While gyms across the world have been shuttered since March, it appears the worst may be over. The White House released information announcing that, “Gyms in the US can open if they adhere to strict physical distancing and sanitation protocols.” Although the final decision is being left to the discretion of each state Governor, many have already approved the re-opening of fitness facilities across the country. With excitement continuing to build around the return of local gyms, there are some things to consider before re-opening your doors. We have compiled current information from the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control and various other reputable sources to help guide you through the re-opening process.
Throughout the many ups and downs of Coronavirus many people are left wondering, “How will my favorite gym have changed, post COVID-19?”
Crunch Fitness, a great partner of Core Health & Fitness, is among those facilities gearing up to re-open their doors and has already taken the necessary steps to ensure their facilities are safe for their members. Like many other big names in the fitness industry, Crunch Fitness has put in a lot of time and effort to ensure their facilities are in top shape for their members. They have done dress rehearsals and countless walk-throughs to provide a safe space for everyone involved.
Crunch Fitness brought in a team of specialists to reposition every piece of equipment to comply with the strict 6-feet social distancing guidelines so every member will feel safe when in the facility. They have even gone a step further to create designated entry and exit points as well as personal disinfection stations with hospital grade solutions.
Jim Rowley, CEO of Crunch Fitness says, “We turned the gym on its head. We thought about every hard surface, every contact point between member and team member, even between member to member, and have changed all of our protocols with respect to that, so we’re prepared.”
Cleaning and disinfecting your facility as well as properly spacing the equipment (6-feet apart, seat-to-seat) is going to be a crucial part of re-opening your facility. Making sure to utilize the proper cleaning chemicals to kill any strain of the virus is vital. The CDC recommends using EPA-registered disinfectants on all surfaces including electronics, soft surfaces and outdoor areas.
Another reputable source of guidance within our industry is IHRSA. They have outlined an approach to re-opening fitness facilities nation-wide. IHRSA is recommending a four-step approach that targets the four main areas of concern for fitness facilities.
Containment: As a facility owner or operator, you will need to think through all possible outcomes upon reopening. Some of the biggest concerns for members will be, how you limit the number of people in the facility at one time while complying with social distancing requirements? If group exercise classes return, how will you avoid sharing equipment? Will you continue to provide virtual offerings to increase containment? The answers to these questions will likely call for some creativity. For example, some international facilities implemented a scheduling procedure that allowed members to reserve access to the facility in 90-minute intervals. Staff members then sanitized and disinfected the facility between each appointment. Unique offerings such as this, may be the way of the foreseeable future.
Cleaning and Sanitation: Many club members will be curious as to how to properly clean and disinfect their spaces upon returning to the gym. As a representative of your facility, you will need to outline proper cleaning protocols for all types of equipment, including any hard-to-clean areas such as dumbbells or resistance bands. This procedure should also include any instructions for possible exposure and ways to communicate these protocols to all club members and staff.
Staffing: While the official guidelines have not yet been announced, your staff members will likely be included in the limited total number of persons allowed in the facility at one time. This will need to be taken into consideration when creating new facility protocols. You and you club operators should think about ways to limit the number of staff members needed to successfully run the facility while staying within the social distancing guidelines. The more staff members you have, the less club members you can accommodate at one time.
Operations: Timing is everything and deciding when and how to re-open your facility in these challenging times can be an integral part of your plan to re-open. Will you re-open all at once? Or will you segment your business and re-open gradually? Consider which segments and services of your business you plan to open first and outline a timeline for reopening the remaining segments.
The CDC is also providing safety information with crucial steps to take, to re-open your facility while protecting the health of your staff and club members:
Step 1: Facilities should screen all staff and club members for COVID-19 upon entry. If an individual is exhibiting symptoms, containment measures must be put into place
Step 2: Facilities should implement a social distancing policy and enforce said policy throughout all hours of operation
Step 3: Club operators should educate all staff and club members on how to protect yourself and others from infection
Step 4: Club operators should implement enhanced, evidence-based cleaning and disinfecting practices to reduce the risk of exposure.
While over the course of the next few weeks and months, additional guidelines necessary to ensure your facility be back up and running will surely be released, the steps listed above are meant to act as a starting point to re-opening your facility.
As excitement grows to re-open your facilities, we want to support you in whatever you need. The Core Health & Fitness team is dedicated to working with you, our loyal customers and partners, day-in and day-out, to develop creative and safe ways to re-open.
Terry Woods, VP of North America Direct Sales says, “During these unprecedented times, we are all forced to sharpen skill sets we don’t use on a daily basis. It’s great to see some restrictions loosen, allowing us to get back out and assist our customer base. However, our assistance now is all about providing value wherever we can. Our team is focused on asking our customers one thing right now…how can I help?”
The world is eager to return to our regular gym routines, and even while closed, your gyms continue to help unite our communities. Your facilities mean a lot to your loyal members. You provide a safe space that allows members to leave their troubles at the door and sweat out their worries. With the COVID-19 pandemic, re-opening of fitness facilities will require communities to work together to help these facilities that we love so much remain open. Please reach out to us if we can do anything to help you navigate your future.