Saturday 25th July saw gyms reopening across England, with fitness fans finally able to return to their favourite workout spots.
Government guidelines in the wake of coronavrius mean that a raft of measures have been put in place as gyms open their doors for the first time in four months. They include reduced capacity, spacing of equipment and floor markings to keep users separate, the closing of water stations and members being instructed to arrive ready.
It follows months of Brits following Youtube home workouts and doing Zoom fitness sessions during lockdown. Now gyms and leisure centres have finally been able to welcome back their members.
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However, not all facilities have opened their doors today, with the trade body ukactive saying there would be staggered openings amongst its members. It also warned that some of them faced closure - making it more important than ever for people to return and support their local gym.
Huw Edwards, CEO of ukactive, said: “Our gyms and leisure centres help form the fabric of our society, and today they are needed more than ever to strengthen our physical and mental resilience to COVID-19, as well as the underlying health conditions that have made this virus so deadly.”
Heading back to the gym today? Whether you’ve been yearning for a return to the spin bike, desperate to get back to your favourite HIIT class or otherwise, you’ll need to be aware of the key rules you'll be expected to follow now the gyms have reopened.
So ready your best workout shoes and get ready to sweat. But first, read on to discover the new safety measures gyms are putting in place to ensure they meet government guidelines - and keep everyone safe.
1. No more equipment sharing in group classes
Sandy Macaskill is co-founder and master trainer at Barry's UK, known for its cult bootcamp conditioning concept and its long list of celebrity fans. Their post-workout shakes are worth the visit alone. He told us: “Measures we have put in place include ensuring that clients never share any equipment at any point in the class and cutting our classes to 50 minutes so we have more time to deep-clean the studio and every surface before and after every single class”
2. Make the most of short sessions
Duncan Jefford, Regional Director of Everyone Active states: “We will be limiting the number of people in the gym at any one time to allow for social distancing. All customers will be required to pre-book for a session via the Everyone Active app. Each session will be a maximum of 50 minutes long, with 10 minutes at the end to allow for cleaning.” That's enough time to do a good HIIT workout and a short strength session.
3. Smaller classes — so book ahead!
Justin Rogers, Creative Director of boutique fitness studio Ten Health & Fitness reveals the big changes going on inside their famous reformer Pilates studios: “We are reducing our already-small class sizes with longer gaps between sessions to allow more time for cleaning between classes and to avoid overlapping between clients coming in and those going out.”
4. Talk less, sweat more
Everyone Active will be reducing verbal communication inside all gyms, telling us: “All customer communication can be done through this website to avoid interaction, but where this may be unavoidable, we have installed protective ‘sneeze screens’”
5. Learn how to set up your equipment before you arrive
“Riders will be able to research how to properly set up their bike in advance of class bookings to avoid contact with staff,” explain the team at Soul Cycle. "If people still need assistance, staff will demonstrate setup on the podium bike."
6. Arrive ready to go
With limited use of lockers and changing facilities to comply with social distancing rules, gym-goers are strongly encouraged to arrive in workout wear and shower at home. Justin Rogers of Ten Health & Fitness told us: “We are asking our clients to come to their sessions already changed. Changing rooms or showers are likely to be closed.”
7. Consider PPE — but be aware of the risks
Cory George, Athletic Director at F45 Training, otherwise known as the global body transformation programme, says: “Members will have the choice to wear a face mask and gloves, however, they will be made aware that this could potentially be a safety hazard during cardio workouts or while gripping certain types of equipment.”
8. Sanitise hands on arrival
You know the drill by now. Hand-sanitising upon entry to gyms and studios is key to combating the spread of COVID-19. Charlotte Cox, Founder of FLY LDN shares what her studio have invested in: “We will be using hospital-grade anti-viral sanitiser, which is proven to be effective against Coronavirus. Extra attention will be paid to high-touch surfaces and amenities.”
9. Breathe clean
Even the air quality in the studios is being considered. Charlotte says: “Only fresh filtered air is pumped into the studio from outside and air is extracted from the studio via a separate system. We will continue to ensure that only fresh air is circulated in the space and fresh air circulation will remain on during all classes.”
10. Stay behind your screen
Some studios like 1Rebel (hailed as the ‘king of gyms’) have introduced new levels of safety for all trainers and class attendees in the form of protective Perspex ride screens between spin bikes and separating curtains between all treadmills for added protection. 1Rebel co-founder James Balfour said: "Over the past weeks and months we have made a host of changes, at huge cost, that make us far safer than the average pub or plane.”
11. Pack your own sweat towel
Many gyms will not be offering complimentary towels so be sure to pack your own to mop your post-workout brow. “We aren’t able to offer our sweat towel service just yet, but there will be some on sale for our clients to keep,” says Sandy Macaskill from Barry's UK.
12. Expect a temperature check
Sunder Reddy, Rider & Interim CEO at Soul Cycle, who will only reopen 13 studios compared to 99 pre-pandemic to ensure exceptional standards of safety, says: “Studios will be performing mandatory non-contact temperature checks on arrival. If your temperature is above 38C or higher you will not be permitted to ride.”
13. Keep your distance
Exercise equipment will be spaced two metres apart in clearly marked areas. Cory George from F45 Training explains: “We will be introducing a new F45 Circuit workout solution, which involves each member having their own allocated workout space of 2m x 2m / 6ft x 6ft, with a station marker placed in front of each workout station.”
14. Bring your own water
Don’t forget to pack enough water to keep hydrated before you leave home. London’s original barre studio, Barrecore have advised that: “Water dispensers will not be in use, so be sure to fill up your bottle at home”. This is also the case for many gyms across the UK.
15. Follow the hands-off approach
Virgin Active has created a members’ guide online, which lists major changes that have been introduced to clubs across the UK, such as no hands-on adjustments throughout personal training sessions and group classes.
16. Be punctual
One of the new rules in place at Psycle spin studios is that class attendees will be encouraged to turn up to their session no longer than 15 minutes and no fewer than five minutes before a class starts to avoid congregating in waiting areas and changing rooms.