Gyms and fitness centres are preparing to operate in the age of COVID-19, as the province announces fitness facilities will be able to reopen at a limited capacity as part of phase two of Manitoba’s reopening plan.
This includes gyms and training facilities, fitness clubs, spas, splash parks, and public and private swimming pools. The facilities will have to operate at 50 per cent capacity or one person per 10 square metres.
“Obviously, the funding model is a challenge because when you look at putting 50 per cent [capacity] in a gym, it’s going to change the way revenues spin out in the end,” said Stephanie Jeffrey, executive director of Manitoba Fitness Council.
Nonetheless, Thursday’s announcement came as welcome news to many gym and fitness centre operators.
“It’s about time,” said Vernis Blairm, owner and operator of Higher Level Fitness. “We’re quite excited because it’s been quite a bit of a delay.”
Amie Seier, who owns The Community Gym in the Exchange District, said classes will be at a limited capacity and they will be spaced apart in time.
“We’re not going to be operating at a normal schedule,” Seier said. “It’s not going to be back-to-back classes. There’s going to be time in between so we can clean the space. ”
Seier also said she will continue offering online and outdoor classes for clients who may not be comfortable working out indoors.
All fitness facilities will be required to follow strict cleaning and hygiene protocols, including posting signage for physical distancing and instructions for cleaning equipment, disinfecting equipment before and after each use, making hand hygiene stations available, not offering towel services, and keeping machines and clients at least six feet or two metres apart.
“Everybody has the best intentions and we want our clients to be healthy,” Blair told Global News. “Nobody wants to be the gym that someone acquired COVID at. So the intensity is ramped up, even though I’m sure most of the gyms were pretty diligent about before.”
Gyms will also be required to screen clients before they enter using screening posters or the online screening tool.
“They’ll be asked not to come in if they are feeling sick or anything like that,” Seier said. “So there is going to be screening process and no one will be able to drop in unexpectedly.”
The province is also encouraging gym operators to use a booking system rather than a drop-in system.
“Dropping into a gym is probably not going to be an option for most people and most gyms,” Jeffrey said.
Officials are also encouraging against the use of locker rooms, or blocking off certain lockers to allow for physical distancing. Clients should be encouraged to shower at home and avoid using the locker room areas.
Certain equipment may also not be available.
“If you feel that you need to shower at your gym, you may have to call ahead to see if that’s an option. You may not have an option for a locker,” Jeffrey said. “There may be some equipment that you’re used to using that you won’t have access to because it’s been taken out of the rotation because it’s just too hard to sanitize. So foam rollers, stability balls, they’re just impossible to sanitize in between clients.”
The province has yet to announce a date for when gyms and fitness centres will be able to start operating again.
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