Fitness studios across the country are starting to reopen, and we here in California got the word that our green light to reopen is coming very, very soon. With that news there’s been a buzz of excitement in the air...and also just a little bit of “oh shoot, what do I need to do now.”
The good news is, there is loads of guidance out there. The bad news is, there’s too much guidance out there to know what’s right! So I have been pouring through the California Department of Public Health's Guidelines, other state’s opening guidelines, various brand recommendations and standards and have put together what I believe to be the start of an evolving list of reopening considerations for fitness studios.
I’m breaking it down into 4 important areas related to reopening:
1 - Health and Safety Protocols
2 - Policies and Procedures
3 - Legal and Liability considerations
4 - Group Fit Instructors (GFIs) and Personal Trainers (PTs).
I’m breaking these topics down even further, and chiming in with considerations as a:
Business coach and attorney advising fitness studio owners and fitness business owners;
As an instructor returning to work; and
As a consumer and client of boutique and large fitness studios.
I believe looking at these reopening areas from different perspectives will ensure that we are reopening studios and returning to studios in a safe, smart and successful manner.
HEALTH AND SAFETY PROTOCOLS:
ENTERING THE STUDIO:
-Limit early access to the studio prior to a class and instead ask clients to wait outside until they are welcomed in.
-Have clients use hand sanitizer upon entering.
-Take temperature, sign daily health declaration, proceed to their equipment/space
-Limit personal items into the studio.
6-FEET APART: equipment, people, all of it. Consider moving equipment and marking floors. If you show people where they need to be, instructors included, it makes it easier to maintain.
CLEANING: It’s recommended that studios allow for 20-30 minutes between classes to thoroughly clean the equipment and all high-touch areas with an EPA-approved disinfectant. Clients should be expected to clean all equipment they used during their session. PTs do not need as much time between clients, but need to ensure all touched equipment is cleaned. The entire space should be deep cleaned weekly with an EPA-approved disinfectant.
VENTILATION AND AIRFLOW: Now is the time to test your ventilation system. Consider upgrading to a HEPA filter. If windows are operable and it’s not disruptive to training, keep the open. Ventilation will be key during the cleaning window between classes.
FACEMASKS: most cities require use of facemasks for clients when entering and leaving the studio, but not for working out. CA specifically requires PT’s to wear facemasks when training, but currently no mandate that clients or GFIs wear masks. If you’re looking a facemask that is good for exercise, I’ve found this list to be helpful.
TOUCHLESS: minimize high-touch areas. Prop open the front door so clients don’t have to touch it. Convert your water system to a touchless. Invest in a motion-sensor trash can. Minimize and/or eliminate any excessive touching.
SAFE COACHING: to minimize touching, avoid tactile (hands-on) cueing, high-fives and sweaty hugs. I know - it’s a bummer. But it’s temporary.
POLICIES AND PROCEDURES:
RESERVATION SYSTEM: if you don't have one already, now is a great time to invest in a reservation system to ensure your gym, studio and schedule aren’t overwhelming capacity. However you communicate with clients (through a scheduler like MindBody, via a text app, or personal accounts) be sure to remind clients 26-36 hours prior to their scheduled session or class of your COVID precautionary measures. If they need to bring anything with them (see below) be sure to remind them!
CLIENT EQUIPMENT: you might want to consider requiring clients to provide their own equipment like cycling shoes, pilates straps, etc., to minimize the amount of touching and shared high-touch surfaces. If you are going to require clients to bring their own stuff, remind them in the email confirmation (above), offer them a link to an Amazon shop, use an affiliate code, or create kits they can buy in the studio.
If you’re a studio owner, personal trainer, group fitness instructor needing extra guidance in this time, let’s schedule time in the next few days to get you situated, get you a waiver, and get you ready to do what you do best - change people’s lives through movement and exercise.
SCHEDULE, CAPACITY and PRICING: are you modifying the schedule to accommodate additional cleaning time? Are you adjusting class capacity to accommodate social distancing? If you are doing either of these, how does this affect how your trainers are being compensated? And do you intend to increase class prices to account for the difference in daily capacity? *I know, big questions to consider*
LATE CANCEL: Are you maintaining your existing late cancel policy, or are you giving clients an ‘out’ if they experience COVID symptoms within 48 hours of their booked session? If you DO give your clients a COVID late-cancel, what is the fee, and when can they return to the studio? (My advice - 50% cancellation fee and 5-10 days before they can return) Trainers - you might need to keep your late-cancel policy in place if you are reserving time with your training studio, as to avoid bearing the burden of that late-cancel fee.
LEGAL AND LIABILITY CONSIDERATIONS:
COVID SPECIFIC LIABILITY WAIVERS: In addition to your existing (custom to your business) Liability Waiver, you want to ensure that your studio and/or your training business is utilizing a COVID-specific Liability Waiver to add an extra layer of protection for you and your business. I would bet that every single waiver out there now does NOT accommodate an airborne virus and the risks associated with that, and so it is paramount that you have this in place, along with your studio procedures + protocols, to protect your business in the event someone contracts COVID while working out.
DAILY DECLARATIONS OF HEALTH: In addition to your COVID waiver (that’s a one-time deal), you want clients, staff and trainers to sign a daily health declaration, in addition to taking a temperature test. Those with a temperature over 100.6 should be turned away due to a potential fever. The daily declaration needs to be signed/initialed every single time a person enters the studio or training space.
STAFF + TRAINER RESPONSIBILITY: As additional cleaning will become paramount to maintaining the studio, it will be on the owner, management, staff and trainers to keep up with standards. Front desk teams who are already responsible for keeping the studio tidy will likely.
HR + EMPLOYMENT CONSIDERATIONS: If you are going to be requiring staff members, especially instructors, to take on additional responsibilities, you must compensate them at a comparable rate. If you are bringing employees back from furlough or layoffs, you will need to rehire them in accordance with your state’s employment laws. If you are changing anyone’s worker status, or decreasing their compensation, you want to ensure that it will NOT affect loan forgiveness of your PP loan or EIDL loan.
If you’re feeling inspired, you can listen to my discussion on reopening that I have posted. And then come join me this Thursday, 10a PST as I continue the discussion, specifically address concerns I’ve been hearing from instructors and studio owners, and share addition details I learned between now and then.
If you’re a studio owner, personal trainer, group fitness instructor needing extra guidance in this time, let’s schedule time in the next few days to get you situated, get you a COVID waiver, and get you ready to do what you do best - change people’s lives through movement and exercise.
Looking forward to an exciting week together fam!