Creating safe and hygienic spaces for people to exercise is the key to not only to controlling the spread of germs, but also to instilling confidence in consumers. Your facility could be completely sanitary, but if members don’t see this, they won’t have the confidence to return when you reopen your gyms.
We spoke with Adrian Worsley, an experienced operations and fitness director with over 16 years experience, formerly responsible for 70+ Bannatyne Health Clubs about creating consumer confidence in gyms.
A lot has been written about reopening policy, but three areas seem to have been somewhat overlooked.
Personal exercise equipment
Where possible, operators should be encouraging members to bring their own exercise mat to classes. Some operators are making this mandatory, some are saying it is optional, and others are not mentioning it at all.
Some may feel it is a commercial decision, where the operator can pass the cost on to the member, or sell their own merchandise, but in reality it’s almost impossible for operators to sanitise after every use, when mats and equipment are available for use outside of structured classes.
In the same way that members bring their own trainers, they should understand or be educated that personally owning these items is reasonable, along with items such as boxing gloves or weight belts.
As the member, if you are in a class, only touching the things you brought with you from home, you are likely to feel much more confident that your immediate environment is safe and hygienic.
Functional equipment consumables
I believe that small consumable items in the gym should be managed better, and for safety and hygiene reasons renewed at the appropriate time. This helps improve consumer confidence in the equipment they are using. Items such as suspension training systems are built and warrantied to last 12 to 24 months, depending on the brand. It is not unreasonable that these costs are managed as ‘consumable fitness equipment’ costs and these items are not left to weather, tear and build up with dirt and grim before being renewed – something seen all too often.
There will be a small investment required from operators, but no more significant than the investment in body temperature devices, hand sanitiser and cleaning equipment that is already in play. It would only take one or two members to lose confidence because of using old consumable equipment and cancel their membership, to cost the business more in the long run.
Operators will be spending money on controls measures, cleaning chemicals and protocols and I have no doubt that they will be doing everything possible to ensure that the gyms and studios are safe and clean for users, but it is important not to overlook and miss the requirement to renew small functional equipment items, which provide a fantastic range of versatile training options for members and PT’s to use.
Creating an operating structure to deliver what is pledged
There will be lots of pledges made to members returning relating to ‘extra cleaning’ and ‘deep cleaning’, which in principle is the right thing to do. But without correct planning and structure, they will not be delivered to a high enough standard. One of the difficulties for operators prior to Covid-19 was cleaning around a working operation, with very little time built in for down time of facilities to be deep cleaned to a high standard. Changes in operating times and member access times is an option for clubs as the re-opening begins. Senior management need to recognise that not only should they be providing staff with tools, training and chemicals to adequately clean the facilities but also give them the time to do a high quality job.
I am excited to return to the gym, where I will have an extra appreciation for the amazing variety of equipment and training I am able to do after being locked down to training at home for the last few months. I’ll also be jumping into some high quality group exercise classes with amazing motivating coaches who will push me to train harder, something digital can’t replace for me. But creating consumer confidence is going to be key for this first stage of re opening, with attention to detail and delivering pledges to members being vital to success.
Adrian is an experienced operations and fitness executive with over 16 years experience. Most recently responsible for operations and fitness across over 70 sites nationwide.
He has overhauled operational systems and procedures, championing quality assurance and creating a progressive and future proof approach to operational management. Adrian is an advocate of the use of technology in both creating efficient systems and the very best customer service. He has implemented and delivered National product development for fitness journeys, group exercise – both live and digital and operating systems /software.