So what might a Covid-proof gym look like? Some images have been doing the rounds on social media showing facilities in Hong Kong, which have recently reopened with perspex dividers between equipment.
But according to Huw Edwards, chief executive of UK Active, this may not become part of the ‘new normal’ in the UK.
“The individual operators will make decisions, but as it currently stands it [screens between machines] is not something that UK Active has been recommending,” Edwards told BBC Sport.
The Coronavirus pandemic seems to have ignited a nationwide love for fitness – we’re sharing our 5k times on Instagram, stocking up on yoga equipment and scouring the internet for home workout routines.
But since closing their doors over three months ago, many gyms and leisure centres have been preparing to reopen their spaces safely in a post-pandemic world. While Boris Johnson has said gyms must stay closed, fitness centres are prepping for when they are given the green light.
So while we may not have our own plastic partition to workout in, these are some of the changes we may see from fitness facilities…
Mandatory temperature checks are something that gyms have started implementing in places such as Hong Kong and the US, and it’s a measure many facilities are considering here. At SoulPsycle, every staff member and instructor will have their temperature checked before their shift, members will have to use ‘touchless thermometers’ before entering Equinox clubs, 1Rebel is installing self-scanning temperature checks, and David Lloyd plans to use thermal imaging technology before allowing entry.
You’ll have to sign a health declaration every time you enter most gyms, stating that you agree to their health and safety parameters. For facilities or groups that have their own app, you’ll likely be able to do this digitally before arrival.
Spaced out equipment
Many of us are accustomed to following the two-metre arrows and guides on supermarket floors, but now we’ll them in our gyms, too. For example, Constantin Hampe, CEO of Surge Fitness, says: “All of our EMS stations are arranged at least 2 metres apart from each other in the studios, and our personal trainers can maintain a distance of 2 metres from members during their session.
PureGym will be also be ‘enforcing physical separation of equipment and changing layouts to keep people apart’, while Equinox will be introducing physical distancing cues to show which equipment is available to use. For circuit training facilities, such as F45, members may be allowed their own workout space of 2m x 2m to eliminate station swapping.
To reduce the risk of transmission, PureGym will be ‘closing down any ‘tight’ areas, e.g. changing rooms, showers or toilets if necessary’. Many gyms say they will be closing down their showers altogether until further notice, including SoulPsycle and Ten Health Fitness.
Regular disinfection and air purification
It’s no surprise that gyms will have to up their hygiene game in a post-lockdown world. “Surge Fitness is increasing the frequency of studio cleaning, ensuring our staff wear face masks at all times, and allowing extra time between sessions to ensure stations and EMS suits are completely sanitised before use,” says Hampe.
PureGym will ‘provide highly sanitised facilities for the safety of our members and staff through enhanced cleaning and disinfection regimes’. Many studios will be installing touchless hand sanitising stations, and some are upgrading their air filtration systems. SoulPsycle’s are using ‘new filters [to] scrub the air with PECO air-purification tech, which satisfies FDA performance criteria for use in helping to destroy the COVID-19 virus.’
The end of walk-ins and monthly memberships?
Gyms will likely cut capacity to ensure safety, while class numbers may be reduced and forced to stagger timetables. Edwards told BBC Sport that the model in Switzerland, where gyms have reopened in the past 10 days with about 70% capacity, is ‘very similar to the one which we are recommending to government’. This likely means you’ll have to book gym attendance in advance, so that they can guarantee the total number of people in a given space. As such, walk-ins may become a thing of the past.
“With the number of people allowed in gyms at any one time being impacted, clubs, operators and their customers will have to embrace technology to manage their capacity,” says Anthony Franklin, founder of online booking platform fibodo. This means they may have to “adopt personalised membership models, which will include pay-as-you-go options to optimise facility usage, as they cannot rely on the free anytime use of their facilities model they once did. This means that the current monthly gym membership model is flawed under social distancing guidelines.”
PureGym have also made the below video to demonstrate the ‘new normal’ of working out at the gym…