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Fitness

What will working out be like when gyms and fitness studios and swimming pools reopen?

June 11th 2020 / Melanie Macleod / 0 comment

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Smaller class sizes, early check-in, all-weather outdoor workouts and potentially no showers. This is what your fitness studio session could look like

What have you missed most in lockdown? Hugs with friends and family? Your hair salon appointment? Shopping? For me, it’s been exercise. Yes, I’ve logged on to countless online workouts but nothing quite beats the feeling of sweating it out in a room surrounded by like-minded people, everyone’s legs whirring on the spin bike or doing deadlifts at the same time.

Unlike hairdressers, which reopen on July 4, gyms are yet to be given opening date guidelines by the government (word is mid-July) but many are now putting measures in place for reopening. Studio staff will be wearing PPE but it's yet to be announced if we'll have to wear masks ourselves while exercising. The days of circuits classes may be a long way off (can’t have people sharing equipment) overcrowded weights areas and hands-on adjustments in yoga are on hold.

Here’s everything we know so far about what gyms will be like in the new normal.

Arrive early to class and forget drop-ins

Flying through the studio door with just minutes before class kicks off won’t be doable post-lockdown. We'll need to factor in earlier arrival times.

“To allow for social distanced check-in and queueing we will be asking for clients to be mindful of allowing more time to arrive at our studios ahead of their class to ensure they have enough time to check-in safely and efficiently,” London boutique fitness studio Core Collective tells me.

The same goes for circuit-style class F45 which has branches nationwide including in Bath, Gloucester and Harrogate. “We will need members to arrive at the studio earlier to ensure everyone is assigned their proper space in class and understands how the new process will work. Additional time is also required for proper handwashing and sanitising.”

“We will be enforcing staggered class check-in time so as not to have a build-up of clients in reception or outside studios before classes,” adds London boutiques studio Flex Chelsea who offers yoga, spin and stretch classes.

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Self-check-in is set to be more commonplace too in order to minimise interaction with staff. At triyoga's five London yoga centres, which are hoping to reopen on 15 July, there will be no front of house check-in, everything will have to be pre-booked. You'll also have your temperature checked as will staff teachers and therapists. You'll also have to sign a declaration to say you are free of symptoms.

You'll need to arrive in your kit

Nothing is set in stone about the fate of changing room space but it looks likely depending on the size, that won't be available for the time being. London Pilates studio Pilates PT said: "There is a possibility changing rooms may be closed to reduce the amount of time clients spend in the facility."

The same goes for triyoga. "Changing rooms will be closed other than for use of toilets and handwashing; space will be available to securely monitor traveling clothes and bags," explains founder Jonathan Sattin. They are also making more spaces outside to allow people to park bikes if they prefer to cycle rather than use public transport.

At David Lloyd, which has 100 leisure centres nationally, the shower cubicles are already partitioned, so some, if not all, will be in use. But many of the lockers will be out of bounds to allow for distancing, and they don't know yet about continuing to provide hair dryers. Expect more 'blue roll' and paper towels in the loos, as hand dryers are decommissioned.

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Prepare to have your temperature checked

At David Lloyd gyms they are trialling a discreet thermo-scanner, a bit like a security camera, which reads your temperature the minute you walk in the door (you won't even notice, unless your temperature is 38C in which case you may be asked not to enter). Their staff will wear PPE when they are cleaning equipment but otherwise, masks are optional for everyone including us.

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You may have to prebook slots on the gym floor too

It’s commonplace to book a slot in classes, but Pure Gym warns to expect the same if you want to use the gym floor too – treadmills, weights, cross trainers and so on. “Rather than walk in, we will pre-book people into the gym at allotted times with app booking,” they say. This will avoid overcrowding at peak times and queues. “Our equipment will be spread out and user numbers will be monitored and limited to ensure safe distances are maintained. Our new safety protocols are already in place in Switzerland, where we have reopened gyms."

At David Lloyd Chigwell, they have built an overflow gym on one of the indoor tennis courts in case their primary gym fills its 114-member quota.

Expect fewer classes

If you know your gym class schedule better than you know the train timetable, we've got some bad news for you. To allow time for cleaning the studio space, classes are likely to be more spread out with extra time in between each session to allow the studio to fully empty.

“We ideally want to allow class participants to fully exit the studio before the next class begins, so there may be some amends in the timetable to allow this,” says Digme, who has branches in London and Oxford, offering spin and HIIT classes.

“Extended breaks in between the sessions will allow for the equipment to be properly sanitised before the next class,” adds F45. At triyoga, they are installing new air filters and bringing in cleaning using virus-killing UV light.

At David Lloyd, PT sessions will be cut from one hour to 45 minutes to allow for equipment cleaning, which will be done by the trainers themselves. They ask you not to bring your own sweat towel to use on the gym equipment.

If you're worried about your gym membership giving less bang for your buck, at David Lloyd they are increasing then numbers of classes to make up for the smaller class sizes, so everyone has a chance to work out.

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Classes will be smaller and possibly less intense

We’ll no longer be crammed into studios, riding shoulder-to-shoulder in spin classes or mat-to-mat in yoga. Numbers will be halved, says Flex Chelsea. “Social distancing will take out every other person in the class. It may reduce class atmosphere marginally, but on the other hand, each individual will receive more attention from the trainer in class.”

Meanwhile at Pure Gym, they may be encouraging you to go easy on the weights not harder. “We will encourage lighter load exercise to prevent heavy breathing,” Pure Gym says. That's not the case at David Lloyd, where they tell us their three-metre spacing between workout 'squares' means you are well away from your panting neighbour.

Pair-training, spotting, having your PT stretch you post-workout, or your yoga instructor do hands-on assists will, of course, be out.

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Gym equipment will be spread out

The gym has never really been a place for keeping away from people but this is set to change (perhaps a positive that you are not having someone breathing down your neck when you’re trying to lift weights?). “Our equipment will be spread out and user numbers will be monitored and limited to ensure safe distances are maintained,” say Pure Gym.

F45, which normally operates a circuit-style workout will see big changes. “Each member will have their own allocated workout space with a station marker placed in front of each workout station with no moving around.”

At David Lloyd, their signature Blaze bootcamp class, which involves rotating through shared equipment (treadmill, dumbbells and punch bag) class sizes will reduce from 15 to eight, so that no equipment is shared.

At Pure Gym (below) it's a similar story, with boxes market out on the class floor.

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The chlorinated swimming pool might be the safest place to be

Chlorine is the ultimate virus buster, says David Lloyd Chigwell. Here, they have reduced and widened the lanes on the indoor pool. There's no word yet on whether family splash-about swimming will continue. They tell us that they are still awaiting government guidelines on this.

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Bringing your own yoga mats will be encouraged

Sharing props isn't on the agenda anymore. "Props will be limited to mats and foam blocks and ideally you will bring your own," says triyoga. "Mats and props will be sanitised before and after each class."

You can still get your protein shakes and energy balls

If government guidelines allow, exercise studios will still be able to offer smoothies post-sweat session but don't expect a full menu. "We will be reopening with just our coffee/smoothie bar and selling water bottles," says Core Collective. "We made the move to cash-free before lockdown so we're already fully set up for contactless payments."

Filling up your bottle on-site is only for emergencies. “We encourage staff and members to bring full bottles of water to avoid multiple visits to the water fountain,” says F45.

Online classes and outdoor classes will still be on the agenda

One of the positives to come out of lockdown is the enforced switch to online classes in lockdown, which has democratised exercised, making it more affordable and accessible. If you were ever 'gymtimidated' Zoom has been a godsend.

Live stream classes have proved so popular many studios plan to keep them up, including triyoga, which is bringing in new video equipment to film studio classes and broadcast live.

Flex Chelsea adds: “Virtual classes are here to stay. People have seen the convenience of not having to walk to a gym in order to exercise, and now that it’s been going on for such a long time, they have become accustomed to it. Without the fear of judgment from others on the gym floor, working out seems a lot more approachable – no one can see if you mess up the steps, or collapse on the sofa halfway through!"

Meanwhile at David Lloyd, the outdoor classes they have been hosting for the past few weeks – for five people plus an instructor according to guidelines which allow outdoor gatherings of up to six people – look set to continue due to popular demand. It seems we've fallen in love with working out in the fresh air. Members have been doing fitness classes on the tennis courts, yoga in the spa garden and spin bike classes on the terrace and the gym has invested in numerous giant umbrellas to provide shade and rain cover. No excuses!

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Will you be rushing back to the gyms as soon as they open their doors, or wait until studios feel a bit more 'normal'? Let us know in the comments below. If you are a studio, tell us what your plans are too.

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