During a press conference Friday Gov. Newsom teased that Stage 3 of the California reopening plan could be only weeks away. This phase will let gyms across the Bay Area reopen their doors — alongside nail salons, hair salons, in-person weddings and religious ceremonies.
Working out from home via Zoom and YouTube classes has become the new normal over the last few months for sheltered-in-place residents trying to stay in shape, but the opportunity to actually physically step back into a gym is an exciting prospect for many.
How will gyms look in a post-pandemic world?
A video of a recently reopened gym in Hong Kong, shared on Twitter by Bloomberg Quicktake Monday, gives us a glimpse of how working out while social distancing may look.
Changes include sanitizing phones via ultraviolet light stations, signing health waivers, getting your temperature checked at the front desk and plexiglass… lots of plexiglass.
Water fountains and sitting next to other sweaty gym-goers will become thing of the past. Pool, steam and sauna facilities will also likely remain closed.
🏋🏃 Is this the new normal?
Hong Kong gyms have reopened with new #Covid_19 #SocialDistancing and safety measures like glass partitions. More @business: https://t.co/JQ1OsTVBau pic.twitter.com/5bC8ynkGUB
— Bloomberg QuickTake (@QuickTake) May 18, 2020
While many are eager to get back into the weights room, a survey by RunRepeat.com of over 10,000 people recently revealed that over half of all gym members do not plan on going back to a gym when they reopen. Furthermore, over a third of gym members have either canceled their gym membership or are considering canceling it.
“Gym goers want to know that gyms are putting forward a plan and serious effort towards making returning to the gym as safe as possible, despite the obvious risks,” Nicholas Rizzo, Fitness Research Director at RunRepeat told SFGATE.
Beyond the changes inside the workout rooms, Rizzo said that gyms are finding other ways to get patrons back. “With the weather warming up, some places are opting to use their parking lots or nearby open spaces to hold socially distanced group classes.”
The in-gym experience will require a lot of trust between exercisers.
“Before we were in a pandemic it wasn’t like you could trust others to wipe down their equipment properly. So, many are worried about having to trust them now, not only with wiping down equipment, but also about keeping their distance, proper hand washing and everything else.”
Despite this, Rizzo says the demand is real. “There are still a lot of avid gym members who simply can’t wait to get back.”
While the shift into Stage 3 in the governor’s state plan will signal the floodgates of gym doors opening, some fitness centers in Southern California already reopened last week, in spite of the state’s shutdown rules, according to the LA Times.
The Self Made Training Facility in Corona opened its doors again in the first week of May. The business controversially found a loophole in the rules as it is classified as a “private training facility” rather than a “gym,” so the opening technically complies with Riverside County’s health orders, according to the owner.
Similarly, in Sacramento County, the owners of Switch Fitness in Elk Grove were given permission this week by the Sacramento County Public Health officer to reopen for the first time in two months. But the reopening of Switch Fitness and other small fitness studios comes at a time when bigger gyms and fitness centers must remain closed.
Dr. Peter Beilenson, Sacramento County’s director of Health and Human Services, attempted to clarify the differing rules for different establishments.
“Fitness studios are a very different animal than gyms, the big-box gyms. Fitness studios are allowed on a very, very restricted basis,” Beilenson told KCRA 3. “An absolute maximum number of people. 250 square feet per person, which gives them way more than social distancing room.”
Meanwhile at Sonoma Fit in Petaluma, employees were back at work this week measuring and marking off 7-8 foot areas to ensure social distancing upon reopening. Owner Adam Kovacs told KTVU that there is growing frustration in the industry at a lack of clarity. “I’m frustrated, angry, and anxious, because when we ask how much longer, there are no answers, it’s like this unknown. We have invested our life and soul into this business and we’re getting no guidelines.” Kovacs said.
For definitive news on when Stage 3 in California’s reopening plan may allow gyms to reopen, check our daily updates.
Andrew Chamings is a digital editor at SFGATE. Email: Andrew.Chamings@sfgate.com | Twitter: @AndrewChamings
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