Impact of COVID-19 on gym operations and facilities
Managing gymnasiums during COVID-19 became a complex task. With the return of patrons in more recent times there are a number of key areas that demand attention.
Health and safety has always been important in gym facilities. Staff would always make sure the gym equipment was wiped down once or twice during a 4-5 hour shift - prior to COVID-19. Since COVID-19 gym equipment is now generally wiped between 4-5 times each shift suggesting wiping of equipment has doubled since the pandemic. Each night the gym equipment is deep cleaned by professional cleaners.
Prior to COVID-19, gym management would encourage the use of a full bench towel. Since COVID-19 this is now mandatory and enforced if patrons do not have a towel they are strictly unable to train.
Continuing to ensure members have access to wipes - so they can wipe down the equipment after they use it - has increased at a significant cost to the gym – but deemed essential to ensure they maintain a hygienic and safe environment for staff and members.
Masks were not mandatory prior to COVID-19. During pandemic times gyms where allowed to reopen with the condition that a mask mandate was in place. It was recommended that members wear masks whilst training and was mandatory for gym staff members to masks throughout the entire shift between 4-5 hours.
It became apparent that wearing masks whilst training restricted the members’ ability to breathe properly suggesting it actually became unsafe for them to train with masks. This condition was slowly removed. But, they were required to wear the mask when entering the gym and talking to the gym staff.
Gym staff - trainers and front desk personnel - had to wear a mask during their shift. A number of issues arose with the mask wearing – including being unable to understand what the members were saying; members not being able to understand the staff (augmented by the fact that sometimes English was not the member’s first language); and staff being unable to breath properly whilst wearing the mask.
Prior to COVID-19 there were no issues in having all shifts covered or staffed. After COVID-19 and as gyms where allowed to reopen - with numerous restrictions in place - the staff that worked at the gym prior to COVID-19 were more than happy to return to being able to work after such long lockdowns (in NSW the first one was two months and the second one was over three months). Staff were keen to return to their positions – this was very much the case with community type gyms.
F2F – Face to Face
Prior to COVID-19 gyms were opening for members to come to either the actual gym itself or attend classes with an allocated trainer.
During the lockdowns, numerous gyms attempted to do virtual classes/sessions via ZOOM. For the first week or two it was reasonably popular as it was really the only way to get a workout done. Enthusiasm for the mode decreased rapidly as it was not the same as face to face classes and eventually most gyms decided to stop the ZOOM sessions.
Before gyms formally reopened to the public they were allowed to have face to face sessions outside - in a park for example - but with restricted numbers and other conditions in place. These sessions became quite popular with members given the restoration of the social aspect not available on screen.
Once the gyms were able to open the members flocked back to the facilities.
Prior to COVID-19 the only restriction on class size was determined by the size of the actual room available for the activity.
After COVD-19 gyms where allowed to reopen but with numerous restrictions in place which included each member in the class had to be 1.5m apart from each other - so depending on the actual size of the room - it would limit the number of members a class could within the given space available. Some classes might have to be capped at 16 people for example in
Post COVID-19 restrictions some classes have returned to 25-30 members.
The gymnasium industry relies heavily on the face to face element – the COVID-19 pandemic had profound impacts on the industry that is slowly recovering as various restrictions are lifted.
James Manly is Media Assistant at GCA and a staffer at a community gym in Sydney.
Emeritus Professor Greg Whateley is Deputy Vice Chancellor (UBSS) and Vice President (Academic) at GCA.