Prepare Your Fitness Business for Post Pandemic Re-Opening Part 5. - Plan of Action

Jun 5, 2020

By Tim Saye

In the final article in the Prepare Your Fitness Business for Post Pandemic Re-Opening series we'll be focusing on creating an action plan for your personal training business or gym. 

Since March we've all had to adapt to extraordinary pressures in all areas of life; 
businesses, health, and our finances may have been compromised too.

You may have ventured into solutions you never thought you'd offer, ground through cashflow challenges and you're still here, reading this article, working to find answers to help your clients best. 

Let me congratulate you, and I advise you to pat yourself on the back for being able to adapt quickly and continue to provide an incredible service to your clients. 

This series has explored the considerations relating to:

- Your clients' needs and how comfortable they are about returning to public facilities.
- Your finances and what help is available for you.
- Your facility's suitability and unique requirements for re-opening
- Whether your services need to change, and how to best deliver them

And today, in this final installment, I'll give you suggestions on how to create a plan of action. We'll discuss three scenarios for freelance personal trainers, small private training studio owners and larger or commercial gym managers and owners.

If you operate outside the UK, or if your circumstances are different, you should consider these a guideline to be used alongside your government's advice.

Plan of Action for Personal Trainers

Step 1. Assess

Communicating with your clients will be more critical now than ever before. Use the surveys you conducted, email and social media to get a sense of their needs with regards to returning to training. 

Some clients may be more eager than others, but for those who are cautious, you can continue to offer online support as you have for the last several weeks. 

Step 2. Pivot

One of the benefits of the last few weeks is that the online service you offer has been brought into the mainstream and normalised. People who might not otherwise have considered online personal training as an option have had the chance to get used to the idea of working remotely. 

Offering a permanent online training package after lockdown is lifted will be a far more familiar, "easy" package to provide than it may have been in the past.

Step 3. Keep Training Personal

Consider the needs of each client. If they are a higher risk client as assessed by the NHS you might suggest that they remain online for the moment until they feel safe and comfortable to return. 

Reassure them that their health remains the priority to you and that you will honour their bookings (such as a preferred time slot) when it's safe for them to return to regular training.

Step 4. Stay Connected

Communicate with other staff at the gym, including your manager (if you have one), to discuss your contractual obligations. These will relate to delivering group fitness classes as part of your hours or updated expectations with cleaning regimes. There may be adjustments to be made for those personal trainers that pay rent and scope to negotiate these payments until standard service is resumed.

Plan of Action for Commercial Gym Owners And Managers

Step 1. Understand New Guidelines

A statement issued by UKActive recently has outlined some quite specific guidance. I recommend you to keep checking their website for further advice and practices as we move closer to the date of potential gym re-opening. A few important points:

- Distance between equipment in use must be at least 2m. You can re-organise the gym floor, or if that isn't possible, managers can mark every other piece of equipment in the gym out of order to facilitate social distancing.

- Touchpoints of machines must be cleaned after each use, including buttons, handles and weights. You will need to have
stricter cleaning schedule but also ask your members to do their part and enforce that procedure. You can provide
anti-bacterial wipes or sprays and paper towels across the gym floor.
- Additional signs regarding social distancing should be in place in areas with lots of movement, such as around the
free-weights area.
- You must adhere to new footfall guidelines: You need to calculate the maximum number of members you can host based on
the area of your gym floor. 3m2 per person is the minimum requirement.

Step 2. Plan and Organise to Change Processes

It is advisable to contact a specialist industrial cleaning company to make regular deep cleans in the facility. You'll need to budget it and be done in addition to the usual cleaning schedule. It may even be necessary to set time aside for repainting high contact areas so that the building "feels" new when the members are allowed to return.

There is a consideration for commercial gyms to which people have 24-hour access or their keys. In these cases, it is insufficient to follow the rules above, and special procedures may have to be used to restrict public access to staffed hours.

Step 3. Inform Staff and Members

You will likely need to change the House Rules and let your members know well in advance, so they understand what they are required to do to allow safe returning to working out in the gym. Emphasise in your communications that you are implementing the changes for their safety. 

Plan of Action for Private Studio Owners and Coaches

Step 1. Understand How Guidelines Apply to Your Business

Some of the UKActive advice linked above will apply to your facility as well. Keep checking them as well as government advice as you are moving towards opening your studio.  

- Social distancing guidelines must be followed (2m apart). You may need to limit the class sizes so that your clients
can have designated work areas and mark them clearly on the floor.

- Minimum of a 10-minute window in between instructed classes and personal training sessions to allow your clients to
leave, clean the area and new clients to arrive without going against social distancing guidelines.

- Equipment (including mats etc.) must be cleaned in between each use.

Step 2. Introducing New Practices

If the facility offers an "open gym" component where gym members can come and do their own thing, not follow the instructed class, this may have to be put on hold. So there may be restrictions to the scheduled timetable.

Classes must adhere strictly to their start and finish times for cleaning requirements to be carried out before the next session begins.

Step 3. Communicating with Staff and Clients

In your business, you make the rules. Creating a collaborative, thoughtful plan before you need to execute it will allow you to adjust the plan as needed and respond as efficiently to gyms re-opening as you did to them closing.

Wrapping Up

The current environment is everything but making personal trainers and fitness professionals feel secure. But that applies to the whole population regardless of their background, work or social status.

If you understand and accept this simple principle, you'll be able to adapt better and faster to each of your client's needs and the ever-changing circumstances. 

My suggestion is to try to adhere to the following principles, and you'll be better off at the other end of 2020:

- Do all you deem necessary to stay safe and keep those about you care safe too. Including clients.
- Seek opportunities even where you don't yet realise there are any.
- Aspire to stay or become financially independent from government aid as soon as possible.
- Cut yourself some slack; you are doing fantastic!