In the time before lockdown hit, sweaty gym sessions were a regular part of many people’s everyday routines. Now that fitness facilities have been closed for several months, a new kind of normal is on the horizon as they reopen again.
The UK governments recent measures that allowed indoor gyms, swimming pools and sports facilities to reopen from 25 July in England, ensured millions of people can go back to their usual training.
The gym can be an intimidating place at the best of times, but now there will be a whole other secret code of conduct on what to do and what not to do.
We asked experts to share some advice on how to stay safe and mindful of others if you’re thinking of heading to the gym soon.
1. Change and get showered at home
Instead of hitting the jets after a class, gym-goers will now be encouraged to shower at home.
“Not only will changing and showering at home reduce the time you’re in the gym, it will also reduce any chances of cross-contamination,” says Bharat Gohil, from Biofreeze.
“Be sure to jump in the shower as soon as you get home and pop your workout clothing straight into the wash too.”
2. Get to know the new gym layout
It’s likely that some equipment will have been removed or relocated at your local gym, to allow for enough space between those working out.
“Be sure to have a look around as soon as you arrive, so you can get to know where everything is,” says Gohil.
“Also, be sure to locate all cleaning products upon entering the gym so you know where to go, what’s available and what to use. If you’re not sure, the staff at your gym should be more than happy to help,” he adds.
3. Keep your towel for your face and body only
“Everyone is sweating and panting in the gym, and many people carry their own towels – both to wipe themselves down and to wipe equipment down after use,” says Gohil, who stresses that in the age of coronavirus, your towel should only be used on your person.
“Be sure to use separate items to clean down any equipment and machinery after use such as anti-bac wipes – and dispose of them after each and every use.”
4. Consider booking onto classes
Classes aren’t for everyone – many prefer weight sessions or working out alone within the gym – but Gohil says that they are going to be one of the safest spots within gyms.
“Class sizes will be reduced to allow for adequate workout space and they will also have their own equipment – so when the gym is busy, you’ll be able to safely access everything you need.”
5. Wear weightlifting gloves
“Although the virus doesn’t pass through skin, wearing gloves may deter you from touching your face – which is how coronavirus can enter the eyes, nose and mouth,” says Dr Earim Chaudry, medical director of Manual.
If you’re going down the gloves route, Chaudry stresses that you still have to wash your hands when you take them off.
“Hand washing is important particularly before eating or drinking anything, though the protein bars are best saved for home to limit chances of contamination,” adds Gohil.
6. Wipe down equipment
Gyms will be internally upping their hygiene and cleaning measures, but there is a lot that gym-goers can individually do to stop any potential of an outbreak.
“It’s considered good gym etiquette to wipe equipment after use, and during this time many gyms will have additional wipes and antibacterial sprays available,” says Dr Simran Deo at online doctor Zava UK.
“Try to use these before and after you use each bit of equipment to help protect yourself and others.”
7. Pay attention to your breathing
Everyone sweats and pants within the gym, that’s a given – but now is the best time to learn to get your breathing under control.
“Breathing mindfully will help you to reduce contamination within the air,” says Gohil. “Make deep, small breaths so that you don’t open your mouth wide when breathing out and aim your face downwards, instead of out into the rest of the gym.”
8. Keep your distance and be flexible
“It’s not uncommon to have people standing nearby while you’re working out in the gym, by way of saying they’re next in line for the equipment that you’re working on,” says Gohil.
“This isn’t going to be possible for the foreseeable, with social distancing guidelines recommending a distance of between one to two metres.”
Instead of lingering, Gohil says you should workout on whatever is free instead.