While doing tricep dips with a can of baked beans in the lounge has a certain kind of charm to it, many of us will relish the reopening of gyms across England on the 25 July.
Indoor pools make a return the same day (outdoor pools are already open from this weekend), providing a welcome prospect for those of us who’ve been cooling our heels – literally – in a garden tub of water for the past three months.
Like everything else, however, the post-lockdown reality of our workout world will look a lot different from what we are used to.
Rather than rock up casually at the gym on a whim like the old days, it’s likely you’ll have to pre-book your slots for treadmills, rowing machines and other equipment.
Meanwhile for pools, wearing your swimming costume below your clothes may well become par for the course over the next few months. And you’ll be better off saving the post-swim shower for home.
On the plus side, you’re far less likely to be flecked with sweat from your next door neighbour’s spin workout; and the aggressive overtakes that used to plague busy swimming lanes will (happily) become a thing of the past.
Here’s a more detailed look at what you can expect as the great gym-and-swim comeback commences:
How will gyms operate differently?
In a post-lockdown age, gym equipment will be more spaced out, and machines may come with screens to protect people as they exercise. Hand sanitizer stations will replace water fountains, and you can expect access to group classes, and the gym overall, to be limited.
Prepare to book your workout slot
Gyms have been directed to reduce the number of people using their facilities at any one time, possibly through a timed booking system.
So it may well be that, rather than simply arriving at the gym when you feel like it, you book a session on specific equipment ahead of time. The time you spend on different equipment may also be limited, to ensure all members get access and allow enough time for cleaning/hygiene measures between use.
Some gyms are also introducing app trackers, so you can see how busy they are before you arrive and plan your trip accordingly.
Numbers in group classes will be limited, too, and again, you’ll likely have to pre-book whatever sessions you want to attend. Personal workout areas may also be marked with tape to ensure social distancing, and your class may be taken outdoors if the setting permits.
Change beforehand and shower at home
Gyms may choose to close their changing rooms, showers and locker facilities completely, to avoid congregating in those areas before or after workouts. But even if they are available, you’ll be encouraged to arrive in your gym gear and save your shower for when you return home.
You may have your temperature checked
Some gyms may follow the lead of airports and hotels by temperature checking members on arrival using a forehead scanner. If you are running a high temperature, you’ll probably be asked to leave and seek medical care.
There could be a one-way system
Gyms have been asked to introduce queue management or one-way systems where needed, to reduce contact between people. There may also be less equipment, along with clearly-marked cleaning facilities to wipe down machines after use.
Instructors may wear masks and gloves
Like supermarket or restaurant staff, personal trainers may choose to wear masks or gloves. This option is open to you, too, as a guest, although it’s unlikely that gyms will make it mandatory.
How will indoor pools operate differently?
Indoor swimming pools will look quite different post-lockdown. Like gyms, you’ll probably have to book ahead to secure a slot to swim in, and you’ll be encouraged not to use the changing rooms or showers.
The etiquette in the pool itself will also be new, possibly with wider, one-way swimming lanes, less swimmers using the pool and guidance not to overtake.
Get set to arrive swim-ready
It’s a good idea to arrive with your swimming costume on underneath your clothes, to minimise the time you spend interacting in changing rooms. While showers may be available, you should aim to shower at home instead, again to limit contact time in public areas.
Pre-book your swimming slot
As with gym equipment and classes, you’ll probably have to book ahead to secure a set time to swim in. Sessions may also be shorter than you’re used to, to allow everyone access and leave time for cleaning/hygiene measures in-between.
Keep an eye out for distancing signs
Pools will likely be marked into wider lanes that all run in the same direction. You’ll be asked to stick to a certain speed and distance in relation to other swimmers, so make sure you follow signs and keep an eye on your spacing. This is especially true when it comes to pushing off at either end: look before you go.
Expect less people and don’t overtake
Managers have been instructed to limit the number of people using a pool at any one time, so you can expect to share swimming space with fewer people (hence the need to book). In order to avoid close contact, you’ll probably be instructed not to overtake other swimmers in your lane and respect personal space.
How can I stay safe when going to a gym or indoor pool?
Coronavirus prevention is to do with lots of small measures, and there are plenty of steps you can take to keep you and others safe in the gym or indoor pools.
Stay away if you feel unwell
Particularly if you’re suffering from coronavirus symptoms, including a new/persistent cough, loss of smell or a fever.
Check ahead before you go
Many gyms and pools will now operate on a pre-booking system, so it’s best to stay tuned with advice on their websites/social media channels, or call up before you go. It may also be that there’s an app you can use to track when facilities are busiest.
Bring your own water and hand sanitizer
Water fountains probably won’t be in use, so remember to bring your water bottle. While gyms will provide cleaning facilities for equipment, you may choose to bring your own if you have a mat, floats or weights to hand. Hand sanitizer and wipes will be particularly useful if you need to use shared toilets (you can expect gyms to introduce their own hygiene measures here, too).
Pay attention to social distancing rules
There probably won’t be staff available to ensure rules at all times, so it’s up to you to follow guidance, and make sure you act responsibly around other gym users and swimmers. Keep an eye out for signs and markers, and be aware that your access to certain equipment/facilities may be more limited than it was before.
Wipe down your equipment after use
It’s likely that the gym will provide cleaning stations for you to wipe down your machine or class equipment such as kettlebells after your workout, so it’s safe for others to use.
Minimise the time you spend hanging around
While once upon a time, a pre-workout natter in the changing room was practically mandatory (and a great way of delaying the torture), now you have to think about how you can get in and out most quickly. This includes getting your sports gear on beforehand, not showering and not loitering after classes.
Post-lockdown gymming may not be quite as fun as we remember it – but it’ll great to have access to proper equipment again, not to mention the opportunity to stretch out and swim a few laps. So go forth and enjoy: it’s yet another step (or should that be lunge?) in the right direction.
Images: Getty and Unsplash
Anna Brech is a freelance journalist and former editor for stylist.co.uk. Her six-year stint on the site saw her develop a vociferous appetite for live Analytics, feminist opinion and good-quality gin in roughly equal measure. She enjoys writing across all areas of women’s lifestyle content but has a soft spot for books and escapist travel content.