What to expect when gyms reopen

Of course we miss pubs and restaurants and hairdressers – but one thing that many of us can’t wait to get back to is the gym.

We miss that fitness routine, the accessibility of weights and equipment, the satisfaction of completing a class that you just can’t replicate in your living room.

A recent survey by Sport England found that the British public miss workouts at the gym more than any other sporting activity, and 87% of us plan to hold onto our memberships post lockdown.

But, with gyms being breeding grounds for germs and bacteria – we’re not sure exactly when we will be allowed back into our sweaty sanctuaries. And when we are back – things might not be the same.

Sean McCoy, CEO at GearJunkie has some predictions about what going to the gym will look like when they reopen. 

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‘There will be significant changes’, says McCoy. ‘Gyms can serve as the perfect environment for germs. In the US, places like climbing gyms are instituting rigorous measures to keep people safe, such as frequent sanitisation, limiting capacity through reservation systems, and no-contact check-ins.

‘It seems likely that the UK will follow the lead of countries that are lifting their measures earlier, so it can certainly gain some solid insight on what to expect’.

No changing rooms or showers

As non-essential shops reopen across the UK, government guidelines require clothing stores to keep their changing facilities closed. According to Sean, gyms may be asked to follow suit.

‘I suspect that many gyms will also close their changing rooms to encourage social distancing and disallow showers to avoid transmitting the virus through moisture,’ he says.

‘Many gyms feature showers that are not fully contained as they are open at the bottom. Essentially, water is passing through each cubicle and can cross contaminate surfaces. 

‘When possible, try and wash at home after a session. This may be problematic for people that are due to return to the office and like to use the gym before work however, it will safeguard you from Covid-19’. 

Sean adds that lockers may also be out of bounds, as they can serve as a hotbed for bacteria and it may not be possible to properly clean them after each use. 

‘Of course, sharing your personal items at the gym should also be avoided,’ says Sean. ‘Towels, brushes, and most importantly water bottles all pass on viruses – as well as fungi, yeast and bacteria.’

Some gyms may also feature signs that encourage members to wash their kit as much as possible – bacteria/viruses love humid places and can serve as the perfect environment to breed.

‘An extra step is using a bag to hold your clothes and shoes inside your gym bag, as you want to contaminate as few items as possible.’

Temperature at the door

By now, we are all familiar with the flu like symptoms of Covid-19. A high temperature is one of the most common and according to Sean, many gyms may require clients to have their temperature taken at the door. 

‘Many gyms will allocate staff to take the members temperature and some outlets will also require gym goers to sign a disclosure that ensures they have not experienced symptoms within the last two weeks,’ says Sean. 

Regular cleaning and wipe downs

Anyone that attends the gym regularly knows that it is good etiquette to wipe down your equipment after use, but things might be a bit different after lockdown.

‘The days of simply wiping down equipment with paper towels is now a thing of the past,’explains Sean.

‘Maybe that was OK for getting rid top show moisture, but the current climate requires a deeper clean.

‘Bacteria and viruses can live on a surface outside the human body for several hours, it is essential that gym equipment is wiped down with universal cleaning products that have antibacterial and antiviral properties frequently.’

Sean expects staff to be working in heavy rotation, cleaning all surfaces to maintain a bacteria free environment, especially in high use areas such as pin pads, door handles and equipment.

‘Of course, regular hand washing, covering faces when coughing, avoiding the touching of eyes, nose and mouth will all be enforced.’

Fewer machines and more screens

The implementation of social distancing is arguably one of the biggest changes to come from lockdown, and it will almost certainly stay in place when gyms reopen. 

According to Sean, this will impact the internal layout of the gym.  

‘Where possible, expect to see glass dividers in-between equipment, as well as a reduction in machines on the gym floor to reduce the number of gym goers,’ he explains. 

‘It is likely that gyms will ask members to stagger their visits and allocate times in order to avoid ques awaiting entry.

‘During the summer, I also imagine there will be more of an emphasis on outdoor classes, partly for social distancing, but also for health reasons.

‘A lot of exercises lower the rate of breathing, and with a mask on that is dangerous. Moving these activities outdoors would solve that issue, as well as create much needed space.’

How to stay safe

Sean says your personal safety will come down to being prepared.

‘Make sure you always have face covering, antibacterial wipes, hand wash, and anything else that helps you wipe down the machines before use,’ he says.

‘Change up your routine. Has working out at a park changed your approach to exercise? If it has and it works for you then stick with it – there’s no need to rush back to the gym if the safety of the local park is working for you and your programme.’

He adds that if you’re not feeling well, you should avoid gym activity.

‘I know it’s hard to take a rest day when it’s not planned, but the last thing you would want to see at the gym is someone with a cold working out.’

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