Some UK gyms could be opening again next month.
Many of us will be excited and relieved to see them back open but how can we stay safe back in the gym when the pandemic is far from over?
UK Active is the trade body representing the fitness industry and it plans to open “show-home gyms” to demonstrate to the Government and the public that it’s safe to start working out again in public places.
We know that COVID-19 doesn’t spread via sweat but through infected respiratory droplets. Breathing heavily makes it more likely that we’re going to either expel or inhale those infected droplets and so, when we do it indoors and close to other people, going to the gym becomes something of a risk.
Where else do you go to deliberately get out of breath? Where else are could you go and become so focused, so zeroed-in on something, that you forget not to touch your face or wipe the moisture from your skin?
And yet exercise is key to staying healthy.
Coronavirus can be a devastating even to the extremely fit, but we do know that healthier people are less likely to suffer from complications after contracting it. Working out can boost the immune system and help the body to fight off the worst of the infection.
This has led many people to argue that gyms should be open. If the Government is planning on opening up bars and restaurants, then why not gyms?
Or is it naïve to argue for the reopening of fitness and leisure centres when there are options for at-home gym equipment and online classes?
How to Protect Against Coronavirus in the Gym
Wash your hands when you get to the gym, before you leave and then again when you return home.
Wash or sanitize your hands after using each piece of equipment, too. If you don’t have easy access to soap and running water, use hand sanitizer. Hand washing remains one of the best ways to protect yourself against COVID-19.
Talk to your gym and ask them what they’re doing to help keep you and other users safe. You might want to ask about their cleaning regime and their policy on masks. They should be able to tell you about any temperature checks and how they’re implementing social distancing measures. Make suggestions and don’t be afraid of taking any concerns to a more senior member of staff. This is new territory for everyone, and some facility managers won’t have considered every angle. Don’t go if you don’t feel they’re doing enough to keep their members safe.
Wear a mask if you can. It can be difficult if you’re doing cardio but it’s a good idea to wear one both to and from the gym to help minimise the risk of you spreading it to others.
Wipe down the equipment you’re using with disinfectant wipes. The gym should have some on hand but you can always bring your own. You may have to let the product sit on the surface for a few minutes to be effective so always read the instructions. Be careful about other surfaces you’re touching, too, as they might be wiped down less regularly. Door handles, lift buttons, bannisters, credit card machines and tabletops can easily be forgotten.
Go at a quieter time when they’ll be fewer people around.
Make sure there’s a big enough gap between the equipment. The 2-meter rule may not be enough in a gym setting as people are rapidly inhaling and exhaling larger volumes of air.
Skip the classes unless they’ve been adapted to the current situation. Participant numbers should be capped with wide spaces between each person. You’re particularly vulnerable in a class as so many of you will be breathing in and out the same air. A single dance workshop in South Korea ended up being responsible for 122 COVID-19 infections. We’d approach classes with extreme caution.
- Insist that PTs and instructors wear a mask. CNet points out ‘a lot of times they [instructors] are speaking and projecting a loud voice. And you aerosolize the virus even when you're speaking,"
Don’t stick around unnecessarily to use the facilities. Take your shower at home and skip the sauna. You might want to skip the changing rooms altogether, too.
- If you need to wipe your face, do it with a clean towel you bought from home.
Take your own towel and mat
Wash your clothes when you get in
- Bring your own bottle and don’t refill at communal fountains. Many will have touch-free buttons but that’s still a little risky in a pandemic.
It’s going to be a while until we feel completely normal being back at the gym.
It might be worth hanging back for a couple of weeks until your local gym has nailed-down its COVID-19 strategy.
If you’re feeling anxious about returning, then remember you can work out at home. Ultimately, by staying in or exercising outdoors, you’re doing the best thing to avoid infection. The re-opening dates aren’t a target and ultimately the decision to go back is up to you.
If you’re planning on skipping the gym until later in the year (but you still want to maintain your training regime), visit the GymHugz store where you’ll find free weight sets and gym accessories to keep you on track.