What Gyms Will Look Like When They Reopen

From The Los Angeles Times

In Los Angeles, we don’t know when we will see the inside of a gym again. But one thing is certain: When we get there, it will look different.

As California moves into Stage 2 of the state’s stay-at-home order, Gov. Gavin Newsom hinted that Stage 3, where higher-risk workplaces such as gyms and fitness studios would be allowed to reopen, may arrive sooner than later.

But on Tuesday, county Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said that Los Angeles County’s stay-at-home orders would “with all certainty” be extended for the next three months.

Whether next week or three months in the future, gyms must now implement a variety of safety measures before they can reopen, including a site-specific protection plan, individual control measures and screenings, disinfecting protocols, and physical distancing guidelines.

We asked the experts what that will look like:

“We are working around the clock to make sure that our members are safe,” said Mark Dengler, chief operating office of the YMCA Metropolitan Los Angeles. “We will be taking temperatures. We will be doing classes in our gymnasiums. We probably won’t be able to open up locker rooms or our child activity center. We are going to be cleaning all day and require our members to clean up after themselves.”

Dengler anticipates the Los Angeles YMCA will open four to eight of its 26 locations in the first few weeks to ensure that everything is running smoothly. “We want to take it easy at first,” he said. “We have to hire back our staff and train them.”

Gold’s Gym, which reopened on May 8 in Oklahoma, is opening in phases according to president and CEO Adam Zeitsiff. “We opened with cardio, ellipticals and strength equipment. We did not open the classroom, studio or kids club. We are requiring our team members to wear masks and gloves and are strongly encouraging others to do so. The equipment will be shut down so that people are six feet away from each other. People are going to walk around cleaning all day.”

At the Bay Club, which has 24 properties in California and Oregon, golf opened in San Diego, San Jose and Marin as part of Phase 2, and tennis and lap swimming will open this week. It is expected that childcare in groups of 12 or fewer, with temperature checks for kids, will be available by May 18.

“We are looking to open the indoor spaces in June,” said Annie Appel, senior executive vice president at the Bay Club Company. “People will be surprised by how different it looks, but in a good way. Staff will be wearing masks and gloves. We will have plexiglass up and sanitation stations. We have put a reservation system in place so that we can control the number of people on the property.”

Like the YMCA, the Bay Club plans to set up cardio equipment and exercise classes in gymnasiums. “We don’t expect basketball to be coming back soon,” said Appel. “Everyone will have a 10-foot-square space to work out in. We have reimagined our properties to use outdoor spaces, turf fields and pool decks with cycle bikes and rowing machines.”

At Equinox and SoulCycle, members will be required to use hand sanitizer before entering the club and will be scanned by a touchless thermometer, along with staff. In addition, Equinox members and staff will be required to complete a mandatory Health Declaration to confirm that they are not experiencing symptoms of COVID-19. Showers, at least initially, will not be available.

Bikes at SoulCycle will be booked with many left empty to help maintain social distancing. Floor markers will indicate a safe distance in the lobby, locker rooms, and bathrooms and bikes will be disinfected after every class, even if not in use. Riders are asked to refrain from hugs and high fives and are encouraged to wait outside, or in cars, before class.

Smaller studios, which have been hard hit because of the pandemic, will look particularly different.

A recent ClassPass survey of 300 fitness studios found that 49% of the studios planned to reduce their class capacity by half. In addition, 58% said they will no longer offer hands-on adjustments, and 31% plan to experiment with outdoor classes.

“Studios are realistic that some customers will not return to class right away, and many plan to continue offering livestream or on-demand classes as an at-home workout supplement,” said Kinsey Livingston, vice president of partnerships at ClassPass. “Members returning to class can expect to see increased sanitation schedules and a short-term reduction in personal amenities such as showers. Even with these new policies, we anticipate that the fitness community will still be eager to return to class.”

Allie Guillerm was looking forward to a record March, when she was forced to close her pilates studio, Pilates Punx in Echo Park, because of COVID-19.

“We opened in September, and it was a slow build every month,” Guillerm said. “January was great. The classes were full, and I had a wait list for the first time. Every month I wondered if I could make ends meet. I was watching an upward trend.”

When she reopens, Guillerm said she is prepared to make changes and wait it out if necessary. “I could potentially pull some reformers out of the way so we have six feet of distance and people can have social distancing,” she said.

In the meantime, Guillerm has been active on Instagram and is hosting daily live workouts. “It’s not an option to stay closed,” she said. “I have put everything I have in to opening this studio. I need to exercise and keep my mind off of things. Waking up and having something to do has given me a sense of normalcy.”

Gyms and fitness are “an essential part of our lives and our mental health,” said Zeitsiff. “One of the few positives in this is that people are realizing that physical exercise is good not just for your outside but your mental health. The governors can look at that and realize that it’s not about getting big biceps.”

Dengler believes it is the sense of community that will prompt people to return. People see the Y as much more than a place to work out,” he said. “It’s not their work, or home, it’s their third place — where they go to seek socialization. It’s safe there. The purpose of the Y is to bring communities together. It is killing us that we have not been able to run our healthy lifestyle programs.”

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