The COVID-19 pandemic has turned daily life upside down.

The threat to human life and health has always been at the fore but now we’re starting to see the implications of social distancing and isolation on the UK economy. 

Some businesses won’t survive this pandemic. 

Gym owners have a responsibility to ensure the health and wellbeing of members, clients and staff.  This means stringent and thorough cleaning regimes. It means listening to advice from Public Health England and to the concerns and admissions of those using the facilities.

It could also mean closing the gym temporarily in order to help contain the outbreak. 

Nobody wants to close unless they have to. Shutting up shop even for a few weeks runs counter to everything we want for a profitable business. 

But it’s important to be responsible.  And members (and prospective members) will remember how businesses reacted when the time comes to open up again. 

Are Gyms Staying Open During the Coronavirus Outbreak? 

A lot of UK gyms are remaining open for the time being.  Most have adapted cleaning schedules and hygiene rules in order to keep users safe from the virus. 

Exercise is an immune booster and during these difficult times gyms are providing not just the chance to benefit the physical body but the mind, too. 

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Gyms can be a good place to pick up viruses or illnesses but Professor Sanjaya Senanayake, an infectious diseases specialist at Australian National University, said gyms were likely to be “low-risk for COVID-19” because even those with mild symptoms of the illness were unlikely to feel like working out. 

Of course, there’s going to be a risk of infection as there is in any public place right now.  Dr Norman Swan, a physician and journalist, is reported in the Daily Mirror as saying that COVID-19 could spread in gyms as they’re often humid. 

He said: “Dampness is a bad thing for spreading germs. You’ve got these big blokes pumping away and you never know, one of them might be a super spreader.  It doesn’t mean you stop going to the gym, you’ve got to be super careful at the gym.”

What Can Gym Owners Do to Keep Members Safe During the COVID-19 Outbreak? 

Print and put up signs to remind people about the importance of regular and thorough hand washing, about maintaining a safe distance and about wiping down equipment before and after each use.

High-contact surfaces such as keypads and door handles should be regularly and thoroughly cleaned and wiped down with disinfectant along with equipment.   

Make sure there’s plenty of soap available in the washrooms as well as hand sanitizers in public areas.  It’s also useful to set up sanitation stations where users can wipe down the equipment themselves. 

Discourage hi-fives and skin-to-skin contact including adjustments in sessions like yoga or Pilates. 

Closely follow the advice of Public Health England and the World Health Organisation.  Be ready to quickly update or change policies on their recommendation.

Remove any equipment that is a potential contamination risk.  In yoga studios this could be blocks, straps and blankets. Anything that can’t be regularly and easily cleaned should be moved out.

Don’t penalise people who don’t turn up to paid classes and be more lenient with your cancellation policy. Give people the option to freeze or suspend membership without a re-joining fee so that people can self-isolate or social distance without financial penalty. 

Limit the number of people in busy classes.

Move your equipment and stations around (where possible) so that people don’t cluster together in one area.  You’re more likely to catch the virus from being close to someone who’s infected than from contaminated surfaces so make sure clients have enough space.

Encourage people to bring their own towels and mats. 

Encourage people to tie long hair back so that they’re less likely to touch their face.

Advise people to keep their gym kits separate from their day clothes and also ask that they wash their sports clothes when they get home. 

Brief staff members on the importance of any new cleaning procedures and make sure they’re comfortable with identifying, reporting, and dealing with any areas where cleanliness standards aren’t up to scratch. 

Be honest with everyone if someone at the gym has contracted the virus and have measures in place to deal with that if it happens. 

Reassure staff that if they are unwell or if they’ve been in contact with someone with the virus that they shouldn’t come to work.  

What Happens if You Have to Close Your Gym Due to the Coronavirus

No one wants to close the doors on their business.  It might be that you have no option. 

There may be financial support available.  Don’t be afraid to ask and do your research. What’s happening is unprecedented and support is available from the Government to help businesses

Speak to your landlord and see if there is some agreement to be made for the coming months regarding rent. The Thrivstry website suggests asking to have 2-3 months added on to your lease in exchange for a break right now.  

If you’re fortunate enough to have money behind you, then closing could be an opportunity to refurbish, refresh or rebrand your premises. Closing for a month or so during this crisis could be less financially damaging than doing it when things return to normal. Everything from a fresh paint job to installing clean-energy gym equipment could prove a wise move during these unpredictable times. 

And opting for a more sustainable approach to business in the future could prove to be a good PR strategy given the coverage on carbon reduction since the Covid-19 outbreak began

Gyms in China used online classes to connect to members during the lockdown. Clients were grateful for workouts that they could stream over the internet to do at home. It’s one way of adapting your business during a closure.

You could always ask members if they’d consider continuing to pay for their membership during a closedown.  You could offer incentives for when you re-open.  You could offer gift vouchers, too.

COVID-19 is going to cause a lot of difficulties and upheaval in the coming months but priority has to be in maintaining cleanliness and protecting the health of staff, clients and the wider community. 

And if you do need to close, don’t admit defeat.  Things are going to get back to normal. 

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