Gyms reopening in December: the latest rules and advice from the government on easing lockdown

Posted by for Strong Women

What does the new tier system mean for gyms and fitness classes? 

The second lockdown in England meant that gyms had to close again across the country. We didn’t have access to our beloved weights room, yoga studios and treadmills for a total of over five months this year. But from 2 December, gyms were finally are allowed to open again.

Considering the industry had waited eagerly, sending petitions to the government with over 600,000 signatures, it was welcome news when Boris Johnson announced on 23 November that fitness centres could open as part of the government’s ‘Winter Plan’ and tier system. 

The rules will mean that gyms, outdoor sporting and swimming pools will be open in England and Wales (but are also closed in Northern Ireland and tier 4 areas in Scotland). As lockdown has been replaced by a tier system in England, there are slightly varied rules for each location as shown in the government paper outlining the country’s next steps, but the general guidance is that gyms and fitness spaces are open for business. 

Tier 1 exercise rules:

  • Gyms and swimming pools remain open
  • Classes and organised sport can take place inside following the rule of six 
  • Classes and organised sport can take place outside

Tier 2 exercise rules:

  • Gyms and swimming pools remain open
  • Classes and organised sport can take place outdoors 

Tier 3 exercise rules:

  • Gyms and swimming pools remain open
  • Classes and organised sport can take place outdoors, but avoid high-risk contact activity
Woman picking up dumbbells in gym
Gyms plan to reopen – but what will they look like?

It’s not surprising that the government have re-opened gyms after the pressure on MPs to protect the mental and physical health of the nation. Celebrities even got behind the campaign, with Dame Kelly Holmes issuing a statement in support of Nuffield Health’s petition to re-open gyms. “[Gym closures] have a huge impact on everyone, but particularly disadvantages women, who most report feeling unsafe exercising outside, with fear of harassment likely playing a big part in this. It’s clear that this is a further example of a health inequality being caused by the lockdown,” Dame Holmes said.

In fact, when gyms re-opened after the first lockdown, culture secretary Oliver Dowden referenced the fact that opening fitness and sporting facilities was important for supporting people’s physical and mental health, saying that fitness had been classed as ‘essential’ since the beginning of lockdown. “We need to get the nation match fit to defeat this virus,” Dowden said of gyms opening, calling it “work out to help out”.

Of course, whether or not you feel comfortable going back to the gym is up to you. For some, home workouts and running will keep them going for the last month of 2020, but, if you’re ready to return after a month of lockdown, here’s what you can expect. 

What will gyms look like after lockdown?

If you went back to the gym after the first lockdown then you pretty much know what you’re in for. First and foremost, you’ll need to take steps to keep yourself and equipment germ-free, meaning that you’ll be wiping down kit before and after use and, in some gyms, be expected to wear a mask while walking around communal areas (but not while training). 

Gyms themselves will remain looking quite different from pre-coronavirus. That means goodbye to your overcrowded, messy gym floor (really, who’s complaining?) as gyms are limiting the amount of people that can enter the gym at one time and have removed certain pieces of kit for ease of social distancing. 

Will social distancing be in place in gyms?

Most gyms have taped off benches and equipment to ensure that no one is getting too close to each other. 

Social distancing in gyms
A look at what PureGym could look like after coronavirus

Will I have to book to go to the gym?

This is down to your individual gym. Some branches are implementing a booking system only during peak hours, while others require that you reserve a limited-time slot regardless of what time you wanted to enter. Check with your branch to see what they are doing. 

Can I train with a partner?

Unless your gym buddy lives with you or you in a bubble with them, you won’t be able to train with them. However, even if your housemates are going to the same gym as you, you may still have to remain in your own taped area to limit the virus spreading. PureGym has said that it will be “prohibiting ‘pair-training’ or ‘spotting’, and that they will be encouraging ‘lighter load’ exercise to prevent heavy breathing”.

Will I have to clean equipment at the gym? 

A big yes. Gyms will be providing spray and cloths to wipe down equipment before and after use. Generally, it’s still best to avoid touching your face until you have left the gym and properly washed your hands. 

Follow @StrongWomenUK on Instagram for the latest workouts, delicious recipes and motivation from your favourite fitness experts. 

Images: Getty

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