WORKING out will be very different when The Gym Group reopens, with customers asked to spend no more than 45 minutes exercising.
You’ll also be able to see how busy your nearest gym is without leaving your home, thanks to a new app which the gym chain has launched.
It’s hoped the new tech will help avoid queues outside gyms as they are limited to the amount of customers who will be allowed in at one time.
The Sun has been given exclusive access to The Gym Group’s Northampton branch to see how social distancing will work, including screens around treadmills and some equipment turned off completely.
The Gym Group doesn’t know exactly when it’ll be allowed to reopen its 170 sites, as the government has yet to update its guidance for fitness centres.
However, it is expecting an update from ministers this week.
Gyms across the UK have been shut since March 20 after all “non-essential” stores and services were told to close.
Like a lot of Brits, my workout routine has gone down the pan during lockdown, so I was excited to see how gyms will look.
The first thing you’ll notice is new queue markers outside venues – although, The Gym Group tells me they don’t expect to see lines of people.
Instead, gym-goers are encouraged to use a new capacity tracker on The Gym Group app to see if their nearest branch is full before they leave their home.
The tracker will show you how busy your gym is in real time, as well as a warning for when it has reached capacity.
The Gym Group estimates it’ll run at about 70 per cent capacity at its busiest times in larger venues.
In the lobby area, only one person will be allowed inside at a time, and the entrance and exit portals – where you enter your unique gym number on a keypad to get into the gym area – have been altered to only work one-way.
Before, you’d be able to enter and leave through both portals.
The Gym Group also plans to have contactless entry when it reopens, with customers able to use a QR code on their phone.
These entrance pods are how the fitness chain will keep track on the number of people inside venues.
Once they’re at capacity, the portals will stop letting customers in.
To help keep the flow of people moving, gym-goers will be asked to keep their workouts to 45 minutes if possible, in the hope of spending an hour in total inside.
You’ll also be asked to arrive in your workout gear to save time.
As you step inside, you’ll be encouraged to use new hand sanitiser stations, as well as wiping down machines with disinfectant after you’ve finished.
Staff will of course be on hand to clean as well, with The Gym Group investing in new electrostatic cleaning guns to sanitise equipment.
These guns work by charging the disinfectant so that it electromagnetically sticks to a targeted surface.
It’s reassuring to know that hygiene is being taken seriously and staff tell me they’re conscious to shake the stigma of gyms being “dirty” places.
Unlike retailers and supermarkets, there is no-way system in place on the gym floor.
This is because The Gym Group is hoping members will use common sense and give other users the space they need.
I was surprised to know that no gym equipment had been removed from the Northampton branch.
Everything still works the same, so your workout won’t be hampered – it’s just spaced out.
Some machines, like the treadmills, either have every other one turned off, or perspex screens between them.
It makes me slightly worried that there will be more competition for equipment, but The Gym Group tells me they don’t expect to see queues inside, due to their new app.
Other equipment has been rearranged to allow more space, such as rowing machines, exercise bikes and benches for weights.
You’ll see blue tape around these, to highlight the safe distance.
I think some gym-goers may actually enjoy having extra space to work out – let’s face it, no one wants to be too close to a sweaty stranger.
Most of the heavy weight machines, like the leg and bench presses, naturally give the user an automatic two-distance space, so it hasn’t been necessary to move these.
Sadly, The Gym Group won’t be hosting classes when it reopens, although you’ll still be able to book one-on-one personal training sessions.
The chain has marked out blue boxes on the gym floor where these lessons can take place at a safe distance – you can see how big these are in the picture above.
It’s also planning to reopen with changing rooms, although again, this depends on government guidance.
For now it has deactivated every other shower and sink, and it has removed some benches from inside the changing room to outside, for people who just need to hang up their coat.
Overall, the gym felt like a clean place to be and it’s good to know the changes won’t get in the way of my workout.
After three months of lockdown, I’m certainly looking forward to getting back into my fitness routine.
For more behind the scenes stories on what retailers will look like after lockdown, check out all the changes at Greene King pubs.
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