Are you ready to get back to the gym? Gyms are reopening around the world, and fitness enthusiasts are rejoicing —but returning to your gym after the coronavirus appeared is going to be a different experience than it was before.
Now that they’re reopening, gyms are having to reevaluate safety concerns and take new precautions based on risk assessment. We want to make sure everyone is taking care of their health and safety —and that of their fellow gym goers.
Knowing the reasons for the differences can help make sense of them. So you should be aware that most gyms are updating their rules by collaborating with public health officials, the scientific community and the fitness industry about how to stop transmission of the coronavirus.
Since it’s a new virus, scientists are researching the ways the virus that causes the coronavirus spreads, but two ways have been confirmed: large particles can be transmitted by touching and small particles can be transmitted by breathing.
All gyms are different, and all cities and states have different rules around coronavirus protocols, but you can use this list as a reference for things you might see when you head back to the gym.
1. Masks, gloves and other personal protective equipment (PPE)
You will see a lot of masks in the gym, worn by Team Members and possibly other gym goers. Every gym will have its own rules about who must wear a mask based on state and local guidelines, but everyone is encouraged to wear one for public health reasons.
According to the World Health Organization and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the coronavirus spreads mainly through droplets in the air from people who may be talking, coughing or sneezing nearby. These invisible droplets are suspended in air — think of the dust in your house suspended in a shaft of light — and then inhaled by passersby.
Wearing a face covering helps in two ways: It can prevent you from breathing in virus particles around you, and it can prevent particles from your breath from being inhaled by others. A mask acts as an air filter. A recent study found that virus particles can remain viable for up to 3 hours, which is plenty of time for the infection to spread long after the infected person is gone.
By essentially putting a filter over your mouth, wearing a mask limits the exposure of other people at the gym to those powerful aerosol droplets that could be carrying the virus.
2. New cleaning protocols
Are you ready to shred fat at the gym? We’re not talking about your body – we’re talking about the layer of fat around coronavirus cells that is destroyed by cleaning products.
Coronavirus particles are surrounded by a protective fat layer, which helps them survive on surfaces, but the soft protection of fat can be torn up by disinfectants and common cleaners.
That’s why you’re going to see more frequent cleaning in the gym by members and Team Members. You can do your part by thoroughly wiping down your equipment before and after use,and you’ll see Team Members consistently cleaning high-touch equipment and areas of the gym as well. All gyms will be well stocked with medical-grade sprays, wipes and disinfectants to make sure surfaces are clear of possible contaminants. Deep cleaning will occur daily —and some gyms will have cleaning intermissions, where the gym is closed for a short period of time for an extra mid-day deep cleaning.
Some gyms,including many Gold’s Gym locations,are implementing appliances like fogging machines and electrostatic sprayers, which use electrostatic electricity to bond positively charged disinfectants to negatively charged surfaces. Have you ever seen someone rub a balloon on their hair to make it stick? The electrostatic sprayer does that between cleaning products and what they’re being sprayed on.
3. A new check-in process
Many things could change about your gym’s check-in process after it reopens, from step-and-pull foot pedals on doors to touchless membership scan-ins. Your gym may stop accepting cash purchases and only accept credit cards that are on file. The reason for these changes? Hand hygiene.
You know you should be washing your hands, but do you know why? One study found that the coronavirus can live on surfaces for longer than you might think. It can survive on plastic for up to 72 hours and on glass for up to four days.
Every item you touch— from your gym membership card to that glass door — has the potential to transmit the virus to every person who touches it afterward. We touch our cellphones an average of 2,617 times per day. We touch our faces 23 times per hour. All that touching adds up to a lot of chances for exposure. (Limiting that exposure is another reason for updated cleaning protocols.)
So, for now, trainers and Team Members will give you air high-fives and the tried and true thumbs-up when you crush those reps. And you’ll see those same trainers and Team Members consistently cleaning high-touch areas and following other cleaning protocols.
4. More space to exercise
One of the biggest tools for fighting the coronavirus— physical distancing — will be coming to your gym in some form. Many states are changing the number of people allowed in spaces like retail stores, restaurants and movie theaters. Your gym will have its own guidelines to follow. Some states and cities are capping capacity at 25% or 50% of what the maximum occupancy was before. The idea is to spread people out.
Physical distancing procedures at gyms will vary. There might be limits on the number of people who can work out at one time, and your gym might use a reservation system or time slots to manage demand(especially for offerings like group classes). The equipment you can use may be spaced further apart, with every other machine off limits, and machines may go into rotation.
The United States adopted a 6-foot distancing guideline, but other countries have adopted different rules. The World Health Organization recommends at least 3 feet; the U.K. has a 2-meter (about 6.5 feet)guideline, and Italy’s is 1 meter. The bottom line: The further you are from other people, the safer you are.
5. Access to water coolers and locker rooms
Because certain surfaces are difficult to keep clean and are easily contaminated, you may see changes in your gym’s water fountain and locker room policies. Make sure you bring water from home or check with your gym before going,to see what their policy is.
The best approach for staying safe is to learn about your gym’s rules so you can prepare for your visit. Ask questions about these five topics so you’ll have the right mindset and equipment. Remember: Even if you’re working out 6 feet apart, you’re still getting stronger— and we’re all stronger together.