tennessee company has said they hope to restart production toward the end of August, “but they are so far [behind] that if we order a boat from them right now, we wouldn’t expect to see it until March or April of next year.”

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