The leisure industry has been among the hardest hit by the pandemic, with gyms and leisure centres across the country forced into closure to prevent the spread of COVID.
And with Government guidance about who we can mix with and what facilities can open changing almost daily, it’s no wonder people are feeling a little nervous about returning to their leisure facilities.
On the flip side, many of us want to get back to it. For both the physical and mental benefits …just a bit of that ‘feel good’ spirit! Where I work, we’ve actually moved some group exercise classes to larger halls for social distancing because participation numbers have increased!
That’s why I thought it might be useful to provide a run-down of the kinds of practices and measures gyms and leisure centres currently have in place to ensure the safety of all members. Each facility or sports centre will of course be subject to different regulations depending where they are geographically and their size, so these are just some guidelines to give you an idea of what to expect.
One of the most important regulations when it comes to COVID is for people to keep two metres away from others.
This means that there will be markings on the floor and fewer pieces of equipment available on the gym floor, with items such as bikes, cross trainers and treadmills removed or blocked off in order to allow space between each user.
It also means that classes will be smaller or, as I mentioned earlier, moved to larger studios and halls to accommodate numbers. Generally, you will be required to book in advance.
It’s always been important that gyms and leisure centres maintain a high standard of cleanliness. However, due to the highly contagious nature of COVID, increased measures have been brought in to ensure there is no possible cross contamination between users, so if cleanliness is your concern you can be confident these shared spaces are now cleaner than ever.
Throughout the day and between every group session, staff will also carry out touchpoint cleaning, targeting areas such as doors and toilets to ensure high traffic areas are kept thoroughly clean.
Just as we are now encouraged to wash our hands as often as possible, your local facility will also be asking members to take control of their own cleanliness when using equipment. Cleaning products should be made available to you to clean equipment before AND after use. It’s also likely you will be encouraged to wear masks in communal areas, although this will not be necessary for children or while exercising.
Leisure facilities will also be advising visitors to bring their own equipment where possible, such as water bottles and mats for floor exercises. Most of us do this anyway, but giving your children easily identifiable water bottles will help ensure they don’t risk picking up the wrong ones during an activity!
No ball games
Fortunately, under 18s and those with a disability are not restricted when it comes to indoor activity, so these specific activity sessions can continue. As a parent it’s important to limit social interaction before and after the sessions to avoid any transmission at the school or sports hall gates!
Unfortunately for adults, in many areas indoor activities of more than six continue to be limited, which means indoor ball games such as five-a-side football, basketball and hockey are not permitted. However, many racket sports can continue.
If in doubt – and while weather permits – you can of course keep your activity outdoors. And you might be surprised to find out what’s on offer. Many outdoor fitness sessions, running clubs and team sports are operating, so be sure to check out what your local community groups and fitness clubs are doing.
Sink or swim
As there is no evidence that COVID 19 can spread through the use of pools, swimming pools are deemed safe and allowed to reopen.
As well as being kept clean, swimming pool providers will ensure that pools are properly chlorinated and social distancing adhered to in and out of the pool.
If you have a child who attends swimming lessons it is most likely these will go ahead, but parents should again be careful about transmission.
Do keep in mind though, rules regarding changing facilities may vary so make sure you check with your local provider.
While the numbers we can mix in safely is subject to change depending where you live and the facilities available, you can be confident that your gym, club or sporting group, will all be up to speed on specific guidance for their facility or sport. Just be sure to check which classes are running and book in advance.
Of course, returning to any of these activities is a hugely personal decision depending on your own health and personal safety, and if it doesn’t feel right for you, there will continue to be plenty of online and outdoor options to keep you active and stimulated.
But if you’re itching to get back in the saddle and need a little encouragement, be confident that all facilities open right now have yours and your family’s health and safety at the top of their priority list.