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Staying Safe from COVID-19 at the Gym

Gyms are reopening, so you may be considering taking the leap and getting back into your routine and your favorite jeans. But what do you need to do to protect yourself from COVID-19? We asked Amy Kleski, general manager of the OhioHealth McConnell Heart Health Center. Here’s what she says about making the decision to return to your gym, along with tips for doing so safely.

Educate yourself about what to expect

Kleski recommends familiarizing yourself with guidelines set forth by the Ohio Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention before you head to the gym.

“You can find all the recommendations and requirements for the safe reopening of fitness centers on these sites,” says Kleski. “I think it’s a good idea as a gym member to take a look, so you know what to expect. Working out at a gym should be very different now. McConnell Heart Health Center opened in July and our team has implemented many new safety and cleaning protocols throughout the facility. ”

Kleski points to several things that they have done and that other fitness centers should be doing to follow the guidelines in the Responsible RestartOhio plan:

  • Social distancing: Equipment should be spaced out to allow at least 6 feet between members, or machines should be closed off to ensure members keep their distance. Class sizes should limit the number of participants. McConnell Heart Health Center has begun using an online registration system to cap their classes. Locker rooms should also be monitored for capacity.
  • Cleaning and disinfecting: Fitness centers should be deep cleaning at least once daily. Kleski specifically calls out the need to use disinfectants approved by the Environmental Protection Agency. Members should also be disinfecting machines and equipment after each use. Associates at McConnell Heart Health Center circulate the floor, helping to remind members and clean as needed.
  • Masks: Following the statewide mask mandate, Kleski says that masks should be required in the facility when you are not working out. At McConnell Heart Health Center, members and visitors are provided masks if they need them and encouraged to wear them. Associates should be wearing them at all times as well.
  • Check-in processes: As part of the best practices set forth by the Ohio Department of Health, fitness centers should implement a check-in process that will allow them to audit members in the building in case there is a potential exposure.

Tour your facility

It’s important to take a moment to talk to someone on your gym’s staff. They should be well-versed in the safety protocols and procedures. Touring the facility will not only make you feel more comfortable when you go for your first workout, but can make you feel confident in your decision to return.

“I always tell people, just go tour your facility,” says Kleski. “Visit at a time you normally work out. We’ve allowed that for a lot of our members at McConnell Heart Health Center. Come in, let us take you around and show you what we’ve put into place to keep you safe.”

Take steps to keep yourself safe

  1. Wear your mask!
  2. Don’t get too close to your fellow gym goers. Respect their space and yours by keeping 6 feet of distance between you.
  3. Clean and disinfect machines and equipment after each use.
  4. Check in on your health. Perform a daily health assessment. If you’re feeling sick or know you have been exposed, stay home.
  5. Change clothes before you go and limit your use of the locker room. If you need to shower after your workout, follow the facility’s precautions for doing so and try to limit your time as much as possible.
  6. Wash hands and use hand sanitizer frequently.
  7. Bring a water bottle. You most likely won’t be able to use the water fountain, but it’s still important to stay hydrated!

Make a decision that’s right for you

Many people are choosing to jump right back into the gym, while others are waiting it out. Whatever you choose to do, make sure it’s the right decision for your health and lifestyle. Ask yourself if you’re at higher risk if you return or if you could be putting others at risk. You may believe it’s something that’s important for your mental and physical well-being.

“I wouldn’t necessarily say you should base your decision about when to return solely on your age,” says Kleski. “Exercise provide huge physical and mental health benefits. Some people rely on their gym as a stress reliever. I think you have to balance your needs with how safe you feel in the facility. If you’re able and ready to return to the gym, know that it should be the cleanest it’s ever been!”


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