Gyms are now open but there is some concern amongst the general public about whether they are a safe environment during a global pandemic. Considering the fact that many people have struggled to exercise to the intensity that they normally would during lockdown, it’s no surprise that individuals are very apprehensive about returning to the gym.
10 steps to maintain good hygiene in the gym
1. Make sure you are in good health to train
If you are feeling unwell it is usually advisable to stay at home and rest. It’s particularly important that if you are displaying any of the key COVID symptoms, to stay at home and get a test.
2. Plan your gym visit
Limit your time in the gym by pre-planning your workout and what equipment you will need to use. This will ensure that you only touch what you need and prevent you from having to make lengthy decisions whilst in the facility. Additionally, it might be worth looking at virtual tours or online images of the gym layout to familiarise yourself with the setup before attending.
3. Limit contact with others
It’s important to maintain social distancing whilst working out and ensure that you keep 2 metres (or 1 metre with mitigations) away from anyone outside your household. Try to avoid the busier periods and be prepared to alter your workout routine in order to avoid crowded areas.
4. Wear a mask as much as possible
Wearing a mask during exercise may not be possible, but it is advisory to wear it whilst moving around the building; including in the locker rooms, seating areas, and reception areas. Take a look at my blog on ’17 of the best reusable face masks’ to understand why wearing a mask is so important and find one that looks the part.
5. Wash your hands regularly
Washing your hands is the simplest way to protect yourself and others from illnesses, including COVID-19. Practice good personal hygiene by washing your hands with soap and water before and after visiting the gym, and sanitise them before and after using each individual piece of equipment.
6. Wipe down your equipment before and after use
It’s important to keep the gym area as sanitary as possible and this relies on members to do their part. When cleaning the equipment, spray disinfectant onto a clean paper towel (not a used gym towel) and wipe the entire surface of the equipment (not just the area you have been holding). Leave 20-30 seconds after wiping the equipment before using it to allow time for the disinfectant to work.
7. Bring your own water bottle
You should avoid drinking from a communal fountain (if they are even turned on) completely during this time. Bring a water bottle for your own personal use when visiting the gym and clean it thoroughly when you return home.
8. Skip your post workout shower at the gym
It is advisable to limit your exposure to the gym environment as much as possible by leaving the facility once you have completed your session and showering at home. Bring the minimum number of personal belongings into the building to further reduce any risk of transmission.
9. Wash and disinfect all clothing and items brought into the gym
On returning home, place your workout clothes into a hot wash with washing detergent and wipe down all your personal belongings with a disinfectant wipe.
10. Ensure that your gym is taking the necessary precautions.
It’s important that all gym users feel comfortable whilst using the facility and that the gym is doing their part to keep you safe. Here are some key things to look out for when you enter the building:
- Adherence to the GDC recommendation for physical distancing.
- Hand sanitisers, tissues, and sanitising wipes are readily available.
- Assessment of all members on entry of any active symptoms, such as temperature checks or self-assessment questionnaires.
- Posted signs that included symptoms of COVID19 and rules gym users should abide by to lower the risk of transmission.
- Frequent cleaning of equipment and hand washing.
- Limiting the number of exercise class attendees.
6 basic guidelines to minimise your risk of injury and maximise your chances of an effective return to the gym
1. Limit your time in the gym, to give your tissues time to adapt.
Give yourself at least 48hours between sessions or limit yourself to 3 days a week for the first 2 weeks. This will allow your body enough time to adjust to the heightened load that you are placing on it.
2. Reduce your weights and progress slowly over time
Drop your weights to 50% of what you were lifting pre-lockdown and increase them by a set percentage each week. Initially, your focus should be on achieving the correct form and lifting safely. If you have remained active during lockdown, then a 15% increase each week should be achievable, meaning that you will be back to your full weights in one month.
3. Make sure you warm up properly
Ensure that your warmup focuses on the mobility and activation of key joints and muscle groups. This is imperative after periods of lower activity levels!
4. Be conservative when re-starting plyometrics
Take caution when adding in jumping, hoping or skipping tasks into your exercise regimen. These activities place extreme amounts of load onto tendons and bones which take 72 hours to fully recover from.
If you have stayed active during lockdown, limit these activities to twice per week and reduce foot contacts (how many times your foot hits the ground) to 40x on each foot, and then increase by no more than 10% each week. If you have been inactive during lockdown, then wait until week 3 of your gym return to proceed with plyometric exercises.
5. Sleep and eat well
Often these are things that are overlooked by individuals when they are training hard, but they can really make the difference between seeing progress and getting injured.
Sleep is the best recovery and it’s essential that you get 7-9 hours rest each night, read my blog on ‘how to perfect your evening routine’ for tips on how to wind down for that perfect night’s sleep. Additionally, if your energy output increases then you need to give your body more fuel and nutrients to recover from the higher level of activity.
6. Respect any signs of pain and see a physio if you are concerned.
It’s important not to push through any pain and stop any activity causing discomfort immediately. If you start to feel any pain on your return to the gym, see a professional and get it sorted ASAP.
Staying fit and well at this time is important but it’s imperative that all individuals do what they feel comfortable with and weight the risks before making any decisions. If you do decide to return to your gym, remember to stay safe by practicing exceptional personal hygiene and being sensible when planning future gym workouts.