How to reopen gyms in Qatar after lockdown

An understandable part of the response to the COVID 19 pandemic was for governments to rapidly lockdown areas where the public might gather and transmit infection.  Gyms were among the first to be closed followed rapidly by pretty much all businesses save the essentials such as supermarkets.

As the infection rates begin to decline then the authorities in Qatar will have to look at how to unlock the country.  I believe that this can be a more considered process than the one size fits all approach of the lockdown that was required for its speed and lack of ambiguity.

With regards to gyms and other sports then it must be acknowledged that not all are equally risky and mitigation processes can be put in place that reduce risk even further.  Golf for example received the same treatment as rugby – with the right controls in place golf as a sport is clearly extremely low risk, especially if playing groups reduced to two at a time, and as such should be allowed to open before rugby which requires constant physical contact.

Gyms also have a variety of methodologies and space available.  Some gyms operate circuit classes – they are very efficient in terms of space and also equipment for example with a circuit class of 12 stations you only need two pieces of each kind of equipment to accommodate 24 people!  However, in these times of reducing contact the circuit style gym creates many problems – touching the sweat of the 10 people who used the equipment before you is not a great idea.

Here are our proposals for an ideal training environment that should be considered for early opening:

    1. No shared equipment  – each person attending an exercise class should use their own equipment set.  With 32 rowing machines and 20 bikes at StrongBox we will be able to ensure that each athlete has their own equipment
    2. Workout areas – During the class there should be no movement between individual workout zones and each zone should be large enough to ensure 2m from the next person.  At StrongBox with over 800m2 of training space we can ensure ample space between participants
    3. Santisation between classes – There should be a break time between classes to allow all equipment and equipment stations to be sprayed down.  Classes maybe slightly reduced in duration to allow for this process to take place.
    4. Class size – class size should be restricted to the amount that can be safely accommodated in the gym space in accordance with workout areas in item 2
    5. Waiting areas – all waiting should be done outside or in vehicles.  Social areas inside the gym should be closed.  Gym members should enter the gym at the start time of the class.  This will allow enough time for members from previous class to depart and for the sanitisation team to complete their work 
    6. Exercise and equipment selection – consideration should be made to exclude equipment and exercises that increase transmission risk – this might mean NO BURPEES to reduce floor contact.
    7. No contact – No exercises or classes that require physical contact or sharing of equipment
    8. Open gym reservationsOpen gym spaces should be restricted and same rules apply with regards to workout zones and sharing equipment

StrongBox is well placed to continue with classes at the earliest opportunity due to the large training space available and abundance of equipment.  Programming changes will be required to our SBX Fitness classes with our popular REVOLUTION and SECTOR style classes having to wait until the environment returns to normal, CrossFit would require very minimal changes.

Gyms that rely on a circuit style class system with large numbers in very tight spaces and multiple users sharing the same piece of equipment clearly present a higher risk of transmission than a gym that can implement the controls listed above.  The ability of fitness centres and sports to implement controls that mitigate the risk of spread should be considered when it is time to consider opening the country from lockdown.

Those gyms and sports that can ensure a safer environment should permitted to open sooner than those who can not.  The blanket closure made sense for speed and efficiency, the same method should not be employed in reverse. 

Agree or disagree?  Get in touch and let us know! 

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