How gyms are preparing to reopen after the coronavirus pandemic

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Masks, waivers and temperature controls will become the new reality for many gym enthusiasts as fitness facilities across the country begin to reopen after the coronavirus stops.

It could happen sooner than expected. The group gymnasiums and fitness studios, after strong lobbying pressure, the IHRSA and the gymnasium managers, were part of the Reopen America Phase 1. A Surgeon General spokesperson said that “gyms can open if they adhere to strict physical distancing and sanitation protocols,” language that echoes previous White House general guidelines.

Equinox, SoulCycle and other gyms will require members to be scanned with a thermal thermometer to make sure they are not feverish, one of the many symptoms of COVID-19. Xponential Fitness – the parent company of Pure Barre, YogaSix and Club Pilates – is one of the chains that will encourage members to sign new disclaimers specific to the coronavirus. The locations owned by Gold’s business (which are managed differently from locations owned by franchisees, for example) and 24 Hour Fitness will close at least once during business hours to sanitize. OrangeTheory will ask members to wear masks for training.

All measures are aimed at controlling the spread of the new coronavirus, research which has shown that it can persist in the air for up to three hours under certain conditions and that the droplets can remain viable on plastic surfaces and stainless steel up to 72 hours. Gyms in at least 45 states have been closed due to the pandemic, according to the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA).

While the major national chains interviewed by Men’s health are ready to reopen, none have set a firm date to do so.

The reopening of the gymnasium has already started

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Georgia, one of the last states to issue a home stay order, authorized the reopening of state gyms on Friday. At least four Gold franchise locations have opened, said Gold CEO Adam Zeitsiff Men’s health.

Under Georgia Governor Brian Kemp’s executive order released Thursday, gyms are required to comply with 16 different measures in order to resume operations. These rules include prohibiting “clients with temperature above 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit, coughing, shortness of breath, or other respiratory symptoms”, limiting the ability to provide appropriate social distancing, and interrupting group classes and child care services.

LA Fitness had plans to reopen May 1 in Georgia, but emailed members earlier this week to announce that the chain had suspended these plans. Life Time and SoulCycle told Men’s health they have no immediate plans to open their locations in Georgia.

Zeitsiff stated that Gold’s does not operate any corporate gymnasiums in the state and, like most franchise fitness facilities in the gymnasium sector, there is no way to prevent franchisees from opening their doors as long as independent establishments “comply with their own local and state directives. . ”

“They are good operators and they worked (to make their gyms safer) in advance,” said Zeitsiff. “They went above and beyond. They are also concerned about their team members and their community. ”

Big chain executives and spokespersons have said they expect gyms to come back online region by region. Everyone has placed more emphasis on cleaning their facilities, providing hand sanitizers to members and making contactless recordings.

The other steps include:

  • 24 hours of fitness plans to institute one-hour blocks followed by 30-minute closures for cleaning. Gold’s corporate establishments will close at 1 p.m. local time each day for one hour to sanitize, which the gym chain calls an “intermission.”
  • Equinox and SoulCycle will have disinfectants for UV-C phones available to users
  • OrangeTheory will require staff members to wear personal protective equipment (PPE) and most coaches wear non-surgical masks.
  • Gold’s, Life Time and 24 Hour Fitness are part of the chains that will train employees on how to approach members who are not commuting or wiping equipment.
  • OrangeTheory has removed all furniture from the halls.
  • Gold’s ordered 250,000 surgical masks. These will go to markets where masks in public are mandatory, but only for members who have forgotten their masks at home.
  • Contactless registration will become universal at major gyms and fitness studio chains.

    Are larger or smaller gyms safer?

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    There have been back and forth between big box chains and small fitness studios in terms of the standards that should apply to what types of businesses. In general, all fitness facilities are grouped together because governors, counties and city officials have closed down non-essential businesses.

    “They have 40,000 square feet to manage and we have a thousand,” said Anthony Geisler, founder and CEO of Xponential. “They have 40 times more work to do. In the big boxes, most people don’t come in contact with something and go away. They’ll come in and use the treadmill for a little while, see someone interesting, and go a little on the elliptical. Then they may go and lift a few dumbbells because it makes them feel strong. Unless someone walks behind that person, disinfects wherever they go, and that person is asymptomatic, it’s very difficult. ”

    Geisler said his channels had a few cases where members of his channels suspected that they had COVID-19 before the closure, although they ultimately did not test positive. But during the time lag between symptoms and getting test results, staff contacted those in the same classes to warn them.

    Zeitsiff replied that larger sports halls like most Gold locations allow better social distancing.

    “We are currently finalizing the number of people formula for the number of square feet” X “,” said Zeitsiff. “We are going to keep track of people entering and leaving. It could get a little annoying, like when you are waiting for this table in a restaurant that is not ready. We operate in a larger box. With cardio and strength (sections), we can control and manage it with care. These are not 1,200 square foot studios where it is more difficult (at a social distance). ”

    Dr. Michael “Dee” Gunn, professor of immunology at Duke University School of Medicine, said Men’s health there is no current data that would give the go-ahead for a larger gymnasium compared to a smaller studio for the probability of person-to-person transmission of coronavirus.

    “We don’t know exactly and that is part of the problem,” said Gunn.

    “If someone coughs, there is an aerosol that can drag on for hours”

    Gunn added that people can take action – regardless of the size of the training area – by wiping equipment before and after each use. It’s a bigger undertaking than the one billed, and some experts are not convinced it will be achievable even under the most stringent conditions.

    “In principle, cleaning protocols sound good, but, especially in chainless gymnasiums outside major cities, these are the types of regulations that rarely end up being enforced or enforced,” says Ebenezer Samuel, condition manager Physical from Men’s Health, CSCS “Remember the last time you cleaned your bench and your dumbbells came to your mind? places to turn around. It all sounds good on paper. In practice, it remains to be seen to what extent someone applies all of this. “

    Regarding what gymnasiums can do in addition to the increased cleaning procedures already planned, Gunn said creating fresh air in the gymnasium would help.

    “What worries me most is being in an enclosed space where the air is stagnant,” said Gunn. “If someone coughs, there is an aerosol that can linger for hours and you can inadvertently enter a cloud of coronavirus. I would feel much more comfortable outdoors. One thing that should perhaps be considered is: can you open these buildings to a greater extent and use exhaust fans to create more air circulation? “

    How will members and staff react when the gymnasiums reopen?

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    Gold’s called on MXM, a gym-based customer experience company, to survey more than 100,000 members the likelihood that they would return in the days after a gym reopens. Zeitsiff said 86% of those who responded to the online survey said they would come back.

    Life Time interviewed its employees and found that “over 90% of our club leaders and 87% of front line team members are eager to get back to work once the locations are reopened,” said a spokesperson. of the company.

    But Geisler said he believed the industry could face personnel problems.

    “There are franchisees who want to open, but their instructors don’t want to teach,” he said.

    New York-based fitness trainer and instructor Patrick McGrath said he thought of risk / reward when it comes to returning to work.

    “You are caught in a difficult position,” said McGrath. “You want to go back to work because you miss it. As much as you can protect yourself by wearing gloves and masks, you know there is still a chance of getting sick. ”

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