5 Points for Re-opening your Gym or School.

5 Points for Re-opening your gym or school.

  1. Social distancing and capacity control
  2. Testing and contact tracing
  3. Sanitation and protective equipment
  4. Member communication and education
  5. Protecting at-risk members
  1. Social distancing and capacity control

One of the main guidelines published by every health organization is the need for social distancing to reduce the risk of infection. The common guideline is 6ft / 2m between people.

How do you apply that in practice when training in a sport that requires a lot of movement? You can designate training areas that are separated by 6ft in each direction. The size of the training area depends on what you feel would be comfortable to perform movements in.

Distancing should extend to other parts of the gym as well – no huddling together in close groups, maintain 6 ft apart at all times, before and after class. This includes the locker / changing rooms – so if it’s not big enough to practice social distancing, only one person should be allowed at any time.

  1. Testing and contact tracing

Currently testing is still limited in most areas of the world, and requires specialized equipment and trained personnel. Part of the reason is the chemicals needed for existing tests are in short supply, and it takes time to analyze the results – with many labs currently heavily backlogged. New tests are being developed that could be produced much more rapidly and provide quicker results, which would help significantly to control and isolate infection spread.

Increased testing capacity will increase the ability to track the infection spread and allow more businesses to reopen safely.

Until (and if) SARS-CoV-2 tests become available to small businesses or even home testing, one tool you can use right now is a forehead thermometer. One of the problems that make this coronavirus so infectious is that people could be spreading it before showing any symptoms. However, the existence of flu-like symptoms should still be used to exclude people from training, and a contact-free thermometer is a quick and easy way to make sure no one comes to train with a fever.

In addition, all people showing up to practice should confirm no symptoms of COVID-19 within the last 14 days, including:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Chills
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • Loss of taste or smell (if not a previous ongoing condition)
  1. Sanitation and protective equipment

Hopefully, you were already cleaning your mats between each session. Your cleaning efforts are about to go to the next level, as common touch surfaces are one of the main spread vectors for this virus.

Make sure to clean surfaces that are commonly touched, such as door handles, the front desk, seating areas and the toilet. Do this between every session – you might need to arrange your schedule to allow for sufficient cleaning time between sessions.

Provide hand sanitizer at the entrance, or better yet – have everyone clean their hands with soap for at least 20 seconds after walking in and taking off their shoes, if possible. Make sure everyone is using clean uniforms – though this should always be the case, now more than ever it’s important to insist people wash their uniforms between each practice.

Consider having everyone wear masks. I know this might be difficult, depending on the level of fitness and intensity of the session, but it can be done.  Gloves are also an option to consider. It will definitely be less comfortable, but at least initially it’s better to be safe than sorry.

  1. Member communication and education

One of the key elements for gyms to make it through the shutdown and then successfully re-open and apply the right safety measures, is to keep members constantly informed of your situation, future plans and projected timeline.

If you are running online classes, then you should be already communicating with your members on a regular basis. Online classes can only keep members going for a time, so it’s important to also communicate your plans for reopening. It can help allay members’ concern and tide them over until it is safe to re-open.

Add educational materials at the gym as well – print a list of the safety measures to be taken at the gym, and hang it on the wall in a visible location. Here’s a basic list you can use or adjust according to your needs:

  • Have a fever / dry cough / shortness of breath / loss of taste or smell /chills? Stay at home.
  • Maintain 6ft from each other and no physical contact [except with your designated partner] (*once you decide to allow partnering)
  • Bring your own mask and gloves to train. (* unless you plan to provide those)
  • Wash your hands with soap when you arrive for at least 20 seconds. (* or use a hand sanitizer if you don’t have a sink available)
  1. Protecting at-risk members

The disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, COVID-19, presents a significantly increased risk to certain segments of the population. Older people, and people with existing medical conditions are at a much higher risk for the disease to be severe and possibly fatal.

Research shows the most common comorbidities (existing conditions for COVID-19 deaths) are hypertension (high blood pressure), obesity and diabetes. Other existing conditions that should take extra caution include:

  • People with chronic lung disease or moderate to severe asthma
  • People who have serious heart conditions
  • People who are immunocompromised
  • People with chronic kidney disease undergoing dialysis
  • People with liver disease

These are tough times for all of us, but we’ll get through it. We know it’s a lot to take in, but people are resilient and adaptable. We are sure we’ll all get used to it and it will become mostly an inconvenience after a while – a small price to pay for being able to train safely!

This article was inspired by: Reopening your Martial Arts School by Eran Galperin