A few weeks after the onset of the lockdown, someone told me that gyms might be allowed to open in September still. That is six months, I gasped. In my mind, I prayed God forbid because that is like a death sentence.
How can gym entrepreneurs last six months of negative income? How can the fitness professionals last that long? Everyone is saying we in the gym business should understand that this is for the good of all. So we have been cooperating, but how can government and the community help us survive?
Yes, those are the same questions all entrepreneurs are grappling with. We are probably one of the industries worst hit globally.
Challenges do bring about the best in people and so one of the best things that happened in the industry is the formation of an industry coalition.
The first to give me a call early April was Rey Bolivar, CEO of Anytime Fitness Asia. He said we should form a group to represent the local fitness industry. I told him I was all for it.
Soon, we were having meetings with other CEOs such as Mark Ellis of Fitness First and Celebrity Fitness; Desiree Moy of Slimmers World; moi of Gold’s Gym and UFC Gym; and Rowena Walters of IFBB Philippines. A couple of Zoom meetings after, we decided to sign a petition to the DTI and offered our individual re-opening protocols for their review.
Mark had the Fitness First in SM Aura undergo a run through with DTI Undersecretary Ruth Castelo on July 27. We were scheduled for Aug. 3, but it was cancelled due to the reclassification of NCR to MECQ.
The gyms were reclassified from Category 4 to Category 3, which means that they can operate 30 percent during GCQ. As of this writing, while NCR has been reclassified to GCQ again, initial news reports claim that the go signal for gym re-opening has been recalled.
Hopeful that gyms will be allowed to open soon, allow me to discuss the basic protocols set by DTI for all gyms to follow.
Most essential services that have already opened follow these protocols: filling up of health declaration forms for staff, contact-tracing registration for members and guests, thermal scanning for all (refusal of entry for those with a body temperature higher than 37.5 degrees celsius), provision of alcohol or hand sanitizers in the lobby, strict enforcement of “no mask, no entry” policy (which might include face shields once prescribed mandatory), strict observance of physical distancing (at least one meter apart), proper ventilation and exhaust systems, frequent cleaning and sanitation of high touch surfaces.
Additional measures required are foot baths in the lobby, visual reminders about proper hand washing, practice of appointment setting to manage capacity, visible floor markings for distancing and foot traffic flow, covering furniture with porous material with plastic for easy sanitation, no physical contact for payments, designation of manager-on-duty to enforce protocols.
If you are used to having a personal trainer note that in the 'new normal,' the trainer should stand around two meters away from you.
Gyms were also advised to provide signs and posters for the following: accomplishment of contact tracing forms, “no face mask, no entry” policy, social distancing protocols, maximum number of allowable persons in the establishment, sanitation schedule and procedures, alternative methods of payment, no personnel-contact protocols (including the right to refuse service to customers who fail or refuse to comply), telemedicine consultation websites for COVID-19 health concerns.
The last sets of rules are specific to the gym industry. Every equipment should be disinfected after use. For that reason, it is better for the gym user to use the paper towel and disinfecting spray to wipe down the equipment before and after use, as well as for them to bring a personal gym towel. Only individual workouts are allowed. Workout sessions involving two or more are strictly prohibited. All group classes are prohibited.
Masks may be removed during physical exertion but the person should be two meters away on all sides from his personal trainer or the next person in the gym. Masks when removed should be placed inside ones pocket instead of pulling it down to the chin.
All equipment will be one meter away on all sides. Everyone — members and staff — should speak quietly. Drinking fountains are strictly for refilling of personal water bottles.