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Returning to the gym after COVID-19

June 15, 2020 General Wellness

After three months at home balancing the demands of family, career, homeschooling and caregiving, many of us are eager to get out of the house. And while getting yourself to the gym maybe previously felt like a chore, now it seems like an opportunity to get out of the house, manage your stress…and maybe to work off some of those quarantine comfort foods, too.

As Pennsylvania enters the ‘Green’ phase later this week, you’ll finally get the chance to return. But you may be wondering whether or not it’s safe to return. Here’s what you need to know about new safety and cleanliness measures, plus steps you can take to further protect yourself.

At fitness centers, new cleaning standards and processes

When these businesses reopen, there will already be additional safety measures in place. For starters, Pennsylvania’s ‘Green’ phase mandates that, when gyms reopen, they can only do so at 50 percent of regular capacity. That means group fitness classes will have fewer spots available and, if the gym reaches that mark before you arrive, you’ll need to come back at a less crowded time. 
 
And, once you get into the gym, don’t be surprised if some equipment is off-limits. Many gyms, including Main Line Health Fitness & Wellness Center and national chains like Planet Fitness, have removed equipment from their floors or marked some as out-of-use to allow for appropriate physical distancing between members.
 
Additional measures include more hand sanitizer and equipment wipes, and even new hours of operation to allow staff to thoroughly disinfect equipment and common areas at the end of each day. And, of course, masks will be mandatory and temperature screenings might be required not only for employees but for members, too.
 
Knowing that measures like these may cause their members to opt out of a workout, many gyms have built a library of virtual workouts that can be done anywhere or have started offering outdoor workout classes, instead. Options like these allow members to stay engaged and healthy but, for many people, it’s just not the same as getting in a good workout on your favorite machine. 

“Many of us are eager to get back to the gym or restaurants or shopping, but if you’re not feeling well—especially if you have symptoms like a sore throat or a cough—then you need to stay home. It’s the right thing to do to protect yourself and the people around you.”

So, if you’re ready to get back in the gym, what other steps can you take to protect yourself from COVID-19? First, stay home if you’re sick.
 
“Many of us are eager to get back to the gym or restaurants or shopping, but if you’re not feeling well—especially if you have symptoms like a sore throat or a cough—then you need to stay home,” says Eileen Sherman, director of infection prevention for Main Line Health. “It’s the right thing to do to protect yourself and the people around you.”
 
Bring your mask to your workout, too. While you should always be wearing a mask during your workouts, many people have opted not to if they’re exercising outdoors. Gyms in Pennsylvania will require you to wear a mask, so don’t try and sneak in without one.
 
Other measures you can take to keep yourself safe during your workouts include:
  • Opting for water-based workouts. Pool-based fitness classes often take place in smaller groups and require you to be physically distant. If group workouts aren’t your thing, try swimming laps instead.
  • Showering at home. Some locker rooms may still be closed to the public, even if gyms are open. But if yours is open, you may still want to consider showering at home since locker rooms can be an easy place to transfer germs.
  • Wipe down your locker. Again, locker rooms may not be open but if they are, use sanitizer wipes to wipe down the inside of your locker before using it.
  • Bring your own equipment. If you usually rely on borrowing yoga mats, towels, resistance bands or any other gym equipment, consider bringing some from home instead.

If you’re not ready to return, that’s OK!

Like most things, returning to the gym after COVID-19 will feel a little different than before. Gyms and fitness centers are among the last businesses permitted to reopen and, when they do, they’ll feel a little different from what you left behind in March. But with a few extra measures to keep you safe, you can still fit in an effective and enjoyable workout. If you’re still not ready to return to the gym, remember that outdoor workouts are an option, too, or take advantage of virtual workouts available online
 
Main Line Health serves patients at hospitals and health centers throughout the western suburbs of Philadelphia. To schedule an appointment with a specialist at Main Line Health, call 1.866.CALL.MLH (225.5654) or use our secure online appointment request form.