Friday, 23 April 2021

Gyms ready to re-open but with safety restrictions

Gyms ready to re-open but with safety restrictions

GYMS will welcome back members for indoor classes for the first time in four months tomorrow (Saturday).

The Government has allowed indoor gyms, swimming pools and sports facilities to re-open, providing they meet high standards of hygiene and do all they can to reduce the risk of infection.

Many gyms decided to host small outdoor classes while waiting for permission to re-open as normal.

Owners have introduced safety measures to protect staff and visitors, such as one-way systems, enhanced cleaning of equipment and taking temperature checks.

Customers and staff are encouraged to shower and change at home when possible.

Henley Leisure Centre will re-open tomorrow, but the swimming pool will remain closed, along with the shower and changing facilities.

Customers will be asked to pre-book slots to manage the amount of people in the gym. 

Kevin Williams, the centre manager and GLL partnership manager for South Oxfordshire, said: “We won’t be opening up the swimming pool in the first phase, but we hope to do it as soon as possible.

“We are conscious about getting people into the building safely and phasing it means we are not able to bring it in at the same time as the gym and fitness classes.

“The biggest thing for us is to make sure the measures we are putting in place work and we want to learn as we go.

“We won’t be offering the changing rooms, or showering facilities, so people will need to come gym-ready and leave and shower at home. It is going to be very difficult but our main concern is getting people in and out safely.”

A small number of members have been invited to visit the centre today (Friday) to trial the processes ahead of the official re-opening.

There will be signage, one-way systems and hand sanitiser stations in the gym and reception area.

Some class sizes have had to be reduced, while others have been moved from the dance studio into the sports hall to allow 20 people per group.

About a third of the equipment has been removed from the gym to ensure there is a 2m gap.

A member of staff will be dedicated to cleaning equipment at all times, but customers will also be encouraged to disinfect after using a particular station.

Mr Williams added: “We have made the best plan we can and the guidance is evolving all of the time. It will be a relief when we actually open the doors and it has taken a lot of hard work to get to this point.

“The guidance was going to be that there was a bottle of disinfectant on each piece of equipment and that has changed to stations. We will have regular stations for customers to use and there will only be 20 people in the gym at a time.

“People will need to pre-book through our app and it will be contactless entry into the centre. This also allows us to link up with the track and trace system and we can react if there is an outbreak locally.

“We can’t wait to welcome customers back. We have frozen memberships and seen a drop off in terms of numbers.”

He added: “I am very confident in the measures we are bringing in, but I fully understand that there are people who are going to be concerned. We are encouraging people to come and have a look and if you are a member of the centre and you have any questions, feel free to come and see a member of the team.”

Fitness Space Henley, which is based at Centenary Business Park, lost about 60 per cent of its members as a result of the pandemic.

However, owner Joanne John says she is positive about the future and looking forward to having the indoor gym up and running.

She said: “People are still a bit cautious, but we have already had a good response from new and old members wanting to come back.

“The people who have stuck with us have been fantastic and the testimonies from them are very reassuring that we have done the right thing. 

“We have a 10-step safety protocol in place. We have put some of our machines out of use and made sure there is at least 1m between each station. There is tape on the floor for specific workout areas for people to train in their own space.

“We have increased the cleaning and purchased some additional equipment, including a demister, which purifies the air and that should be a big success.”

The gym will be closed between 2pm and 3pm each day to ensure equipment is thoroughly cleaned.

Miss John, a former member of the British bobsleigh team, runs the gym with her partner Dermot Gallagher, who is the lead personal trainer.

She feels gyms will play an important role in helping the country to recover from the pandemic, by providing a service which improves physical and mental wellbeing.

Members will have to pre-book before they can use the equipment and the gym will initially allow 60 per cent of the maximum capacity.

Miss John added: “The 1m plus rule is really helpful, because it allows us to keep most of our equipment out. Before, we were thinking about putting a lot of it into storage.

“We are lucky, because we connect with our members through a digital app already and we can send out messages through that. 

“People can’t just walk in — they will have to go onto the app and book. We can have 25 people in total and another eight outside.

“I think the constraints are important and we need to recognise what has happened and how many people died. We need to protect our staff and members and I feel like most of the measures are fully justified.

“It is more challenging and we are going to have to work a lot harder, but I like to remain optimistic.”

Massimo Antinoro, who runs Love Fitness Henley with his wife Johanna, is pleased to be able to reopen the indoor facility.

The gym, which is located at Henley Rugby Club in Marlow Road, started offering outdoor classes earlier this month.

Mr Antinoro said: “All of our kit is spaced 2m apart and we have had to put some of it out of use to follow those guidelines.

“We have extra signage on the rules with regards to hand washing and keeping your distance.

“We have also got a booking system via our members app for all gym sessions and classes. We are running one-hour gym sessions with 15-minute intervals, which will allow us to clean the place. Members are also encouraged to clean kit after they’ve used it.”

There will be a queue management system outside the gym where people will be asked to have a temperature check.

Screens have been fitted at the front desk and there are hand sanitiser stations in the reception area and in the gym.

Mr Antinoro added: “It is nice to be back. We have been quite lucky in that a lot of members have come back to our classes and it has been nice to see them and give us a taste of how things will work.

“We have had a lot of support from our members who are happy to continue paying. Some people have cancelled and others have decided to freeze until we re-open.

“Our classes will stay outside, which makes it easier to space people out in the gym.”

Mr Antinoro decided to change price packaging and membership plans to try and help membership grow faster.

He said: “It has been tough but overall we are in quite a good position and we know we are going to be alright.

“I think it will be slow at first — there is a real mixture of people that are raring to go and others that are still a bit cautious and rightly so. It might take a bit of time for people to regain their confidence.”

Chris Preston, who owns Expert Fitness Studio in Bell Street, Henley, has been offering one-to-one sessions and classes for small groups outdoors.

He has installed signs to encourage social distancing and there are also hand washing stations as you enter and exit the building.

Mr Preston, a former army captain who lives in King’s Road, Henley, said: “Expert Fitness is ready to open for business and keen to help Henley stay in shape.

“We have listened carefully to guidelines and we are well prepared to help our customers get fit with extra cleaning, hand gel stations and one-way gym circulation.

“Our class program re-starts with everything from gentle Tai Chi to challenging bootcamps to accompany our personal training.”

Mr Preston bought the gym 18 months ago and managed it for five years under the previous owner.

He currently has five staff and is hoping to add to his team when the gym re-opens.

None of the equipment has had to be moved, as the stations were already spaced out.

Badgemore Park’s gym, Focus, will re-open alongside the outdoor classes, which have proven to be popular with members.

Jules Greenaway, the gym manager, said: “The members are loving the new outdoor fitness classes and we are looking forward to introducing our new Focus Fit timetable, which will include our existing popular classes, as well as some new and exciting ones.

“Badgemore Park has been working hard behind the scenes to be ready to welcome their members back to the state-of-the-art fitness facility and there will be a number of new safety measures in place, including hand sanitising and cleaning stations throughout, bookable slots for individual workouts in the gym, as well as intense cleaning schedules throughout the day. 

“The safety and wellbeing of our members and staff is our top priority and we have made a number of changes to our operating procedures to ensure a safe environment for our members whilst maintaining a varied fitness experience.”

Badgemore park offers a gym and two studios and members will be asked to book in advance.

There will be a maximum of four people per hour in the gym and equipment has been moved around to ensure social distancing.

Marc Goodwin, business director, added: “It is brilliant to be able to get the go-ahead to re-open and we have spacious indoor facilities, but we are also blessed with a stunning outdoor space. 

“The outdoor classes have enabled members to come back and feel comfortable doing their fitness regimes. It is more about making people feel comfortable again, rather than the financial benefits.

“As soon as gyms were told to shut, we froze all of our memberships. We haven’t reinstated any direct debits for our membership yet and we have allowed people to come back on a pay per class basis to decide what works from them. 

“We installed a marquee in the Walled Garden recently and that has added a new dimension. The members are loving it and we are adding more classes onto the timetable. We will block off an hour in the middle of the day where we close the gym to do a deep clean of the equipment.”

He added: “We will also provide sanitising sprays and wipes for people to use.”

Henley Practice, based at The Oast House, in the Greys Road car park, is already taking appointments.

It is a personal training and coaching studio, which is located upstairs from the sister company Athlete Service.

It is run by Laurence Plant, a town councillor, who works with a team of therapists and coaches.

Mr Plant said: “It is not a drop-in environment, which means we have the advantage of having absolute control of access.

“As such we are able to allocate the space to ensure appropriate distancing and provide a stress-free environment to train during these already stressful times.

“We ask that all clients and staff alike maintain appropriate social distancing measures, use the hand sanitiser stations provided and bring and take away their own water bottles. Time is allocated between sessions to allow all equipment to be sanitised between clients. It has been really inspiring to see how our team has provided virtual and outdoor options during this time and how our clients have responded so positively to this interim measure.”

He added: “We know that people are ready to get back to the gym floor and we can't wait to welcome clients old and new.”

The fitness centre and swimming pool at Phyllis Court will re-open from Monday but members need to book in advance to ensure social distancing.

The changing rooms and showering facilities will only be available to people who need to use them and the sauna won’t be open initially.

There is a one-way system, 2m markings on the floor and 15-minute gaps between bookings for cleaning.

Charlotte Hughes, the fitness centre manager, said: “We have the pool, the gym and the studio for fitness classes, but everything has to be pre-booked. We are really looking forward to seeing members again.

“We have done quite a lot with them during lockdown to keep them fit, such as videos and live Zoom classes and we did group classes of five people with an instructor. We have been providing as many services as possible during lockdown. We had a shopping service, we were doing takeaways and we made about 6,000 welfare calls to our members to check they were okay.”

Ms Hughes said that while government guidance allows the showers to be used, the club will be encouraging people to use their own at home instead.

They have also taken taken precautions inside the gym. She said: “In the gym, we have either removed equipment or blocked off every other machine so that they are 2m apart or more. 

“The emphasis for cleaning will be on the members and staff. There is hand sanitiser all over the place and members will be encouraged to wash their hands and clean the equipment before and after they use it.

“We will have a deep clean every 45 minutes for 15 minutes. We just want it to be safe for members and for them to feel comfortable and we want to be able to keep everyone for as long as we can and that is why we are being very thorough with the cleaning and social distancing.”

She added: “There are lots of changes, but all of them will make it safer.”

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