Preparing Your Fitness Business for Post Pandemic Re-Opening - Part 3. Facilities Assessment

May 22, 2020

By Tim Saye

In the third article of the Preparing Your Fitness Business for Post Pandemic Re-Opening series , we will be focusing on how to assess your facility for reopening.

A Note for Freelance Personal Trainers

If you're a personal trainer who hires gym or studio space by the hour or monthly, you'll need to liaise with the gym owner to understand what they are doing to make the environment safe for both clients and trainers. Even if it feels like there isn't much, you can personally do, remember that you have a duty of care towards your clients. 

Ensuring that the owner follows the guidelines is paramount which means you will also need to understand what measures need to be taken, so your clients feel safe and keep on trusting you do your best for them.

Why Do You Need to Assess?

The lockdown period has been a source of considerable anxiety for personal training clients and gym-goers. They have not only had the stress of the virus, but they have lost one of the main ways they choose to manage their anxieties in the closure of gyms. 
Many clients are eager to get back to their usual methods of training. Many more clients will come back only if they feel it's safe to do so, particularly if they have additional health concerns which make them higher risk. Being able to take a thorough inventory of what needs to be done so that you can communicate this with your clients will be a strong starting point to getting back inside the gym.

How to Assess

The assessment procedures will be different for personal trainers who rent space in a gym, and gym owners with their facilities. It may be that there are already plans in place. Taking responsibility for executing the plan to reopen will likely be shared with gym staff initially, but this will be an on-going concern for some time. Members of the gym using equipment will also be expected to take responsibility for helping to keep equipment clean. 
If you own your gym or rent an entire facility for your fitness business, you may want to hire a Health & Safety professional with experience in disease prevention to help you reopen properly. The investment will pay off long term. 

What to Assess

The assessment will need to be comprehensive and include areas that you may not even think at first could improve the level of safety of your facility.

If you are not sure what to include and you don't have the resources to pay a professional, you can find guidelines released by UK Active in their post-COVID-19 framework as a starting point. 

We will list the most prominent areas, but don't take this as an exhaustive list. Go out and figure out what your clients think would be safest and also keep monitoring government advice. 

In the UK, as it stands, gyms won't reopen until after the 4th of July, so we expect more and more information will be revealed by the authorities closer to the date. The more aspects you consider in advance, the quicker you'll be able to react when, eventually, the decision is made to allow the leisure industry to go back to work. Use the time until then, to get ready!

- Cleaning procedures: Who takes responsibility for what tasks, how frequently can you feasibly clean the training areas, machines and equipment? How regularly will you need to clean to what extent and how will you track that procedures are going smoothly?

- Areas of Risk: What can you do to make the communal areas as safe as possible? Think of the reception, the changing rooms, group exercise studios, showers, cafes and restaurants, the pool if you have one, etc.? Will you have to keep certain areas closed until the virus is defeated?

- Sanitizing options: Who's in charge of the constant availability of soap, hand sanitisers (especially by the entrance and exits), and wipes for the equipment before and after use?

- De-cluttering: Many gyms ram in as many pieces of equipment as possible to serve their members, and that probably needs to stop. You may want to get rid of, or take out of use, some machines to reduce the cleaning load. Where possible, can clients bring their kit for high contact areas such as boxing gloves, yoga mats, etc.?

- House Rules Update: Will gym users need to change their clothes and shoes when they come into the building? Can you encourage the use of hand sanitiser or handwashing with soap and water before and after sessions? Will they need to wear a mask? What about regulating attendance for people who have shown symptoms in the last few weeks?

- Schedule and Capacity: Will there be restrictions on the number of people permitted in the gym at one time? Will you need to leave more time between classes for cleaning? Will group fitness classes have to be stopped entirely? If your facility is open 24 hours, there are some severe considerations for outside staffed time.

- Investment Needs: If a deep clean is needed before reopening, do you have the budget to employ a professional cleaning team - perhaps schedule this weekly as an additional part of your cleaning schedule? Is any redecoration necessary? Do you need to do remodelling to make your facility or specific areas safer? Do you need to invest in extra equipment like laser thermometers? Maybe you need to consider how you separate areas to aid social distancing? Check how some gyms in Hong Kong did that in this video by Bloomberg.

Outdoors: Personal trainers in England are encouraged to start conducting 1-2-1 sessions in public outdoor spaces, like parks from the 13th May 2020 while adhering to social distancing guidelines. Is that something you can start offering to your members who are keen to get back to training? While you can't use outdoor gyms, it may be a great opportunity to start working on cardiovascular fitness and bodyweight strength with your clients, until further easing of restrictions will take place. Check what a href= "" target="_blank">CIMSPA had to say about the guidance.

Wrapping Up

Another aspect to consider, and that applies to all freelance personal trainers, small studio and large gym owners alike, is this. The sooner you can get back into the saddle of financial freedom in your business, the better for the future success of your business. Reopening your doors as soon as it's allowed and providing a welcoming and caring environment for your staff and clients will serve that purpose.

Governments won't be able to support everybody for a very long time, and just so you understand, all that government support will come back to us in increased tax and other fees in the years to come. The sooner you are back up on your feet, the better the chances that the economic backlash that's likely coming won't affect you as much.

The thought of making these changes (and the potential expense of performing them safely) can be daunting. As tempting as it is to get back into the gym and return to a regular training schedule, it's crucial that the safety of everyone in the gym - managers, trainers and instructors, cleaners and members - remain a priority.

Demonstrating to staff and members that their health is important is at the forefront of everything we do in the fitness industry. Reassuring people that the facility is fully ready for business, and being able to communicate a thoughtful and effective strategy for reopening will be so important. Take it as an opportunity to stand out from other gyms in your area who are doing a less thorough job, or who are not as proactive.