Sooner or later, gyms and fitness centers around the country will re-open. But it’ll be anything but back to normal. This could happen sooner than you might expect thanks to a big lobbying push from the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association, (IHRSA), as well as big shot gym executives, billionaire Steve Ross, and the U.S. Surgeon General, all of whom were part of the White House’s Opening Up America Again Phase 1. And the landscape at your gym is likely to be very different. Expect many changes including strict adherence to social distancing rules, temperature scans, touch-less check ins, signed waivers, jacked up sanitation rules, and routine closures for cleaning.
Most big box gyms will institute some form of touch-less check-in. Many gyms, including Equinox and Soul Cycle will require their members to be scanned by a thermal thermometer to ensure they have no fever, a symptom closely associated with COVID-19. Orange Theory will require coaches and members to wear cloth masks while training. Additionally, Orange Theory also plans to remove all furniture from the lobby. Gold’s Gym, though now permanently shuttered in St. Louis, remains an industry leader. They plan a daily one hour “intermission” at 1pm, when they will close for deep cleaning. 24 Hour Fitness takes cleaning even further, planning closures of 30 minutes after every hour of operation! Gold’s, 24 Hour Fitness, and LifeTime Fitness are instituting special training on how to approach members who don’t practice social distancing. In addition to spacing out equipment and limiting gym occupancy, Gold’s will install branded floor markers to indicate where members should stand in order to be six feet apart. And Planet Fitness CEO Chris Rondeau has suggested unplugging every other treadmill as a means of enforcing social distancing rules once gyms re-open.
Perhaps the most ambitious reopening protocol is for Anytime Fitness Franchises. Staff will be encouraged to wear masks and gloves and will not share offices. Management will utilize strategic scheduling to minimize the number of staff members working together. The CDC strict 6 foot social distancing policy will be enforced and gym occupancy will be limited to 5 members per 1000 square feet. Other Anytime Fitness precautions include no contact training and no equipment sharing. Equipment is to be sanitized before and after each use, with the entire space medically sanitized every two hours.
So how safe is it to hit the gym once the state gives you the go ahead? With social distancing and sanitation being paramount, you are clearly at an advantage at smaller, private facilities that don’t get the traffic the big box gyms get. Luxury facilities with limited membership and top notch staff trained to deep clean will definitely be safer. As a personal trainer at a smaller, high end gym, I plan to wear a mask and will provide cloth masks (embossed with my logo!) for clients to wear. Sanitizing equipment before and after every client use will be a must. And I plan to comply with the 6 foot social distancing protocol.
One thing is for sure. Going to the gym for a routine workout is about to change significantly and will continue that way for the foreseeable future.
Philip Hitchcock is an independent, Certified Personal Trainer specializing in “Fitness after 40,” Resistance Training and Weight Loss. He maintains his own client base and is also the exclusive trainer for the Four Seasons Hotel. Check out HitchcockFitness.com.