Worldwide, businesses – including fitness studios – are slowly reopening. While online class offerings have been a lifesaver during shutdowns caused by the novel coronavirus pandemic, to survive and thrive long-term, a return to in person instruction is inevitable. And as our lives begin to adjust to this “new normal” brought on by COVID-19, safety and comfort remain top concerns.
So how do you begin to rebuild in a way that serves your diverse customer community and ensures the health and wellbeing of your students?
We asked Punchpass fitness business owners from around the globe to share their experience of reopening. After all, we’re all in this together.
Even though timelines and guidelines vary by country and locality, some health and safety measures for gyms, fitness clubs and yoga studios remain in common.
Nearly everyone is setting up their classes and facilities to accommodate social distancing of a least six feet, and sometimes more. Masks are being worn, when feasible. Having ample wipes and sanitizer available is a must. It’s important to note that alcohol-based wipes or spray must contain at least 70% alcohol to disinfect surfaces and kill coronavirus. Traditional cleaning products that you had in storage may not meet these standards.
Also, in most areas, the size of training sessions and classes will be limited for a while.
Here are few measures Punchpass fitness business software users around the globe are putting into place as part of staged reopening:
Health experts are finding that coronavirus is spread mainly through respiratory droplets that become airborne when a person breathes heavily, talks or coughs, rather than from touching surfaces (although contracting the virus that way is still possible).
This makes creating safe distances between your students during classes a primary safety precaution. The minimum spacing is 6 feet, but some fitness studio owners are enforcing even larger spacing.
“Clients bring their own straps, 12 foot spacing between apparatus, enhanced cleaning, private and duet sessions only. Hands free instruction,” said Erica Young, owner of Ridgway Pilates in Ridgway, CO in the U.S.
While fitness studios in the U.K. are not allowed to open their indoor spaces yet, at MiiTime Pilates & Fitness in the U.K., owner Jane Hickson has marked off spots inside her classroom and numbered them. When students return, she plans to have them enter the room one by one in numerical order to achieve appropriate social distancing.
Studio owners we talked to said that they are either asking students to bring their own equipment and props, where feasible, or are asking students to bring covers for things like yoga bolsters and blocks, and are sanitizing the items before and after each use with approved antiviral cleaners.
“Students spray and wipe studio blocks and chairs at the end of class. I store studio props in two sections. All studio props used in the class are set to one side and 'rested' for at least 24 hours, same as library books, and "fresh" props for the next class are taken from the other section, “said Jane Robinson, owner of Urban Grace in New South Wales, Australia.
At Jackie Allen Yoga in Ballarat, Australia, customers will be asked to bring their own mats, and they will not be using any props at the studio.
In some communities, local government is limiting the capacity of fitness facilities as they reopen. In most cases, studio owners are choosing to limit class sizes. Some said they’ll start with one-on-one instruction before moving to small group classes, while others – mostly outside the U.S. – are hosting classes of up to 18 students.
“Only 5 students are allowed to sign in to classes to allow plenty of social distancing space and allow for the camera and AV equipment,” said Robinson. “(Our) waitlist is enabled for all in-studio classes. I expect this to work but so far, in studio classes have not been as popular as I expected. (offered since Saturday).”
Also, “bookings are essential” with the limited class sizes, said Odette Beswick, owner of Yoga Corner in Perth, Australia.
Be sure to set a limit on class size in your Punchpass online schedule, and communicate clearly to your students that they need to book ahead of time if they want to secure a spot.
At Urban Grace, Robinson said that because her classes are limited currently to five students, she’s enabled the waiting list option in her Punchpass software, created separate online class enrollment options and has “drawn student's attention to the "cancellation" link at the bottom of their confirmation email. No-one can cancel in-studio booking within 2 hours of the start of the class,” she said.
To make up for smaller class sizes, some fitness studios are adding more classes to their schedule. Be sure to allow extra time in between classes, said Dan Kanney, owner of Elevate Fitness in Coldwater, OH in the U.S.
“We have changed the timing in our classes to allow for more thorough cleaning of equipment during rotations in the classes,” said Kanney. “We have strictly adhered to state and local health departments guidelines regarding sanitizing equipment and social distancing. We have been open and honest with our members regarding the changes that needed to be made and how our classes would look going forward until we can resume as normal. We have sanitary wipe containers scattered throughout the gym space as well as hand sanitizer in multiple locations in the space.”
Weather is a tricky factor, but outdoor spaces may be worth considering as a way to encourage spacing and increase airflow to naturally reduce risk from inhaled droplets. Be forewarned, however -- teaching classes outdoors is still neither risk-free nor judgment-proof. Charlotte O'Beirne, owner of Swimming Women in Margaret River, Australia, uses public spaces for her ocean swims. When reopening just started in her area, "we felt under scrutiny from people watching to check if we were social distancing."
Pre-recorded video on demand classes, and live streaming of new, in-person classes is one way studio owners report bolstering their revenue, and nurturing their communities. Some studios have expanded their customer base through marketing of their online class options and plan to continue to build their libraries.
“The online option was a positive consequence to come out of quarantine,” said Kanney. “We picked up a bunch of new clients and they have stuck with us for online workouts. In addition to classes at our building, we do a live online every morning and on the weekend. We also maintain a content library that houses a month's worth of workouts in it, so our members can have access to a great workout at any time of the day. Punchpass's integration with Zoom and the ease of the content library made our choice easy. We had to keep doing online workouts. We would be foolish not to.”
As studios begin to offer in-person classes again, most owners said they are planning to maintain their pre-COVID-19 membership and pass prices. The majority are also continuing to offer discounted, online-only passes for virtual classes.
Robinson is offering a special super discounted pass to her students who lost jobs or were otherwise financially negatively impacted by the pandemic.