Health and Safety for Gyms: 6 Lessons Learned from Coronavirus

2020 was a year we’ll always remember. It’s the year we all learned (way too much) about Coronavirus.

For many gym owners, it meant temporarily shutting down and battling through some challenging-but-useful lessons as we learned to move forward. Now that we’ve adjusted to pandemic life, how can gym owners hang onto these lessons and continue to keep gym patrons healthy and safe in the future, no matter what challenges come our way?

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Gym lovers are a unique breed, driven by a desire to be healthy. They’re undaunted by pain or challenging circumstances. More importantly, they’re dedicated to their fitness regimen. So naturally, when COVID-19 hit, people were hoping to keep up their regular gym routine.

Unfortunately, at the onset of the pandemic, many cities experienced lockdowns, temporarily closing businesses to keep folks home and safe. In most cases, these lockdowns were only for a short time, and companies began to open back up after a few weeks or months.

For gym owners, the dip in traffic was a definite challenge. Many scrambled to find ways to put classes online and even rent out gym equipment for patrons who wanted to continue their fitness schedule from home. When things started opening back up, gym owners made adjustments to ensure that patrons were safe and protected during their workouts.

So what lessons did gym owners learn from COVID-19? What will we keep in place going forward? Here are 6 critical concepts to boost health and safety for gyms.

1. Following the Rules

Athletes and sports fans understand the importance of following the rules. After all, every athletic activity from weightlifting to golf comes with a set of rules and regulations to help athletes stay safe and perform at their best. Rules are part of healthy competition.

During the pandemic, organizations like the CDC and other governmental entities set many of the rules. Because the virus was novel or new, it was hard to keep up with the changing guidelines, but most people did their best. For gyms, that meant continuing to follow the rules and err on the side of safety.

Going forward, gyms should, of course, continue to follow the rules and guidelines set forth by health experts like the CDC, as well as other city and county regulations. Any time you’re doing bodywork, there’s a chance for injury and increased liability. For gyms, a focus on safety is critical to success. No one wants a patron to get injured, but moreover, no gym wants to be sued for negligence.

Keep safety guidance posted in a prominent spot in your facility. Ensure that your liability forms and information are reviewed regularly by your legal team to ensure you’ve covered all of your bases. Even though it’s tempting to balk at certain rules, most of the regulations are there to protect everyone’s health and safety. They’re also in place to ensure that small businesses like gyms can continue to run successfully, even in strange new circumstances.

2. Keeping a Clean Floor

Clients working out at your gym expect a clean and sanitary space for workouts like yogaWe’ve all learned the importance of hand sanitizer and masks this past year. The pandemic was a good refresher on why it’s essential to keep equipment clean all the time. When you have multiple patrons handling the same piece of gear, sweat, grime, and germs spread like wildfire.

While it might be a little gross to think about, gym equipment, particularly mats, and softer, porous items like punching bags are breeding grounds for germs, bacteria, and fungi (like athlete’s foot). Even with antimicrobial coatings and special manufacturing processes, equipment requires regular cleaning. It’s especially crucial when fighting an illness like COVID, but it’s still important during the regular cold and flu season.

One study found a typical gym facility (handrails, flooring, and touchpoints) held 17 different bacterial families and 25 different bacterial genera—including such nasties as salmonella, MRSA, and other staphylococci. The study was conducted pre-COVID, but it’s logical to conclude that the Coronavirus would also be easily transmitted at a gym.

Patrons may be a little shy about going back into the gym, even after they’ve received a vaccine. As you start to fill up and experience increased traffic, be sure to provide plenty of cleaning spray, towels, and materials to wipe down equipment. Each member of your facility should understand the importance of wiping down equipment every spot, every time—post signage to help members remember and keep staff on a regular, frequent cleaning schedule.

Keeping a clean equipment floor is essential for studio work like yoga, as well. When gym-goers are taking classes and getting down on the floor, there will naturally be more germs to contend with. Ensure your facility has proper ventilation and follows a regular cleaning protocol, including routine floor and mat cleaning.

3. Maintaining a Hygienic Locker Room

What lurks in the typical locker room? Most people don’t want to know! You’re creating a prime state for bacteria, mold, and more whenever you have shower facilities. Gym showers should be wiped down with high-grade antimicrobial cleaner and kept spotless. Cleaning staff should follow a frequent cleaning schedule and should receive proper training on how to clean thoroughly.

Your gym may feature showers, saunas, hot tubs, and even a pool. These areas of your gym and locker room require extra attention and special cleaning processes. You should use a specialized cleaner made for these areas of your gym; each location should have constant access to hot water to sanitize as needed.

If you have laundry equipment in your facility, maintaining hot water is also crucial for proper hygiene. Towels and other laundry must be washed at 149 degrees to kill bacteria and germs. This sanitization is critical for items that are touching sweat and bodily fluids.

Ensure your facility is keeping everything extra hygienic with hot, safe water for sanitization. Should you notice any decline in water temperature or concerns about hot water access, don’t hesitate to contact Reliable Water Services to get someone out right away to take a look. We know how crucial hot water is to your business, especially for the health and safety of gyms!

4. Sharing Information with Your Members

Gym clients expect healthy and safe conditions when visiting your gym for a treadmill workout.No matter the situation, communication is critical. When it comes to health and safety for gyms, communication is your best tool for keeping clientele and staff informed.

During the pandemic, many gyms learned that keeping communication lines open was critical for staying afloat. Members checked websites and social media to learn what precautions their favorite gym was taking. They also followed along on the latest information from the CDC and from the health department.

As a gym, your success is dependent on your members. Most people will follow guidelines and understand new rules and regulations if they are clearly outlined and explained. Of course, there are always challenges that come up, but clear, open communication can cut out a significant portion of confusion and disinformation.

For example, posting your facility hours and classes in several places will keep members from getting frustrated when they drive for 15-minutes, dressed for the class only to find it’s canceled. Be sure that your members update their contact information regularly and keep you informed of any changes.

In urgent situations, like injury or illness, having correct emergency contact information can be critical. Members should also share certain health concerns like seizure disorders or severe allergies to always stay safe while they workout. Staff should have quick access to emergency information, protocols, and exit plans.

5. Creating a Team

All athletes know the importance of teamwork. A gym is often a place for solo exercise (or working one-on-one with an instructor or trainer). That said, you can still work to create a team atmosphere at your facility.

When people feel they’re part of a team or community, they’re more likely to express concern for each other, treat each other with kindness, and feel the camaraderie. Notoriously, gyms have been places of competition or cliquey type behavior, but having a brand and reputation of being more inclusive will serve you better in the long run.

Fitness is for all human beings. If we’re all working toward a common goal of health and safety, then chances are, we can also find commonalities and connections with each other. Encourage gym members to talk to each other, introduce themselves (even during online classes), and ask trainers and teachers for instruction.

Create a community for your gym online as well as in-person. As we ride out what will hopefully be the end of COVID restrictions, we can still find ways to connect and come together. A human connection draws many people to gyms. Those ties can still be strengthened, even with staggered schedules, online courses, and fewer people on the workout floor.

6. Focus on Health

Sanitizing shared gym equipment like weights is a crucial step to keeping your gym healthy and safe.The biggest health and safety tip for gyms is to remember that the entire purpose is health, fitness, and well-being. As a gym owner, you want your patrons and staff to embrace a healthy lifestyle. You want them to think about themselves and to care about their bodies.

According to IHRSA, 56% of gym-goers expect their facility to be germ-free. 80% of people were likely to renew their membership IF they perceived their gym as clean. Gym cleanliness and hygiene is crucial for your business.

Of course, you want your members to visit the gym as frequently as possible. But one important lesson from the pandemic is that gym-goers should stay home if they’re feeling under the weather. This practice was overlooked in the past as gym-lovers pushed through colds or low-grade illnesses to keep a gym streak. Coronavirus has made us rethink that commitment and shift it toward a reverence for the entire community’s health, safety, and wellness.

Remind patrons that your gym is a place of health by sharing guidelines and policies. Offer information about not only exercise and physical fitness, but wellness and a healthy lifestyle as well. Lowering stress, prioritizing wellness, and practicing self-care are crucial orders these days. Share courses and resources on ways your gym members can include health and safety in every aspect of their lives.

With a vaccine in distribution, we’re likely entering the homestretch of our Coronavirus experience. While it’s essential to move forward, we shouldn’t forget the many valuable lessons we gained over the last year. Apply these concepts to increase your gym’s health and safety to ensure you continue to help your patrons enjoy the benefits of embracing a healthy, fit lifestyle.