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A Guide For Gym Goers Amid COVID-19

Josh Bullock
Mar 15, 2020

Since the onset of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak government oversight groups and businesses have restricted large gatherings or shut their doors all together. As of March 13th, this appears limited to public events but what about public places? What about the health and performance sanctuary of the local gym or studio? Who is protecting you and how can you protect yourself as a gym goer?

The authority figures when it comes to standards and guidelines for fitness facilities are the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and the International Health, Racquet, and Sportsclub Association (IHRSA). Both have published standards or position statements for cleanliness and sanitation of facilities that should be adhered to at all times but in particular during the growth of the COVID-19 global pandemic.

For the past 19 years I have served as a strength and conditioning coach at the collegiate and Olympic levels. I have managed collegiate fitness facilities in three states; including campus recreation centers and varsity weight rooms. Those facilities served over 5,000 members and needless to say, were cleaned to the highest of standards. I have spent countless hours behind a spray bottle and even closed facilities due to safety concerns, all in an effort to reduce the risk to facility users. That said, what we are dealing with here is an altogether different challenge.

So what would I be doing as a gym goer and what should I expect from my gym?

As of now, your local gym or studio, regardless of the type you have chosen, should have provided you with the measures they are taking to protect your health. They should also maintain a consistent line of communication on all matters relative to this outbreak. Topics should include: 1) how to keep yourself safe, 2) modes of transmission of COVID-19, 3) cleaning schedules, 4) applicable policies and procedures, 5) their plans to monitor the situation, and 6) if a case, or presumptive case, has entered the facility.

Facility Recommendations

Before we dig in here, you should be able to ask the manager for a copy of their cleaning and maintenance log. Every reputable facility will have one on hand and they should be able to provide it in a moments notice. Now, what to look for.

Fitness facilities should be using an EPA-registered cleaning solution that is allowed to sit on the equipment for 2-3 minutes prior to drying. These solutions come in a variety of forms, from the more environmentally friendly citrus oils, to the more aggressive phenol-based and alcohol-based products. A common broad spectrum disinfectant used in fitness facilities is Virex.

The facility's staff should be disinfecting the following twice daily:

  1. Equipment (think of detailing your car - clean the whole thing!)
  2. Accessories (cable attachments, handles, etc.)
  3. Desk/Reception Areas (including phones, keyboards, etc.)
  4. Restroom/Locker Room
  5. Spot Cleaning of Walls

The facility's staff should perform the following at least once each day:

  1. Sweep and Mop Floors
  2. Disinfect Weights and Weight Trees
  3. Disinfect Storage/Cubby Areas

Each month the facility walls should be disinfected as should other more discreet areas. Additionally, the facility should be treated with a disinfecting fogger such as SafeSpace.

Every six months to a year the facility should clean its HVAC system, replacing all filters, and spray an inhibitor such as Bac-Shield on the equipment and hard surfaces.

Finally, the facility should provide sanitation wipes in convenient locations for users to spot clean between uses.

Personal Recommendations

Foremost, everyone should understand how COVID-19 is transmitted. If you are unsure, you should view the most current information from the CDC. Of particular importance for gym goers is the fact that sweat does not transmit COVID-19! In other words, you cannot get COVID-19 from touching another person's sweat.

If you are dead set on going to the gym during the pandemic, you should be following the recommendations below to reduce the spread of the virus:

  1. Regular hand washing with soap (for at least 20 seconds) or alcohol-based solution (at least 60% alcohol),
  2. Covering coughing or sneezing with a tissue or elbow (not your hand),
  3. Avoiding touching of eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands,
  4. Limiting contact with people who are sick, and staying home if you are sick.

Her are a few tips you can proactively take:

  1. Clean your equipment PRIOR to use rather than just after.
  2. DO NOT wipe your face with your shirt or towel. Embrace the sweat!
  3. During your training time practice social distancing.
    1. Select exercises that don't require a spotter such as the leg press or other machines.
    2. If you are doing cardio select the unit that isn't neighboring another user.
    3. Consider stretching or rolling in a quiet place or back home.
    4. Shower and change your clothes immediately after your workout.
    5. Drop your dirty clothes in the washing machine as soon as you get home.

Keep Exercising

It is very important to keep exercising. Moving a big part of general health. If you are fearful of going to the gym, no worries! You can do a bodyweight program at home, take a bike ride, or go for a jog.

If you need some help with a bodyweight program. I am happy to send a template I have used for my athletes over the years. It is free. Simply contact me through my webpage and I will reply.

In the meantime, stay safe and keep grinding!

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