The Rules You'll Need To Follow At The Gym – And How To Stay Safe

Here's what you can and can't do at gyms and swimming pools from July 25 – and how to safely navigate changing rooms.

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News of gyms opening in England from July 25 will be music to the ears of many. So if you’re heading back to your old stomping ground, expect there to be a few changes when you return.

It’s been revealed that outdoor waterparks and swimming pools, hot tubs, hydrotherapy pools, whirlpools, jacuzzis, plus sport and physical activity participation events can open to the public from July 11.

Two weeks later, indoor gyms and swimming pools, fitness and dance studios, sports venues and facilities can reopen (July 25) – and many have been chomping at the bit to do so for some time.

Earlier this month, gym owners expressed outrage that they couldn’t resume business while pubs could, and told HuffPost UK how they’d already implemented plenty of strict hygiene measures.

Here’s what you can and can’t do when you next head to the gym.

DO turn up in your sports kit. All venues should encourage users to arrive in their gym wear and try to change and shower at home, says the new guidance.

DON’T use the changing rooms, if you can help it. That said, they will be available for people with disabilities or special needs.

DON’T shout at people across the gym or over the machines. Venues have been told to “ensure steps are taken to avoid people needing to unduly raise their voices to each other”. This is because of the potential for increased risk of transmission – particularly from aerosol and droplet transmission.

DO expect it to be quiet. The number of people using a facility at any one time will be limited and users will have to book a slot to workout.

DO book ahead for fitness classes – they’re expected to be in serious demand, especially as there will be reduced class sizes.

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DO social distance. This shouldn’t be hard as gyms have been adapted to ensure machines and equipment are spaced out.

DO make the most of the hand sanitising stations. There will be enhanced cleaning operations underway and hand sanitising being offered throughout venues.

DON’T expect to use the saunas or steam rooms. These will be closed until further notice.

DON’T share towels, robes, weights, rackets, balls and scoring equipment with others unless they’ve been cleaned or sanitised.

DON’T enter the swimming pool if it looks busy – under the guidance, swimming pools should restrict numbers to allow three square metres per bather.

DO clean machines before and after use, if your gym specifies to do this. It will ensure your exercise area is ready for you before you start and also clean for whoever comes next.

DO give your details to aid contact tracing. All venues are expected to collect personal details from each user, such as name, address, telephone numbers plus date and times of entry and exit, to potentially help with tracing if there’s a Covid-19 outbreak linked to the facility.

Navigating the changing rooms

While the government advises against using changing rooms, it may be hard if you’ve been for a swim and don’t want to travel home soaking wet.

For those who do end up using them, Dr Aragona Giuseppe, GP and medical advisor at Prescription Doctor, advises you bring hand sanitiser, anti-bacterial wipes and spray so you can wipe down any areas you use.

“This includes the bench area; any coat hooks; locker key, handle and interior; shower control, and anything else you are likely to touch,” he says.

“I’d advise against using the shared hair tools that are often in health clubs such as hair dryers and hair straighteners as these could potentially hold virus particles and will be easily transferred to you via direct use.”

“I’d advise against using the shared hair tools that are often in health clubs.”

- Dr Aragona Giuseppe, GP and medical advisor

Dr Giuseppe also says to be wary of children in the changing rooms, because they “tend to shout, talk loudly and scream much more often, especially when getting changed”. All of these actions could potentially mean respiratory droplets travel from their mouth and onto changing room surfaces. If there are kids around, ensure you wipe down the area you’re in with anti-bacterial wipes before you get comfortable, he says.

Wait until the changing facilities are quiet – or there are only a few people in there – if you do need to use them. If the showers are in separate cubicles, “this should be ok to use, but do not use sharing showers especially if there are people in them,” he adds.

Lastly, don’t leave any items out in the open where they are at risk of infection –towels, clothes, shoes, swimming goggles and products should all be kept in a zipped-up bag. That way you can take it home and transfer it straight into the washing machine – a 60-degree cycle with detergent should kill off any germs.