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Is it safe to go back to the gym?

Posted On:
May 8, 2020

Thanks to isolation this is the longest spring on record... mid-March feels like at least 6 years ago. Let’s agree, isolation has been impacting our health.

Life in isolation means more time inside. We’re spending more time cooking, cleaning, and if we’re lucky we’re hanging out with our immediate families. It also means a lot more time on video calls.

The downside is we’re moving a lot less. Gyms are closed, sports are on hold and our normal routines are turned upside down. The result? Less exercise and movement means lower overall health.

Good news! It’s looking like the hardest part is behind us. We’re months into our new reality and gyms are finally reopening, some have already. What will our next phase look like? And will we even be ready to return to the gym?

Voluntary social distancing puts responsibility on individuals and businesses to make decisions to keep us safe. It is a very effective tool against the spread of COVID as long as we obey the new rules. People wash their hands, keep from touching their face and keep 2m distance from one another.

Businesses support distance by limiting their capacity and making obvious cues for lines. Staff wear masks, gloves and in some cases work behind plexiglass. We use these cues to keep our distance.

There are no hard and fast rules on what safety precautions businesses must take. The public health officer’s orders are that businesses take precautions to ensure distance between clients because it is the most effective way to prevent an outbreak of COVID.

So are gyms able to comply with public health officers orders? The short answer yes. Here in Vancouver, BC we’re very lucky to have flattened the curve early and personal services are starting up. This change is happening as early as May 19th.

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Changes to gyms

Differences you will see is limited total capacity. Taped cues and lines will show us where to line up, guards will direct us how to pass one another at entry ways. Cardio equipment will be spaced further apart or every other machine will be taped off to keep distance.

One of the biggest changes will be how you arrive. Locker rooms and showers will be closed. Prepare to arrive in your runners, shorts and sports top ready to go.

Sanitizing will no longer be optional, and cleaning solutions will surely be either dilute chlorine bleach or alcohol (both proven effective against COVID at specific concentrations). The responsibility for sanitization will fall on gym staff. Trainers and hired cleaners will dedicate extra time to keeping each shared machine clean.

Another consideration for the next phase is contact tracing. Our health authority wants to know when new cases arise, where that outbreak occurred and who else might be affected. That means signing in and out of your gym visit will be essential.

If you work with a personal trainer make sure to keep your distance. Like a grocery store clerk, they’re in contact with multiple people each day and it’s up to us to keep them healthy. Your trainer will be in a protective mask and gloves, which they’ll change regularly.

But wearing a mask or gloves would be a challenge during a workout, so don’t expect this to be mandatory.

Will we return to the gym?

Gyms want clients to come back which is why they are investing in safety improvements. But will we return to our gym routines?

Some of us will, some of us won’t.

Those of us who are not worried about an infection and don’t like the idea of video sessions will be the first to return. These intrepid and health-confident gym patrons will shrug off the challenges of getting back into a routine.

On the other hand, many of us are now used to a new routine altogether. We might be concerned that some people are not going to practice social distancing responsibly. And our own immune systems or risk factors (like age and other health conditions) make heading out into the world an unnecessary risk.

We don’t need to go back. The being at the gym is not life and death, and video sessions are available.

The coming weeks we will gain much more clarity on how the rest of the year will look. And whatever your risk tolerance, whatever type of gym-goer you are, make sure to get exercise.

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