Are you going back to your gym when it reopens this weekend? While you may have missed it, you might also be a little nervous about going back. We asked several of the major gym chains what they will be doing to ensure the safety of members and staff.

What can you expect when gyms reopen on 25th July? In short, classes will be smaller, workouts may be shorter (depending on how long you spent working out before lockdown) and social distancing guidelines will be strictly followed. As you might expect, there will be lots of cleaning. You’ll be advised to avoid showers and changing rooms. Here’s how the gym chains have prepared for the reopening…

‘To ensure our sites are safe for both members and employees, we have implemented a number of changes, following guidance from UK Active, the UK government, Public Health England and our own infection prevention team,’ says Martin Friend, Chief Operating Officer from Nuffield Health. ‘We will be taking members’ temperatures upon arrival, reducing fitness class sizes and placing signs around the club to help maintain social distancing.’

‘Classes will also be shorter than usual to allow time to sanitise the space in between sessions,’ adds Martin. ‘Swimming pools will re-open for lane swimming only, with fewer people able to use the pool at any one time, and members will be asked to book their session before arriving. Saunas, steam rooms and spa pools will remain closed, while cafes will be offering a reduced service, with some remaining closed for the time being.’

Prepare to be flexible

You will need to adopt a flexible mindset as things won’t be exactly the same as before. Arriving at the gym dressed and ready to work out straight away may be a requirement in some venues.

Martin from Nuffield Health adds: ‘We are asking members to arrive dressed for their workout to limit the use of changing rooms. Members will also be asked to bring a full water bottle as water fountains will be out of use. Those using the gym will be asked to shower at home, so shower facilities can be prioritised for those using the pool, as we will be reducing the number of shower facilities.’

If you take part in classes, Nuffield will ask you to book them online. If you are planning to use the swimming pool – you will need to reserve your lane online in advance. All members of Nuffield will need to limit their gym visits to one hour.

‘There will be signs around the sites to help maintain social distancing and where possible, one-way systems will be implemented,’ says Martin.

Managing the numbers

Of course, managing the number of people in the gym at any one time is going to be a challenge for all major gyms. There will be limits and one-way systems are going to be a popular way to help people follow social distancing rules. ‘We will be limiting the number of people in the gym at any one time to allow for social distancing, and we are also introducing a booking system to manage occupancy levels and to avoid overcrowding,’ says Duncan Jefford, Regional Director for Everyone Active. ‘All customers will be required to pre-book for a session via the Everyone Active app. Each session will be a maximum of 50 minutes long, with 10 minutes at the end to allow for cleaning.’

Keeping gym equipment clean is essential, and gyms will be carrying out more cleaning than before. ‘We’ve invested in new cleaning technology that will completely disinfect our facilities every evening,’ adds Duncan from Everyone Active. ‘We’ve also increased our cleaning hours, to ensure that there will be staff cleaning equipment throughout the day and we’ve also placed more hygiene stations around our gyms to ensure members can help keep everything clean.’

What if you don’t want to go back to the gym? You don’t have to if you’re not sure about it. ‘For those members not ready to return, we are offering the option to freeze their memberships,’ says Martin from Nuffield Health. ‘Members will also have access to the new fitness platform, Nuffield Health 24/7, which will provide an enhanced service for members, with continued access to online resources and brand-new specialist workouts led and delivered by an expert team of professionals.’

Online solution

Everyone Active is offering an online training solution for those who don’t want to go back to the gym. ‘We also recognise that many of our members have enjoyed working out from home during lockdown,’ says Duncan. ‘We don’t want anyone to have to make the choice between the gym and their favourite on-demand session so we’ve launched Everyone On Demand, a package of market-leading fitness apps including WithU and FLEX, EXi, and for a limited time Les Mills On Demand.

‘Every returning or new member will receive access to all of these apps, which collectively contain almost 2500 workouts, at no extra cost, as part of the current membership fee. For anyone who is not ready to return to the gym, we are offering Everyone On Demand for £9.99 a month.’.

More space

Larger gyms like David Lloyd will be able to offer ample space between equipment. ‘80 per cent of clubs will operate with a second gym area on indoor tennis courts allowing for generous social distancing, with workout areas of 3m x 3m providing maximum safety and a comfortable experience,’ says a spokesperson. ‘Where we are not able to move equipment, we will take a proportion of it out of use to ensure social distancing. We are limiting bookings/numbers for group exercise classes to adhere to social distancing guidelines. Members will be spaced at 2.5m apart.’

Many gyms will be running exercise classes, with social distancing in place. ‘We will be reducing class sizes to maintain social distancing and they will also be shorter than usual to allow time to sanitise the space in between sessions,’ says Martin Friend from Nuffield Health.

‘We have spaced stickers on the floor 2.5m apart for members to stand on to ensure ample social distancing,’ says a David Lloyd spokesperson. ‘Class numbers will be restricted depending on the size of the studio to allow this to happen, but we will be increasing the number of classes on offer to make sure that there is sufficient availability.’

Face masks currently optional in gyms

‘At Nuffield Health we will not be insisting on face coverings as we believe maintaining a safe distance between members is sufficient to reduce any risk of droplet transmission while ensuring wellbeing,’ says Martin. ‘However, for our staff, where our workforce are carrying out activities that may increase their exposure risk, such as cleaning, or where they cannot maintain 2m distancing, such as temperature checking, we are asking them to wear personal protective equipment to help keep them safe.’

‘We follow UKActive guidelines which have been created in close consultation with the Government. At present there is no requirement for facemasks in the clubs, and so they remain optional, but should that change we will of course update our advice,’ says a David Lloyd spokesperson.

Smaller fitness studios that provide a more personalised service will also be reopening, and in some ways, will have fewer challenges as they have fewer customers.

Ten Health & Fitness is a boutique style Pilates studio with various locations in London. Creative Director Justin Rogers says all workouts are already guided and monitored within a class or one to one environment. ‘However, as recommended, we are reducing smaller class sizes with longer gaps between sessions for additional cleaning and to help manage distancing. We are also asking our clients to come to their sessions already changed; changing rooms or showers are likely to be closed.’