We probably don’t need to reiterate the effect the current pandemic is having around the world. But just a quick refresher, all gyms and fitness studios in Australia are currently closed. One on one personal training sessions can still take place in areas with enough space, but otherwise, you’re resigned to your own home to get your fitness fix.
But that could soon all change, as Fitness Australia, the premier body for the Australian fitness industry, has today announced (Thursday 23rd of April) that gyms can safely re-open, just as long as they stick to some strict hygiene regulations. CEO Barrie Elvish said, “there’s no reason why gyms can’t be one of the first sectors to reopen,”
“We believe gyms can safely reopen with social distancing and hygiene requirements in place, which is why we have prepared a strict reopening framework for all fitness facilities and personal trainers.”
“Our framework includes a range of guidelines from temperature checking on arrival, high frequency cleaning and sanitation, spacing of equipment through to PPE for employees and members, reduced capacity for classes and outdoor fitness considerations”
There’s no official word from the Government just yet, although deputy chief medical officer Professor Paul Kelly has said restrictions would be reviewed in three weeks, since the number of cases being reported across Australia is decreasing.
Before Fitness Australia’s announcement, Australian National University microbiology professor Peter Collignon told The Daily Mail (via news.com.au) that he expects gyms to stay closed until after Winter, and into September. Australasian College for Infection Prevention and Control Professor Phil Russo added that as and when gyms do reopen, he expects them to “return with 10 people before increasing to usual sizes if there are no outbreaks”
We decided to do some digging of our own and reached out to some gym owners to find out if they had any insider information that would allow us to know how long we have to live with our bulging bellies.
We spoke to Ben Lucas, former Cronulla Sharks player and owner of Flow Athletic, a gym-cum-yoga and fitness studio, and Tim West, the co-founder of 12RND Fitness, to get their opinions regarding Fitness Australia’s announcement, and their own expert opinion surrounding reopening times.
In response to Fitness Australia, Ben Lucas believes member safety has to come above all else,
“I don’t think it should be before we have control and a better understanding of the situation. I can’t see that being before June . The public’s health and welfare must be our priority.”
Tim makes similar comments,
“They were saying that they are expecting to reopen soon, and they’re pushing for it to happen sooner, but their focus is to ensure that they are ready so that when it does happen they can act quickly.”
In the meantime, Ben says, “Our online programming is going really well, but my clients, staff and I are missing the community and face-to-face interaction.”
As for how the reopening process will take place, Ben admits it will likely happen in stages, “I would expect they will open outdoor training first and allow indoor training at a social distance until the hospitals can keep up with the cases.”
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Tim echoes Ben’s comments,
“We know that our Government sees the important role that our industry provides to the population’s physical and mental health, so we believe our businesses would be a high priority for re-opening.”
“However, once we can re-open, we expect to see the same restrictions that were implemented in the initial social distancing phases prior to lockdown.”
We also wanted to get their thoughts on how they think the gym landscape may have differed during the lockdown period, and if they, as owners, expect to face any challenges.
“There has been a big fear campaign to keep people indoors, so getting people comfortable with going out and being near each other again maybe a challenge.”
“I think the relief will be the connection and social interaction again. Getting fit is one thing, but our community is very tight here and that is one thing a lot of us are missing.”
Tim says he’ll be putting a focus on maintaining rigorous hygiene standards, “We’re planning ahead to ensure our hygiene and cleanliness measures meet foreseeable government mandate, which could potentially also involve monitoring the temperature of members before entry.”
“This means preparing for any staff training and changes to our standard operations that may be necessary. We expect this to also include adherence to social distancing protocols.”
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He adds that, like Ben’s gym, there is a strong sense of community which he can’t wait to be involved with again, “there’s going to be a lot of excitement for our members to come back to their clubs for that sense of community they bring, and to get back into their training.”
“12RND is where they come to see their friends, blow off some steam and enjoy their workout.”
It’s highly likely your gym has frozen your membership while the doors have remained firmly shut. We’re curious here at DMARGE as to whether gym members will want to re-negotiate their membership fee on their first day back, or to at least ask for a change-up in memberships, such as being offered more at-home classes, for example.
Ben’s inclined to disagree, “Maybe for some gyms. For me, I have found that many of our clients want to support us any way they can. We have had members offering to pay their full memberships despite the gym not being open as they want us to be here at the end of all this.”
However, he does agree that what you get included with your membership could be up for negotiation,
“I think it has been an opportunity to think outside the box and provide more options for members and more offers for gyms.”
“For example, I have been talking about live streaming Flow Athletic’s classes for 3-4 years and now I have been forced to do so and now I have that offering for clients that we will most likely keep up long after this is over.”
Tim has also been able to see the benefit of a digital approach since the lockdown came into place, and plans to keep it going after we’re out of it, “We will reactivate our memberships in-club as normal, but also continue to provide our digital solution as we have throughout isolation for those who need an alternative option to suit their current circumstances.”
So, while it’s technically anyone’s guess at the moment as to when gyms will reopen, we can be sure it won’t be for at least another month or two. In the meantime, you’ll have to stick with home workouts, or even build yourself this squat rack to help make those gains.