Many gym-goers are asking the same questions over and over again, ‘When will it be safe for gyms to reopen?‘, ‘What measures will be taken by staff to ensure that it’s safe for everyone?‘ and ‘Will I be able to go back straightaway after the gym reopens?‘. While there’s still so much uncertainty in the air, it’s becoming clear to all fitness professionals that preparation is the way.
The key to reopening your fitness club after the COVID-19 lockdown is a well-planned strategy that outlines every phase of the way.
Just like we’re seeing countries coming out of the lockdown in different phases, it’s likely that you’ll need to embrace the same approach for your gym. We’ve included some of the essential health and safety measures to consider when putting together your own gym reopening strategy.
1.1. Clear safety guidelines
It’s the responsibility for each gym to ensure they have the right strategy for their own club’s space and equipment. Having clear and thorough safety guidelines will help your staff members understand what’s required of them to provide and maintain good conditions of the gym floor. You can further publish your strategy on your website and across social media so as to let your members know that you care about their well-being and demonstrate the steps you’re taking to look after their safety.
1.2. Staff training on cleaning protocols
Once you’ve outlined your safety guidelines, it’s important to begin training your staff on cleaning protocols and safety measures before you can reopen the gym.
2.1. Gym sanitation at regular intervals
Like most viruses, COVID-19 spreads via droplets that could remain on surfaces for days. To prevent further spread of the virus in your gym, staff will need to clean and disinfect surfaces after every single use. This might mean cutting down the business hours to ensure you have enough time in-between the different opening slots or impose restrictions within the gym area.
2.2. Deep cleaning overnight
Scheduled disinfection of the most exposed surfaces throughout the club at the end of every day or a couple of times a week would be a great way to ensure a safe and clean environment at your gym.
3.1. Social distancing
Two metres apart will likely remain the standard social distancing protocol for at least another few months. Gym operators will need to move equipment around to provide enough space between each and every exerciser at any time. Additionally, queuing policy should be enforced to allow for safe entering and exiting the gym.
3.2. Staff and visitor screening
Having temperature checks upon entry for both staff members and gym members might be an additional preventative measure to consider.
3.3. Face masks
While face masks might not be mandatory, they are a recommended precaution for both staff members and exercisers.
3.4. Hand sanitiser and wipes
Hand sanitiser and hand wipes should be provided at easy accessible places throughout your gym facility to encourage people to look after themselves and the equipment after working out. The use of gloves is not necessary, but the current advice from WHO (World Health Organisation) remains to wash hands at regular intervals.
4.1. Restricted areas
Where gym areas cannot allow for social distancing, such as smaller workout studios, you might consider keeping them closed until a later and more appropriate phase of your reopening plan. According to ukactive (6), maximum gym capacity will be based on 3m² per person.
4.2. Locker rooms and showers
Don’t forget to include restrictions and applicable safety practices for the locker rooms and showers. They can remain in use as long as you can enforce social distancing and good hygiene levels.
4.3. Online joining
With the summer approaching, you might see an increase in new joiners, especially considering the stay at home policy over the past few months. We would recommend advising clients to use the online joining process to limit direct contact in the gym.
4.4. Contactless payments
Where additional purchases need to be made, such as towels and bottles of water, encourage clients to bring their own at least during the initial phase, or to use cards as a contactless form of payment.
You might need to limit the number of people allowed in class bookings during the initial phase of your reopening plan. Why not offer more 1-to-1 PT sessions as a way to keep members engaged.
5.2. Online or outside
As you prepare to resume business as usual, you might also consider moving some of your classes online or outside. This will give you more flexibility throughout the different phases of reopening your gym.
6.1. Irregular opening hours
Working at half capacity might be a reasonable first phase as you come out of the lockdown. This will allow you to continue business operations, 1-to-1 PT sessions and even group classes, provided that you have enough space for social distancing.
6.2. Vulnerable groups
Depending on your customer base and their age groups, you might reserve special spots for your most vulnerable clients, just like supermarkets have created special morning hour slots for people with underlying conditions and those aged over 70.
In conclusion… Social distancing will need to be maintained at all times for the foreseeable future and preparing for a phased reopening will give you more flexibility to restart business operations earlier.
Please keep in mind that the coronavirus lockdown exit strategies might offer alternative approaches in the different parts of the UK that include the reopening of health and leisure facilities at different steps of their plan. To help you prepare in more detail, we would suggest to get familiar with the recommended framework for reopening the fitness and leisure sector safely (6) delivered by ukactive. We’ll leave you with these words from their publication:
“The gym and fitness industry will have a vital role in ensuring the ongoing health and well-being of the nation following the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions. We believe this role has never been more important than at the current time in helping the country and British society regain its health.”