The government has issued new advice on the easing of lockdown – but what does it mean for gyms?
It’s been a long four months, and we’ve been trying our best to keep you going through lockdown with home workout inspiration, Instagram Live exercise classes and loads of brilliant running advice from a variety of experts. But now the news is in: gyms are allowed to open from 25 July.
Considering that the industry had waited eagerly, watching shops, pubs, restaurants and hairdressers open their doors, it was very welcome news when culture secretary Oliver Dowden announced on 9 July that fitness centres could open this coming weekend (25 July). “We’ll have the resumption of recreational sport, followed later by the reopening of our gyms, swimming pools and leisure centres. Normal life is slowly returning.”
Of course, outdoor gyms were allowed to reopen from 4 July, provided social distancing and cleaning measures were in place. And, while outdoor pools were opened from Monday 13 July, indoor fitness facilities will now finally be able to open their doors.
Dowden had referenced the fact that opening fitness and sporting facilities is important in order to support 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”.
As a recent study by the University of Oslo also showed that going to the gym doesn’t increase the risk of catching coronavirus, we can’t wait to get back. But what will that look like?
What will gyms look like after coronavirus?
First and foremost, you’ll need to take steps to keep yourself and eqipment germ free. We’ve written about whether you should wear a mask and how to clean your equipment here.
And gyms themselves will be looking quite different to pre-coronavirus. That means goodbye to your overcrowded, messy gym floor (really, who’s complaining?) as new rules include limiting the number of people allowed to train in the spaces in one go, providing cleaning equipment for members and enforced 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. PureGym released images of what their weights rooms will look like, with separate benches, pieces of equipment and floor space in class areas in order to comply with social distancing.
Government guidelines suggest that there will be a need for “maximum capacity” which will be based on the requirements for social distancing, ie more than one metre apart. Total Fitness has suggested that by limiting the numbers of members in its clubs, they won’t even reach 40% capacity during peak hours.
The government also says that gyms should suspend or modify activities that are not permitted or cannot be undertaken without contravening social distancing, so if your usual gym is choc-a-block full of kit, expect some of it to be out of use.
Will I have to book to go to the gym?
Dowden confirmed that the government is encouraging companies to use booking systems in order to limit the number of people on the gym floor. Some gyms are doing this and others aren’t, but be aware that if your facility isn’t using a booking system and you arrive to a full gym, you may have to queue outside.
Can I train with a partner?
Unless you live with or are in a bubble with your usual gym buddy, you of course 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”.
Can I use the showers at the gym?
Government guidelines say that “all venues should encourage attendees to arrive at the facility in sports kit and where possible to travel home to change/shower. Use of changing rooms and showering facilities should in general be avoided where possible, although these must be available for participants with disabilities or special needs and are likely to be needed after swimming.”
Again, this will depend on your individual brand and, within that, the branch you visit, as all of them have different rules. The safest thing to do would be to avoid using as many facilities as possible, and that includes water fountains, hair dryers, toilets and showers.
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 though.
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