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July 15, 2020

COMMUNITY, GYM BUSINESS     |     DANIEL DEMOSS     |     07/15/20

At a glance

There’s no doubt that COVID-19 and its lockdowns have had a strong impact on the fitness industry. 

Most gyms had to close during the lockdown and re-opening safely presents new challenges for your business. But while it may seem like a monumental task, re-opening your gym in a way that’s safe and effective can be broken down into lists of small, simple tasks. Small changes can go a long way and can help you run a successful business in the post-COVID world. 

Here are 5 things that will help you improve your gym business and be successful!

Keep your clients up to date with your Covid-19 Protocols

Most of your clients will question what kind of protocols would be in place to keep them safe. Naturally, the best thing you can do is keep your clients up to date. For instance, you can post on social media explaining the sanitation updates. Add photos, videos, or stories explaining all the changes you’re making.

Stories, videos, or even going live on social media are great ways to get closer to your members, explain the new rules, and ensure that you’re making their safety a priority. These also allow members to ask questions directly, making it easier for you to connect with them and give them all the information they need.

Let them know everything that will change: temperature checks, social distancing measures, sanitation protocols, reservations, and if there's a limit to the number of people who can be in the gym at the same time.

Newsletters are another great way to keep those who are members and are waiting to hear when they can come back to your gym. Be sure to be easy to reach in case people have questions. 

Have someone constantly check out your social media accounts, your email, but also be ready to answer questions via phone. It may seem annoying at first, but it is easier than having to explain everything from scratch to every newcomer or to have to turn down people who, for instance, forget to bring a towel.

Create a sanitation routine in your gym

Telling your customers that you’re making changes isn’t enough: you need to start implementing those changes right away. The first thing to do is to plan a sanitation routine in your gym.

Cleaning in the morning and/or evening isn’t enough anymore. You need to make sure everything is as clean as possible so that your members are at minimal risk.

Make sure there are plenty of antibacterial gels available in the gym. Encourage members to sanitize or wash their hands before getting into the gym. But, also make sure they keep the equipment clean.

For instance, make sure they always use towels to sit on machines or when they use mats. Also, encourage them to clean all equipment after use. Ideally, have someone sanitize the equipment a few times throughout the day. 

Trainers who assist in the proper use of equipment or with exercises can also make sure equipment is kept clean. It might feel like added work, but everyone wants to stay safe and healthy and it will all become a habit before you know it!

Don’t forget about your changing rooms and showers. They need to be cleaned a few times a day and more so during rush hour. 

Maybe one of the easiest pieces of cleaning equipment you can add to your gym that will both limit the risk of contamination and decrease the workload of cleaning personnel is a shoe disinfectant mat (like Sanistride) at the entrance. That way, each person that enters steps on it and automatically cleans their shoes.

Prioritize social distancing through reservations

Social distancing may seem like an impossible dream to achieve during rush hour at the gym. But it is easier than you’d imagine. How? Through reservations!

With a good reservation system in place, you can control how many people are at the gym each time. That may feel like it is limiting and reducing your number of clients in the long run, but it is better than having to close again.

A simple online reservation system that allows people to see how many others are coming at the same time is probably the best. It gives a chance for those working from home to pick less crowded areas. It gives the same chance to those who feel like they need to start slower with being around others after the isolation. Such reservation applications and systems can be found online and are easy and cheap to adapt to your gym and your schedule.

A less automated alternative would be to have people call to reserve their spot. This does mean a lot more work for you in the long run, but it can be a good solution for very small gyms. If your gym is bigger with hundreds of members, you may want to rethink if you want to be answering hundreds of calls for reservations each day.

Encouraging people to work with personal trainers is another great way to ensure social distancing takes place. Otherwise, even with reservations, you may still have too many people who happen to want to use the exact same equipment. 

Be sure the staff is prepared for when this happens and can help members by suggesting other exercises or other equipment to maintain social distance and still get a good workout.

Orient your trainers and staff with new COVID-19 protocols

You can’t just expect your customers to comply with new COVID-19 protocols. Your trainers and staff need to be aware of them as well to help enforce them in the gym. It should go without saying that the cleaning personnel should be the first to understand the new rules. What are they expected to do differently? What new products should they use?

Next, the personnel at the front desk needs to know the new rules not just for themselves but to explain to customers as well. When someone comes to your gym for the first time when you re-open, they will likely have a lot of questions: what is expected of them, how are you keeping them safe? 

And even if the customers don’t ask – maybe they read your updates on social media – it is advisable to give them a quick overview when they come to the gym for the first time.

Lastly, don’t forget about the trainers. They interact with clients every day in the gym and they can make sure everyone is doing their part with social distancing and sanitizing the equipment. But don’t forget it isn’t just about the customers. These new protocols are meant to keep your personnel safe as well. 

Social distancing, washing their hands, using clean shoes inside the gym, and sanitizing the equipment they use goes for the trainers and the staff as well. If they follow these new protocols, they’ll also give a good example to customers and make everything feel more natural and normal.

Start logging client information for easy contact tracing

Finally, if you weren’t doing it already, log your clients’ information for contact tracing in the event one of them tests positive for COVID-19. Ideally, you need to know their name and contact details. You’d also need to log the time when they came to the gym and when they left.

Don’t rely solely on the reservation system. Occasionally, there might be people who reserve but are unable to make it and forget to cancel their reservation. So, create a system to log this data when a person arrives at the gym.

However, make sure you are transparent about this as there might be people who are uncomfortable with this logging of personal data. While it is legal and even required in many places, you should also have your clients’ consent.

If you are faced with someone who doesn’t want their data to be logged, be prepared to detail how you are storing the data and what you are using it for.

Ideally, you already explained all of this through the informational posts and newsletters mentioned earlier in this article. Being transparent from the beginning will ensure that the number of people who feel uneasy with the new measures is close to none.

The bottomline...

Re-opening a gym in a post-COVID world can feel difficult. It feels like there are a lot of new protocols, new rules for everyone to comply with.

However, simple changes can help you improve your business and have a successful re-opening.

Make sure you communicate with your clients even before you open: social media and newsletters are great ways to let them know the changes you’ll be implementing.

Sanitation should be a priority for both clients and staff, as should be social distancing.

Finally, don’t forget to log client data in case someone becomes infected and there’s a need for contact tracing.


Daniel DeMoss 

A long-time fitness trainer and home-gym 'nerd', Daniel packs his knowledge and passion for home gym equipment and bodybuilding into his site DumbbellsReview.com.  


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