Navigating COVID: Back to life
At the top of the list of things COVID-19 made us realize we took for granted: gyms.
People miss their workout routines. People miss a routine, period. Some are protesting for their right to lift, dribble, spin, run, score, stretch. In North Carolina, gyms and fitness centers are expected to open in the third and final phase of the state’s reopening plan.
When the gym is ready for you, should you rush back? Here’s advice from Dr. Ashley Perrott, a family physician with Novant Health Salem Family Medicine in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
What questions should you ask gym management?
First, you should know that gyms are going to look different when they open back up. They will likely limit the number of people allowed in at any one time. You may need to reserve a time slot.
Before you go back, you should find out what it means for your gym to reopen. Are they offering group classes? How often are they cleaning? What products are they using? Are there stations with hand sanitizer? How many? Have they moved the equipment to allow people to be more than 6 feet apart from each other or roped off every other piece of equipment?
Gyms should follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance on cleaning and disinfecting, and their members ought to verify they are. The International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association offers solid guidance for gyms in the age of COVID.
What precautions should you take?
Be responsible: Avoid the gym if you’re not feeling well. Follow social distancing rules.
Take your own water bottle. Gyms may even have gotten rid of water fountains. Bring your own towel and hand sanitizer. We shouldn’t be touching our faces anyway, but definitely not when you’re hot and sweaty.
People in high-risk groups for COVID-19, such as those 65 and older and those with compromised immune systems, should avoid the gym for now.
6 feet apart for group classes, right?
Definitely. But the first question is: Should you even be taking group classes now?
Studies have shown that respiratory droplets can travel even farther when we’re breathing heavily, as we do during and after a workout. Some researchers recommend that we double the 6 feet rule at gyms and maintain 12 feet between you and the next person.
What about team sports where multiple people are handling equipment – basketball, for instance?
The CDC advises against that kind of exercise now. When there’s equipment traveling between people, such as in basketball or volleyball, it’s risky.
What about yoga?
If you choose to do yoga in a public space, bring your own mat and water bottle. But there are so many virtual options; yoga studios really led the way in pivoting from an in-person to a virtual experience. Virtual live classes are a great way to practice yoga while keeping yourself safe.
Should you wear a mask at the gym?
If you can tolerate it, yes. But most people can’t. You might be able to wear a mask for something like weight lifting, but probably not for aerobics or spin class.
What do you need to add to your gym bag when you return?
Clorox wipes if you have them.
But remember you’re going to have to put your gym bag down somewhere. Your gym should have a specific place where gym bags go, and that place should be sanitized frequently. And then, your bag will have to come home with you, and that poses a risk. You may decide not to pack one at all.
What about showering?
Skip the gym shower for now, and shower at home.
Will you personally feel safe going to a gym once they reopen?
I’m pretty conservative. I’m going to wait until we see that the spread of the virus is slowing, and we haven’t seen that yet.
I love to exercise and I recommend it to everyone. It’s a great stress reliever and helps support a healthy immune system, which is very important now. We’ll find a time in the “new normal” to return to our gyms. For me, that time isn’t here yet.