The Fitness Industry Council of Canada has released guidelines for fitness facilities across Canada to follow as provinces begin reopening businesses.
But many of those businesses remain closed as the economy slowly recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic and some provinces still have no target date for the reopening of fitness studios and centres.
“The guidelines that the Fitness Industry Council of Canada has established are extremely helpful both to fitness establishments and to our members. As an industry, we will be following these in order to ensure our staff and members feel comfortable and confident as they return to gyms, studios, and other facilities. We appreciate all of the support we’ve received over the past few months, and look forward to seeing everyone again very soon,” said Carl Ulmer, Managing Partner / Director of Operations, L&L Signature Fitness Group.
Scott Wildeman, President of the Fitness Industry Council of Canada, said each province has different timetables for the opening of businesses in the industry. Some of the regions in British Columbia have reopened. Manitoba has reopened. Prince Edward Island reopened on June 1. Saskatchewan reopens June 15. Quebec, Ontario, and Alberta are on the way.
The Council has more than 5,000 facilities in Canada and the association represents about 500 locations across the country.
He said the fitness industry is taking every precaution and practical step possible to ensure the health of patrons and staff.
Wildeman said surveys out of Europe and the UK indicate about 60 percent of members will come back in the first month. Another 30 percent will come back in the second month and then seven percent will come back in the third month and three percent are undecided.
“The caveat to that is with proper protocols in place,” he said.
The Council has developed four key areas for reopening: containment, cleaning, staffing, and operations.
In the first area, containment, by scheduling workouts ahead of time, businesses will be able to limit the number of people in a facility, along with ensuring the proper social distancing. Traffic flows will be considered in common areas as well as exercise floors.
“The first thing is to limit the number of people in a facility at a given time. Most facilities will do a booking system where you can basically book your visit. So you’re not going to show up to the gym and have everybody else show up at the same time. It will be really a planned event,” said Wildeman. “There’s actually now technology where you can plan your visit inside a gym.
“So you can book your cardio equipment for half an hour and you can book to do strength for a half hour and you can even book a locker in the locker rooms. By doing that, we can ensure social distancing and then also sanitization. We’re really set up for contact tracing. So if somebody is sick we can also assist in notifying other patrons that there was somebody who contracted COVID and to go get tested. So we are perfectly set up to help with contact tracing.”
The second pillar of reopening is cleaning where members will be empowered to clean and sanitize any piece of equipment before they touch it. Staff will be committed to thorough cleaning of facilities throughout the day. Activities will be scheduled to allow for a deep clean between sessions.
“We are actually one of the only industries where you can clean and sanitize something before you touch it. If you think about it, if you go to the grocery store you don’t sanitize a cereal box before you put it in the cart,” said Wildeman. “We have hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes that kill viruses and we’ll have those all over the place so you can be proactive as a member and clean something not only after you’re done with it but before you even touch it in the first place. We will also have staff do thorough cleans of high touch areas.
“I actually think from a cleanliness standpoint we will be one of the cleanest places you can be. And from a social distancing standpoint with the containment we’ll make sure that usable equipment is spread out and we limit the number of people in the facility at any given time.”
The third pillar of reopening is staffing where staff will be trained on proper protocols and systems to be implemented to keep them safe as well.
“Staff will be encouraged to wear gloves and masks. Staff will be encouraged to also have social distancing. Once your personal training is spotting somebody you don’t need to be within six feet of somebody. And even then personal trainers can spot somebody with verbal cues versus having to be within six feet of a person,” explained Wildeman. “We’ll make sure we adjust our operations so to speak to make sure we maintain that social distance. We’ll make sure that we choreograph our classes to be safe. So we won’t have any circuit classes where you go from station to station. Everything would be at your own personal station. The staff, the instructor, will be six feet away from everybody and not facing them so you’re not breathing onto somebody.”
The last section of reopening guidelines is operations where facilities will be required to create detailed operating procedures and will be focused on all “touch points.”
“Do you have traffic flow in your facility mapped out? Do you have pinch points notified? An entrance into a locker room for example. Do you have the ability to yield and stop and wait for somebody else to go first? We’re going to identify those pinch points. Do your policies match up? Are you going to enforce a late cancellation policy or a no-show policy? So if somebody is sick you don’t want to necessarily penalize them for not coming otherwise they might show up when they shouldn’t show up,” added Wildeman.