Finally! After months of closure, gyms in Metro Manila were finally allowed to reopen! I won’t even dare figure out the logic why spas were allowed to open but gyms were not until this week, but I’m glad that this industry now has a chance to get back on its feet.
And as someone who has been slowly but surely losing muscle mass since the pandemic started over a year ago, this was one of the best news I’ve heard lately. The government decided to add some red tape before gyms were allowed to open so I had to wait a few more days before my gym finally opened their doors. And I did not miss the opportunity to workout as soon as they did!
But there’s still COVID!
Yes, we’re still in a pandemic. No, I still am not vaccinated (despite wanting it badly!). Yes, gyms are high-risk—but there are ways to mitigate it to make it relatively safe for everyone.
Gyms were allowed to open early this year when infection rates were slowing down. I have seen firsthand how my gym home branch took effort in keeping us safe and how everyone in that branch cooperated to keep each other safe. That gave me confidence that gyms can operate safely even in a pandemic so even if it was quite far from home and I can only manage to visit twice a week, I still pursued it on my quest to stop my muscle entropy. Unfortunately, the more infectious COVID-19 variant arrived and we were back on lockdowns.
My first workout during this reopening was in a different branch so the safety measures and culture were different. As much as I’d like to give the branch management my feedback on how they may improve our safety, it might be interpreted negatively so I thought of just sharing my suggestions here in case other gyms might be thinking of mores ideas to keep the virus at bay:
This can only be achieved if you can control the number of people inside the premises at any time all the time. One thing that my home gym implemented is requiring members to book their visit to the gym. There are only a certain number of members allowed per two-hour window so the crowd is controlled and you have an idea if the time you plan to visit would be crowded. And once in the gym, your temperature is measured and you’re asked to fill up an online contact tracing form.
My home gym placed a lot of alcohol and cleaning cloths all over the gym and encouraged everyone to wipe the equipment before and after equipment usage. There were so many around that you’re always just a few steps from the nearest one. The members were also quite disciplined and everyone really do wipe. The staff were also active in cleaning.
Everyone should still wear a mask. Inside the gym though, this is more for the purpose of controlling the spread of your exhalation rather than personal protection as the masks for the latter would make it very difficult to breathe. Personally, I wear cloth masks when working out but some uses more protective ones. But as all of us wore our masks all the time (except when really needing to take a breath, drinking, etc.), we’re all protecting each other in case some of us unknowingly has the virus.
I think the success of keeping gyms safe relies not only with the gym owners and their staff, but also with the compliance with all the members. As I mentioned earlier, seeing how everyone wiped the equipment and kept their masks on gave me the confidence that that particular branch was safe to workout in. But as I worked out on a different branch, I was really conscious what safety standards were actually required by the red tape to ensure our safety. The things I noticed missing were:
Any member can come to the gym anytime without any prior reservation. Although I’m sure they’d restrict entry when a certain number of people are in the premises, you won’t be able to tell if the gym is packed until you’re already there. This may not be an issue now since many are still afraid to go to the gym, but it’s something that should be considered. Maybe the gym owners can put on their site how many people are actually in the gym at any time.
There was just a single table in the middle of the gym where all the alcohol spray bottles were placed, and only a single cloth for wiping. Then there’s this one member who decided to take that lone cloth beside him while he worked out (maybe his thought of a safety blanket) so if anyone needed to wipe anything, they’d have to search or talk (which should be avoided) to that person to get it. There should be a lot of these distributed all around to avoid anyone hoarding them.
Let’s face it, many gym members don’t have the slightest idea of the etiquettes, let alone the new safety measures of the pandemic. Staff should inform and encourage members to actually wipe the equipment before and after they use any equipment if they observe them not doing so.
This goes as well with proper wearing of the mask. Some members (the hoarder being one of them) wear their masks below their noses most of the time like they wear it just to look like they’re complying. This is a huge risk to others in the area since many are wearing cloth masks.
Overall, our safety indoors with other people we don’t know depends on everyone’s compliance to the safety protocols. Our mentality should be to protect others in case we picked up the virus and don’t know it yet. We’re not required to wear medical-grade masks all the time simply because the goal is to keep whatever you have to yourself to avoid infecting others. If we all cooperate and do our part, even high-risk areas like indoor gyms can be safe.