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Gyms opening in July? Socially Distanced Swimming?

Hmmm… “Social Distanced Swimming” and enhanced sanitisation. Really?!?!!? I have heard some crazy ideas during the lockdown, and I thought “5G masts” had found new depths of crazy, but then I read an article on the BBC site suggesting gyms could re-open in July.

To set my argument out in brief: I am absolutely all for a return to “normal”. In my view we need to appreciate that there will be a degree of risk, but let’s not get super paranoid of our own shadows. If we can accept that we no longer need to socially distance then lets open gyms (and barbers, and cafes, and pubs and… all without this 2m distancing thing). If we can’t accept that then, sadly I think gyms are the LAST place that should open.

For reference this is the article that I am “responding” to BBC Sport For completeness I do fully understand that the caveat is in the title which only suggests that this is what gyms “could” look like.

Naturally as part of the Sport and Fitness industry, I certainly want gyms to be re-opening and for the industry (in its broadest sense) to slowly drag itself back together and see what it can morph into. But this article feels like lightweight thinking. What has particularly irritated me is that the assumption that we should take something that was largely broken before (the ‘gym’ model), cast aside this golden opportunity to COMPLETELY TRANSFORM the service, and instead stick a few plasters over the gaping wound and consider it done.

So, to be specific…

Socially Distanced Swimming

Of course I can understand the school boy level maths that enables us to determine the maximum allowable occupancy for a fixed space given a 3 meter separation between the occupants. This however would seem to work best if the ‘bathers’ were static or all moved as a uniform and co-ordinated group.

Anyone that has viewed a public swimming pool will know that the ‘bathers’ do not move in a uniform fashion. A few are static, the rest all move at varying speeds and in randomly changing directions… And that’s on a good day when there is some semblance of lane discipline going on.

Putting aside people crashing into each other, I have noticed a general breakdown in the “one way system” in Tesco the last couple of weeks. Are we hoping that we will be able to establish some form of one way system in the pool area? How do we imagine entering and exiting the pool will work in terms of priority… Although on a positive, I am looking forward to seeing people swim with face masks and plastic gloves on!

You might think that I am anti pools opening. Far from it!! As a qualified Swim Instructor, it would be very handy to have pools open again so that I can earn a few pennies… But you have to be realistic. Social Distancing would need to be reduced to “no petting” before realistically you could open a pool in my view.

Keeping it clean

Talking of “no petting”, and assuming we have agreed that we will keep the pool closed, what of the rest of gym?

My experience has been that (certainly the larger chains) gym floor “cleaning” to a very large extent is a job given to young trainee PT’s on minimum wage. Motivation and desire (as you can imagine) is not huge, but accepted as the “gateway” to a poorly paid job as a qualified PT in a commercial gym setting. This was obviously done as a way to minimise costs, and the end result was often representative of the “investment” made in the process.

As we come out of this economic shutdown and start to face the financial catastrophe we have now created, do we seriously think that gyms will be hiring specialist staff that are highly motivated to clean down sweaty machines (that are possibly covered in virus)? You would have to have a really vivid imagination to make that one fly!

Industry and Social Acceptance

The current industry guidance is that Personal Trainers can train clients outdoors on a 1:1 basis whilst remaining 2m away. Any equipment used should be thoroughly cleaned between clients. You may train multiple clients in one day, but they can not overlap. Simple.

Well not quite. This as caused much debate and division between PT’s, a lot stating they don’t feel this is safe. My position has been that I have resumed training cilents and believe it is perfectly safe. But if so many won’t work outdoors, in what is a minuscule risk scenario, how do you think they will respond to working indoors? Maybe you don’t need them? But on the whole classes tend to be more effective if someone leads them! Also with no-one qualified on the gym floor, well…

And then there is the gym user to consider. Will they be willing to go INDOORS to train? Will they have confidence in the equipment being cleaned. That the lockers were cleaned between users?

It’s Just A Bad Idea

Unless you think differently? Always happy to be corrected…

Cheerio.