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What Are People Looking for in a Post-COVID Gym?

By Neesha Kanaga

Published 27 February 2020

COVID-19 has brought many industries to new lows this year, and the year to come will continue to be ridden with doubt as many sectors strive to establish a foothold in the new normal.

The highs and lows of the virus’ spread have many fitness facilities scrambling to implement safety guidelines for reopening – but despite this, many people are hesitant to return to gyms. In fact, a recent study carried out by Run Repeat shows that some 46.6% of American gym-goers will not be returning to the gym even after the spread of COVID-19 is under control. Across the pond, in the UK, Women’s Health Magazine reports that a staggering 72% of people will be sticking to sweating it out at home for a long time to come.

Sharing potentially unsanitary equipment and overcrowding are cited as the main reasons for concern. Even though fitness facilities have gone above and beyond in ensuring that their spaces are safe, and government bodies have given gyms the green light to reopen, there’s still a massive lack of trust among patrons and facilities.

This begs the question of what are people looking for in a post-COVID gym. Is the root cause for not returning based on tangible concerns – or are they mainly feelings floating around much like this dreaded airborne virus?

And, what can gyms do to meet the needs of the post-COVID customer in order to keep financially afloat?

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1. Make the rules clear

One factor that has many people staying away from gyms and studios is the discrepancy of rules and regulations from business to business. Depending on where you’re based, one gym may require the use of masks, but another may not.

The lack of clear-cut rules makes members more hesitant to return to gyms upon reopening, opting instead for the vast array of online offerings that are readily available these days. In fact, many facilities are now conducting top-notch virtual workout classes using tailor-made gym software. As a result, getting more people back to gyms even after the virus has subsided is going to be a hard bargain to drive.

On top of that, people are often left feeling lost about the expected code of conduct – especially amid a pandemic. Make your members’ choice to return to your facility a less daunting one by detailing all the rules up front. You can utilize an app or platform with an online community to communicate with members and create a section within the app that outlines all the on-site rules. Leave no stone unturned and ensure your members can easily find information regarding returning to your gym

2. Enforce the coronavirus guidelines in your gym

Okay, so you’ve got your rules figured out, and you’ve communicated them with your staff and members. The next step is the hardest: enforcing the coronavirus guidelines at your gym. Gyms are energy-laden spaces where people often go to achieve personal goals and frankly, not give a damn about the person standing next to them. Therein lies the problem: social distancing.

With everyone so caught up in their own workouts, it can be difficult to maintain safe distances or one can easily forget to clean the equipment after use. As a gym manager or owner, make sure that you mobilize your ground staff to enforce the house rules. It’s going to take some getting used to – nobody wants to size up the guy squatting 400 lbs and ask him to put on his mask. But it has to be done.

Provide your staff with proper training on how to approach people and politely enforce the rules. This will also make other patrons more likely to follow suit and keep returning to your gym knowing that it’s a safe space.

3. Timeslots for age brackets

It’s no secret that people in high-risk groups for COVID-19, such as the elderly and those with compromised immune systems, should avoid the gym for now. For the former – only if they are willing to return, and there is a demand – you can open your doors according to timeslots for members aged 50 and above. There are already examples of gyms in the US doing this, with some success and a whole lot of cleaning.

You can reserve the non-peak hours for certain age groups to incentivize them to return to the gym. As more health-conscious 50-somethings will be looking for ways to stay fit without having to come into close contact with younger age groups, timeslots for age brackets will be the way to go.

4. Create timeslots by enabling booking, schedules, etc

This one simple: no booking, no entry. Many gyms and health clubs around the world already have some sort of booking system in place. Whether it is through a complete app that facilitates the entire gym experience from the palm of your hands, or a less complex – or even a manual one such as a phone call – everyone expects a gym to have a booking system.

This can be used to reserve timeslots for visiting, and inadvertently acts as a form of crowd control. By using software or an app that automates booking, scheduling, and managing cancellations, you lessen the burden of administrative tasks and free up time to focus on the finer details of your fitness business.

5. Sweep your clients clean off their feet

Gyms were never the arbiters of cleanliness. They often comprise enclosed spaces crammed with workout equipment, all exuding that all-too-familiar ‘gym smell’. While this may have been a passable aesthetic before the coronavirus, the post-COVID gym has to embody cleanliness.

Within our own client base, we’re aware of gyms that have upped their cleaning schedules from once a day to once every hour. This may sound like a lot, but it’s the only way to ensure a safe environment for your members. If you are cleaning your gym at a higher rate than usual, make sure to communicate this to your members to create trust and confidence.

Gyms should follow the cleaning rules set by their local authorities. In America, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines for cleaning and disinfecting should be the bible for maintaining a sanitary gym environment.

Play the long game

There’s a lot of work to do in order to facilitate reopening gyms and health centers safely. The main criteria are that it is done without compromise to public health and safety. A healthy lifestyle will always have a place in peoples’ hearts, so while they may be reluctant to visit gyms immediately, fitness facilities can start laying the foundations of a safe space for members to return to.

As owners and managers of fitness businesses, ensure that you play a part in the narrative of what constitutes a post-COVID gym by embracing the digital transformation that’s sweeping through the industry – lest you be swept away by the tide of progress.

Neesha Kanaga

Neesha is a copywriter and wanderer who currently finds herself bound to the weather-challenged Netherlands due to the unforeseen circumstances of 2020.

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