After what may be up to six months of minimal social interaction, probably including non-attendance at the gym, what is likely to give clients the confidence to start training at your facility again?
It is useful to consider that different individuals will have different levels of concern about COVID-19, and how it impacts their day-to-day life, including going to the gym. To pick examples from both ends of the spectrum: there will be people, particularly those in high-risk groups, who may still be second-guessing leaving their homes at all. At the other end of possible perspectives there will be those who just want life to get back to how it was before the pandemic. Those that perhaps consider the whole situation to be an excessive reaction to a virus.
A majority will lie in the middle ground somewhere between those two perspectives: they want their lifestyle to resume a degree of normality. At the same time they do not want to take risks that will put them in a position of being more likely to catch the virus and they certainly don’t want to be responsible for passing it on to others.
Survey reveals why clients return to the gym post-lockdown
In a recent survey by Steele et al.(1) taken during the COVID-19 “lockdown” period, participants were asked to share information about how they trained before the epidemic vs. during it. There are some fascinating insights that can point to why your clients can benefit from returning to your facility.
Many respondents considered their lockdown training approach to be less effective.
You will once again be able to help your clients benefit from experiencing more effective workouts, and/or workouts they perceive as being more effective. Both of which outcomes have value.
40% of individuals who continued to train during the lockdown period stated they enjoyed their workouts less than before.
Your facility reopening can help many of your clients enjoy their workouts more again.
33% of individuals responded that they were less motivated to train during lockdown.
Many of your clients are likely to experience increased motivation to exercise, simply due to the fact they have access to the service you provide again.
During lockdown there was an increase in use of higher repetition ranges than before. Possibly due to the increased use of bodyweight exercise and perhaps also access to only a limited amount of free weights for those at home.
Some of your clients may have enjoyed using higher repetitions during lockdown, however many will likely be excited to train with greater loads and more moderate and lower repetition ranges again too.
During lockdown there was a trend towards a reduction in perceived effort during exercise.
Being back in the facility and working under your direct supervision can help enable clients to experience the rewards of higher effort workouts.
Prior to lockdown the most popular reported training goal was “strength”, during lockdown it was “general health”.
Given the ongoing COVID-19 situation, many individuals may continue to feel that “general health” is a key outcome and a greater number of new sign-ups may express this as a reason for coming to your facility. In these cases, you can align the benefits of your service with this desired outcome.
A Safe Space?
If you are in a locality that allows your facility to be operational now, you have a valuable opportunity to cater to your clients’ needs. During this time, it is important to be able to do so in a way that is both responsible and reassuring. When the client enters your facility and exercises with you, they need to be in as safe a space as possible, as do you.
A recent piece of research(2) including 3764 participants, compared two randomized groups of individuals in Oslo, Norway. For three weeks starting in May 2020 one group were allowed access to their fitness facilities and the other group was not. At the fitness facilities social distancing was observed and enhanced hand and surface hygiene measures were in place. Locker rooms were open, but showers and saunas were closed. At the end of the study there was not one COVID-19 case attributable to gym attendance and the researchers concluded: “Provided good hygiene and social distancing measures, there was no increased COVID-19 spread at training facilities.” Great news. It should be noted that the study has faced some criticism for being underpowered, not lasting long enough and for taking place during a period where COVID-19 cases were low in Norway. Nevertheless, it does at least point toward the possibility that fitness facilities have the potential to be safe spaces.
Countries, states, counties and cities have been affected to differing degrees by COVID-19. Laws vary as to what businesses can open, where, and how they can operate. As a facility owner your first port of call needs to be the local laws that apply directly to your facility and additionally any new stipulations made by your insurance company.
What follows is general advice for HIT facilities, in situations where your local laws are more stringent than listed below you must follow your local laws, in areas where laws are perhaps less lax, you may still want to consider applying some of the suggestions in this article if you perceive they will enhance your service and protect the wellbeing of both your clients and staff. The broad picture is to be doing everything that is practically possible to protect your clients and trainers and minimize the risk of any spread of the virus at, or via your facility.
Reassuring clients about the relative safety of attending your facilityIt is private: one trainer and one client in the exercise area at any one time. People are not hanging around chatting in other areas such as reception. There is visible evidence of increased hand and surface hygiene measures. The trainer stands an appropriate distance from the client throughout the appointment and wears a mask. There is a clear policy in place clearly outlining clients and trainers must not come to the facility if unwell.
Make your HIT facility the last place that your clientele is going to pick up the virus.
Steele, J., Androulakis-Korakakis, P., Carlson, L., Williams, D., Phillips, S., Smith, D., … Fisher, J. (2020, September 9). The impact of public-health measures to limit the spread of Coronavirus on training behaviours of individuals previously participating in resistance training: A cross-sectional survey study. Available here
Randomized Re-Opening of Training Facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic. TRAiN study group, Michael Bretthauer. Available here