Gym owners have had a rough year; forced shutdowns, increased cancellations, low attendance, and little financial help from the government. Most gyms are small businesses, even the bigger chains (Anytime Fitness and Planet Fitness) are franchises owned by individuals, not corporate conglomerates.
For the most part, gym owners have bent over backwards to abide by CDC guidelines, keep their gyms disinfected and clean, and protect their members.
They have redesigned their gyms to give appropriate space between machines or workout areas, reduced the size of group exercise classes and put markers that are within CDC guidelines so group exercise classes could continue safely even if they are limited to 4 or 8 people, and have intensified their cleaning and disinfecting schedules.
There’s a series of articles from my former employer, Corporate Fitness Works, that discusses in detail how fitness centers can reopen and the steps they are taking to keep their members safe. You can read the series here!
And that’s great, but what *REALLY* needs to be discussed are the terms and conditions *YOU* agreed to when you became a member. And whether you want to *CONTINUE* to be a member. Although I no longer work full-time in the fitness industry, I’m in the gym every day and what I see from members it’s like COVID isn’t even happening.
Most membership agreements and your first orientation as a new member, cover things like “Gym Cleanliness”. The owners are simply asking you to agree to wipe down and disinfect each machine you use, free weight equipment you touch, and mat you lie upon. Hey, we aren’t dumb, we know 75% of members don’t wipe down $h!T, and that was *BEFORE* the pandemic. And now, every day I go to the gym, I witness less than 50% of members wiping down any equipment that they have been using, DURING A PANDEMIC! Nice effort, but if you want gyms to stay open, and you want to make sure COVID-19 isn’t spread at your gym, YOU NEED TO DISINFECT EVERYTHING YOU AND YOUR SWEATY BODY TOUCH, EVERY TIME.
This isn’t up for debate, the CDC knows how COVID-19 travels and why gyms are a place where the virus *CAN* thrive.
It mainly spreads from person-to-person: between people who are in close contact with one another (within less than 6 feet-think Zumba class) and through respiratory droplets produced when a person who has COVID-19 coughs, sneezes, or talks.
Don’t think “respiratory droplets” get thrown about in the gym? Take a *GOOD LOOK* at the mirror behind a dumbbell rack, or in front of a squat rack or the mounted TV monitors on cardio equipment. Yeah, those little dots aren’t fairy dust. And if they are on the mirror, they most likely are on the dumbbells, weight plates, and barbells that are around it. That is why it is more important than ever to DISINFECT EVERYTHING that you touch at your gym.
Another thing that needs to be discussed is *MASK WEARING*. Masks stop the spread of COVID-19 by preventing those “respiratory droplets” from being launched across the gym. You can get COVID-19 from people who don’t seem sick or don’t have symptoms. You yourself could have been exposed, especially if you are working out in a gym where *NO ONE* wears a mask and very few are disinfecting equipment. In the words of Dr. Fauci, “Now is the time, if ever there was one, for us to care selflessly about one another.” So let’s stop the talk of mask-wearing being “Oppressive” and “Infringing On My Rights.” That argument, mostly by people who haven’t been oppressed a day in their lives, is borderline selfish and ridiculous. If you truly cared about your friends, your other gym patrons, your personal trainer, the owner of the gym whose livelihood will be extinguished if there’s a 2nd shutdown, you would wear a mask. Here’s what kind of mask you should wear and how to wear it
That being said, there are valid arguments against mask wearing when working out at high intensity and during cardiovascular training. If you absolutely *CANNOT* reduce your workout intensity to medium or low during the pandemic, and must always workout at high intensity, then make sure you practice social distancing. 6 – 12 feet away from other members in every direction. Just a heads up, if you sit on a machine and text for 5 minutes between sets, THAT’S NOT AN INTENSITY THAT REQUIRES NOT WEARING A MASK. Texting between sets is not High Intensity. Here are some more ideas from the IHRSA about mask-wearing in gyms and what masks are the most effective
In closing, as we witness COVID-19 cases sky-rocket, and as a second shut down of gyms looms, let’s return to the post 9/11 era of caring about one another, embracing science, and taking the recommended steps from the experts to “flatten the curve” and “reduce the spread.” Let’s keep ourselves and our fellow gym members healthy and make sure our actions keep gyms open and in business.
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