With stay-at-home orders easing across the country, it’s likely your local gym will be open for business again soon. While you may have kept active over the past few months – walking or running, doing at-home workouts, practicing yoga – many of us are itching to get back to our regular routines, including exercise and classes at the gym.
Yet, how can we do this safely? Even with increased sanitizing and social distancing measures in place, it’s important to have a plan and to take precautionary measures of your own to minimize risks. Here are ten smart steps you should take when you decide to start going back to the gym.
Returning to the Gym: 10 Safety Tips
1. Chat with the manager or staff.
Start by asking about the gym’s plans and procedures for disinfecting equipment and public spaces (like benches and locker rooms). Will they provide wipes and/or hand sanitizer? Are the hours going to be different? Will they reduce the number of people allowed in at one time? All of these things will help you adjust your routine as needed and prepare ahead of time (for example, if you need to bring your own sanitizer).
2. Go during off-peak hours.
While peak times vary for different gyms, most tend to get crowded during lunch hours or between 5 and 8 p.m., when people are getting off work. Plan your workouts around these times to avoid big crowds. (You can always ask the staff what times of day are least busy, if you’re not sure.)
3. Go prepared.
If possible, take a picture of your gym key fob so it can be scanned from a distance (simply holding up your phone) when you’re checking in. If needed, bring your own sanitizing wipes and/or hand sanitizer. It’s also a good idea to bring a filled water bottle (or two!) and avoid using water fountains or public refilling stations, which are high-traffic areas.
4. Wear a mask.
Whenever possible, wear a face mask or appropriate covering. While wearing a mask for stretching and lifting weights is easier than it will be for cardio, it’s still important to stay protected. Of course, talk to your healthcare, provider, too, about wearing a mask when exercising if you have breathing or other health conditions.
5. Wipe down everything.
Whether you bring your own or use supplies provided by the gym, be sure to use wipes or disinfectant spray to clean all equipment before and after use. Even if you see someone wiping down a machine before you use it, do it again. Don’t rely on others’ for thoroughness. If you can’t find wipes or sprays, you can always make your own sanitizers.
6. Use paper towels for sweat.
While not ideal for the environment, using paper towels to wipe sweat from your face and body is the safest move for the time being. While you may have brought your own towel with you in the past, you don’t want to risk germ exposure now (for example, by setting it down on a surface after use, then touching it to your face). If you feel strongly about bringing your own cloth towel, don’t set it down on anything. Keep it tucked in a pocket or positioned around your neck.
7. Follow social distancing guidelines.
Perhaps the most important thing you can do is to keep your distance from others. Allow plenty of space between you and other patrons while using any equipment, sitting on benches or using the locker room. If you feel someone is getting too close, don’t be afraid to say something! Most people will understand your concerns. Additionally, you might want to avoid taking showers at the gym or club for now.
8. Be careful about classes.
Classes are a fun and helpful part of your gym membership. You don’t have to miss out – just be sure the class size is small, allowing plenty of space for everyone to spread out during the session. If a class you’ve joined starts to fill up more than you anticipated, don’t hesitate to leave. You can always sign up for another one at a later time.
9. Wash your hands before leaving.
You’re probably pretty accustomed to frequent hand washing by now. Just like after you’ve visited a grocery store, gas station or any other public place, wash your hands (or liberally apply hand sanitizer) when you leave the gym. It’s a good idea to wipe down your water bottle, phone or anything else you’ve brought with you, as well.
10. Wash clothing when you get home.
To be on the safe side, take off your workout clothes as soon as you get home and throw them in the wash. If that’s not possible, place them in a separate laundry basket until you can get to them. You might also wipe down your gym bag and shoes (or spray them with disinfecting spray), and store them in the trunk of your car until you’re ready to go back to the gym again.