Your brick-and-mortar group fitness program probably took a major hit with the pandemic lockdown. As a result, you had to learn new health and safety protocols and procedures for yourself and your participants.
COVID-19 certainly changed the way we teach, and many issues are still up in the air. Wherever your facility is and regardless of local guidelines and protocols, you can take preventive measures to help participants feel safe and welcome.
Ultimately, during stressful times like these, your focus should be on retaining, not increasing, membership. “We are in a retention phase,” says Tricia Murphy Madden, Seattle, co-creator of Barre Above®. “Be the solution.”
Being part of the solution in this case means inspiring confidence with a proactive COVID-19 hygiene reassessment. So, your first task is to review your safety procedures for group fitness; then, you can get people moving again.
At ClubConnect we want your gyms to be as safe and clean as possible. Read on for practical strategies to achieve this goal.
This article originally appeared in the Fall 2020 issue of American Fitness Magazine
Group Fitness Program Practices
Start by looking at both the logistics of your physical group fitness space and your class schedule. If you’re the group fitness director, gather information from staff. If you’re an instructor, look to leadership to begin the assessment process. Based on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, the following concerns need to be addressed:
Are you adhering to the CDC’s recommendation to keep at least 6 feet between people in the room? Have you determined your entering/exiting procedures? Is the floor marked to allow 36 square feet per person? Measure the space, divide by 36 and place obvious markers (or “dots”) on the floor. Ensure that equipment is placed a minimum of 6 feet apart throughout the fitness space.
CLEANING AND DISINFECTING
Are you adhering to the CDC’s guidance for cleaning and disinfecting the workplace? Make sure the following aspects are clear to everyone:
• Establish general cleaning practices for before and after classes.
• Determine the best cleaning practices for specialized equipment—indoor bikes, chairs for seniors, step benches, dumbbells/barbells, etc.—or limit their usage.
• Be sure you have enough commercial-grade cleaner.
• Provide touchless hand sanitizers (and/or wipes) and make them readily available. Consistently refill supplies.
• Remove floor fans to prevent circulating infected air.
• Offer disposable masks and/or gloves for any staff member or participant who requests them.
• Share your hygiene guidelines and procedures with all staff and members through a variety of platforms, including social media, email, texts/phone calls, fliers, etc.
• Post signage about how to stop the spread of COVID-19. Many pre-made posters are free and available for download from industry education and certification companies.
CLASS SCHEDULE AND EQUIPMENT CONSIDERATIONS
Don’t overlook the details of scheduling and equipment maintenance. Keep the following in mind:
• Cap classes at a room capacity that ensures people meet social distancing requirements. Check whether the capping process is working or needs to be adjusted.
• Allot 20–30 minutes between classes for thorough sanitization of equipment, room ventilation and transition time for participants. Adjust the official schedule to reflect this transition time.
• Require participants to bring their own mats for all floor-work. Make sure people bring their own props for mat-based classes, such as yoga and barre.
• Teach classes that require minimal to no equipment, to limit touch points.
• Communicate class schedule considerations to all staff and members through a variety of platforms, including social media, email, texts/phone calls, fliers, etc.
FITNESS PROFESSIONAL PRACTICES
To comply with your facility’s safety procedures, there are a few additional things you can do for yourself. For example, consider your “instructor bag,” which typically contains all the items you need to teach a class. This can be a tote, backpack, large purse, etc. As part of your COVID-19 reassessment practice, think about transforming your standard instructor bag into a “coronavirus survival bag.”
A standard bag typically includes items like these:
• a water bottle, snacks, protein bars, performance-enhancing drinks.
• personal hygiene products: mints, toothbrush, deodorant, body spray, baby wipes, makeup, tampons, hair ties, lint roller, etc.
• instructional tools, such as choreography notes, the class lesson plan, etc.
• a pen and notebook to take notes and write down participants’ names.
• format-specific music on your phone, iPod, laptop, tablet, etc.
• your own microphone windscreen.
• your own microphone belt (and an entire microphone headset system, if you own one).
• an Apple dongle adapter if you use an iPhone 8 or newer model, plus any other adapters you need to play music.
• your own Bluetooth speaker and interval timer.
An upgraded coronavirus survival instructor bag includes everything from your standard bag, plus additional items:
• hand sanitizer and/or sanitizing wipes.
• personal protection equipment (PPE), such as a face mask, shield or covering, and disposable gloves.
• your own small equipment—yoga mat and props, small dumbbells, tubing and sliding discs—and any other lightweight equipment you would use to teach class.
Add Value to Your Programming
Now, more than ever, class participants want to experience value. In addition to reevaluating your hygiene practices, extend a sense of “more” in your membership packages by offering additional services:
STREAM LIVE CLASSES
Add a webcam to your current fitness space and livestream your classes, especially for the active-aging population. “I think there are a few components that are changing the forward-going approach,” says Murphy Madden.
“Many states may have significant restrictions on immune-suppressed populations of 65 and older. In addition to that, a huge part of your membership base will be reluctant to come in, even without restrictions.” Livestreamed classes will add safety while maintaining a connection to your fitness facility.
PROVIDE OUTDOOR CLASSES
Offer classes “without walls” if you have enough space and the weather permits. These classes give participants the safety net they desire, while still allowing them to exercise in a group setting. “Creative cardio solutions could be your survival kit to allow people to still work out with your club,” says Murphy Madden.
PROMOTE A SENSE OF COMMUNITY
Generate activities that bring people together in person and/or online. Try weight loss challenges, wellness contests and/or a daily webinar, all of which contribute to building community and brand loyalty.
Help your brick-and-mortar fitness classes remain healthy by being part of the solution—reassess, readjust and implement necessary practices. Taking these proactive measures to keep people healthy will pay off as members retain faith and confidence in your brand.
Participants who attend in-studio classes at this time likely don’t feel high anxiety about germs, or they wouldn’t show up at all. However, they still want to be reassured that the exercise environment is a safe space. To maintain their confidence, review the following:
• Ensure that participants know exactly what’s expected of them: protocols for entering/exiting the space, cleaning procedures, equipment they might need to provide themselves and any sign-up procedures.
• Alert participants if locker rooms, showers, tanning beds, etc., are closed.
• Clearly communicate participant expectations and procedures to all staff and members via a variety of communication platforms.