See you at the gym soon? How the country’s top gyms are preparing to reopen

Empty free weights area, Fitness First, Philippines. Photo from Evolution Wellness Philippines

Excited to take your workouts back inside the gym and fitness studios? Frankly, not all of us are.

Back in June, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) made the announcement that gyms and other leisure facilities will be allowed to reopen at reduced capacity if their location is classified under modified general community quarantine or MGCQ, the news was unsurprisingly met with mixed opinions from the fitness community.

Months of cabin fever (as the least of our worries) definitely made this a welcome but, at the same time, wistful notion. Anxiety was a close companion of that excitement for some, causing them to remain on the fence about going through those glass doors for, ironically enough, health reasons. And as the country recently broke the 40,000-barrier for cases and plans for mass testing still remain inexistent, the fear comes expected.

To go, or not to go?

Not everyone in the fitness community is as fearful though, with a few expressing that they are, at the very least, willing to go to gyms. Fitness First member Ivan Viray says he is one of those few, saying that he is “truly excited to go back to the gym” but added that “it’s important to note that compliance to the health protocols shall be of utmost priority.”

On the more cautious side of matters lies EG Bautista, Ride Revolution’s head of marketing. As an avid gym-goer himself, he says that whether he goes back to the gym or not greatly depends on protocols set in place by gyms owners.

“I think we will eventually all enter the chapter of the ‘new normal’ – of which, we will, to some capacity go back to how things were. I will definitely observe first how the situation is in the gym and the gym-goers,” he says, explaining his opinion.

How the rest of the fitness community feels about gyms opening their doors amid the pandemic still remains to be heard. But as things are looking now, especially with the extension of general community quarantine (GCQ) in Metro Manila and other provinces and the rising cases, it seems that to be cautious is the practical way to go.

Staying ahead of the curve

At the first announcement of quarantine measures, among the very first establishments to suspend operations were fitness studios. Since then, gym equipment has been locked away and left to gather dust, while management scrambled to think of ways to mitigate the consequences.

From profit losses due to months of suspended membership charges, making sure staff are still paid despite being unable to work, and up to figuring out a way to simulate the experience digitally, fitness hubs seem to be left with lesser breathing room to think about anything else.

But as country manager Mark Ellis tells Pinoy Fitness, “it is important for a business to be ahead of the curve,” and shares that since the lockdown was announced, his team at Evolution Wellness Philippines have been working on a reopening strategy to “ensure our clubs are safe for both members and staff once we reopen.”

“A bounce back plan was also crafted, identifying changes needed and growth opportunities post-COVID19, to help the business survive and thrive,” he adds.

It’s not just the big gyms, too. Workout-specific studios, on top of making their services available online by way of hosting live online classes, have also been working on reintegration plans for the new normal.

Ride Revolution’s EG Bautista also shares with Pinoy Fitness that the locally established indoor cycling studio has been working on new plans, taking into strict consideration various aspects of business operations in the context of post-COVID-19 quarantine.

“From the government mandates to tracking every single touch-point, to running through the customer journey in-store, ensuring that the pre-ride to post-ride experience is safe yet seamless,” Bautista says.

Winning confidence

As they ‘tend to be germy’, says the New York Times citing a study on pathogens in athletic training rooms, people seem to still exhibit little confidence in the safety of taking their workouts back in the gym in the heat of a pandemic. But while those are the current facts, the article also noted that even though there are risks, there are steps that can be taken to reduce these and outlined them accordingly.

FREQUENT WIPE-DOWNS. A staff of Celebrity Fitness Philippines ensures that equipment is sanitized frequently in between use by wiping it down with disinfectants. Photo from Evolution Wellness Philippines.

In due response, Evolution Wellness Philippines’ country head says that they have proactively put preventive measures such as mandatory temperature checks and the like, in place ‘to ensure our members, guests, and staff are safe’ inside their studios. Reopening their gyms also comes with additional stringent protocols. As Ellis shares, some of the measures are:

● Contactless check-in
● Limited slots for gym floor access and group fitness classes
● No app, no entry policy
● Online content to supplement in-club workouts
● Policies for self-bringing of tumblers, yoga mats, hammocks, boxing gloves, towels, and other personal equipment and hygiene materials
● Isolation of fitness equipment to observe social distancing guidelines
● ‘No Contact’ policy during personal training sessions
● Health Declaration Form sent bi-monthly to members

CONTACTLESS CHECK-IN. Fitness First staff demonstrates how contactless check-ins are done in one of their branches. Photo from Evolution Wellness Philippines.

RELATED READ: Fitness First PH – No App, No Entry

Apart from those, this health crisis has also pointed out the need for transparency. How fast one responds and adopts changes are not the only factors for survival and success nowadays. Businesses are in a ‘moment of reckoning’ and must now deliver their promises of ‘stakeholder capitalism’, says the Edelman Trust Barometer in their published survey on trust amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Forbes, citing the same survey, says that as society moves into a phase of the pandemic focused on economic recovery, people are likely to focus on the private sector and that apart from health and safety and public-private partnerships, business leaders should also demonstrate public leadership in order to rebuild trust.

Needless to say, businesses, in general, have a very long to-do list that they need to accomplish before, and even well beyond reopening their doors to customers in the new normal. The coronavirus pandemic is still an unknown and difficult force to deal with at this point in time. Definitely, needs will continue to evolve from this point forward as we try to establish the new normal.

For Ride Revolution, “we will be definitely be listening and improving as we go on.” All things considered, Evolution Wellness Philippines maintains that during these uncertain times, “safeguarding public health and safety is a collective responsibility,” and encourages everyone that they play their part by abiding by guidelines while inside any Fitness First or Celebrity Fitness club.

Will you be rushing to the nearest gym once it’s allowed under MGCQ? Let us know in the comments.

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