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Gyms are currently allowed to operate in various capacities in 26 states, as restrictions are gradually being lifted in some parts of the country amid the coronavirus crisis, though safety precautions and capacity limits may differ. Still, some aspects of the workout world may be forever transformed because of COVID-19, according to executives from two of America’s largest gym chains who spoke with Fox News.
Adam Zeitsiff, president and CEO of Gold’s Gym, and McCall Gosselin, SVP of Communications at Planet Fitness, explained what members can expect as they return to the gym following the coronavirus outbreak and their ultimate predictions for the future of fitness.
Both Zeitsiff and Gosselin emphasized that guest and employee safety remain of the utmost importance, prioritized through new efforts like rigorous cleaning and enforced social distancing, in accordance with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC.)
“The health and safety of our team members and members has always been our top priority and it’s never been more important,” Zeitsiff said. “Our protocols, including capacity, sanitation and distancing protocols are informed by federal, state and local guidelines as well as recommendations from public health officials and designed to protect our members and team members as our gyms reopen.”
At company-owned Golds Gym locations, gym-goers can expect to see social distancing and safety signage throughout, and the staggered operation of cardio and strength machines to promote increased physical distancing. But the most noticeable change might be the daily “intermission” from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m., during which staffers will restock cleaning supplies and clean the gym. Though already members inside the gym will still be able to continue working out during the "intermission," incoming members will not be allowed to check into the facility during the sanitization period.
All Gold’s Gym employees will wear masks and gloves, while touchless scans will be used for contactless client check-in.
In accordance with the new regulations, gym-goers must also sign a new code of conduct agreeing to respect Gold’s Gym’s enhanced new cleaning standards and practice safe physical distancing within the facility. The new agreement also asks members to stay home if they have any flu-like symptoms, avoid the non-operational equipment to promote physical distancing, and thoroughly wipe down equipment after use, with cleaning supplies provided by the gym.
At Planet Fitness, the gym chain is similarly promoting “social fitnessing” and asking members to be “clean-siderate” in adhering to new health and safety guidance in the fight against COVID-19. Existing policies and protocol for sanitization have been strengthened to assure that facilities are cleaner than ever.
“We’ve increased sanitization stations throughout the club and the gym floor, and we’re going to be performing increased cleanings with different disinfectants against COVID-19,” Gosselin shared. “We are enabling members to follow CDC guidelines with regards to physical distancing, so we are marking various pieces of equipment ‘out of use’ to create additional space between members. We’ve also implemented touchless check-in via our app to help reduce contact between staff and members.”
As for the future of fitness? Gosselin said that the ongoing outbreak has likely given many Americans a new appreciation for good health, wellness and movement.
“This situation has given people an increased appreciation for health and wellness. There’s no better way to stay healthy than to stay active,” she said. “People are seeing that boosting their immune system through exercise can be a huge benefit.”
Though digitally guided workouts have boomed in popularity during the pandemic, Gosselin doesn’t believe they will replace the traditional, in-club workout experience.
“People really love the sense of community that going to the gym provides them, particularly first-time gym users who like that support of a brick and mortar fitness option,” Gosselin said. “So I think the desire to want to work out and be healthy will continue to be on people’s minds.”
Zeitsiff echoed similar sentiments when commenting on the next chapter for the American fitness industry, musing that people might take more of a “hybrid approach” to their fitness routines than they did before the pandemic.
“People are going to be working out one or two days a week at home, and then coming into the gym to use the equipment maybe three or four other times,” he speculated.
Whether fitness fanatics hit the gym to improve physical or mental health, or enjoy exercise as a therapeutic or social outlet, both executives stressed that one of the greatest ways to stay healthy is to stay active. Both also look forward to welcoming members back once again, and cheering them in every step of their fitness journey.