With the Recovery Movement Control Order (RMCO) coming into effect this June 10th, gyms will be allowed to reopen. But you’ll have to be prepared for the new normal gym etiquette.
What’s a gym-rat to do in the time of COVID-19? Exercising is one of the most important activities you can do now to keep your immune system primed for fighting a virus, but in the midst of a pandemic, is it really safe to hit the weights at your favourite neighbourhood haunt? Fortunately, the answer is yes — but only if you’re ready to embrace a whole new set of rules.
These tips might be annoying especially if you’re just looking to pop in and out for a quick workout, but we can’t stress enough the importance of following them to a tee. As a space that’s the poster child for close contact, heavy breathing, and frequently shared equipment, the gym is a minefield for COVID-19 infection, so a little effort goes a long way in protecting yourself and others.
Here’s the new gym etiquette you should be practising once gyms reopen during the RMCO (and forever).
1. Wipe everything down
We’re not just talking about yourself. Studies have found that free weights contain more than 360 times the amount of bacteria than toilet seats — as do treadmills and other gym equipment — and most of them are associated with skin infections and other nasties, so imagine the sheer speed at which the COVID-19 bug could spread here.
Equipment wipe-down will and should be a part of your training ritual once gyms kick back into gear. High-touch common areas should always be cleaned with a sanitary wipe after every contact — think of it as part of the workout, if you must. You can even time it as a separate event if you want to make it fun and competitive. If you’re not sure about the strength of the disinfectants your gym provides, bring your own.
2. Don’t get social
Being a part of the community is as big a draw of joining a gym as it is to get ripped. Unfortunately, you’re going to have to stay away from your sweat buddies for a little while longer. Avoiding close contact will be a protocol at many gyms even after the CMCO, and this includes staving off the hugs, fist bumps, and high fives. You should also avoid sharing water bottles with anyone.
3. Don’t Forget the towels
We’re not here to shame if this isn’t already a habit, but it’s pretty gross to walk away from equipment that still bears the liquid silhouette of your sweaty ass. Grab extra towels before your session to lay on exercise mats and equipment seats to create a barrier between you and the gym’s shared property. Alternatively, you can bring your own exercise mat.
4. Bring your own water
As a communal water supply, water fountains are a hotbed for germs and bacteria like E-coli, and the handles on these convenient thirst-quenchers are just as contaminated. Bringing your own water not only ensures you have a clean and reliable source, but also prevents you from being dehydrated and more susceptible to falling ill.
5. Wash your hands
We cannot stress this enough, but washing your hands is really one of the best defences against the coronavirus. This means using soap and water for at least 20 seconds, but a hand sanitiser that contains at least 60 percent alcohol will do the trick if those are not readily available. If you’ve coughed or sneezed into your hands, this little time-out rule applies.
6. Don’t touch your face
It’s become one of the many commandments that’s ruled our lives since COVID-19 took over, but you’d be surprised at how subconscious this little gesture has become, especially at the gym. Wiping off sweat or pushing hair off your face involves making contact with your eyes, nose, or mouth with your fingers or palm. This can go two ways and both are not pretty: Either you expose yourself to the virus or you contaminate the equipment you’ve touched after with yours. If you have to do any mid-workout wiping, use the back of your hand or a clean towel.
7. Avoid packed classes
Group workouts lend great motivation for those who lack the discipline to work out on their own, but now’s not the time to cram as many bodies into a room as possible. If you’re looking to continue these classes, ask about the class capacity and social distancing measures that are being put into place. You’ll want to avoid being in close contact with anyone throughout the entire duration. This also includes avoiding any type of circuit training sessions that involve sharing a fixed set of equipment on rotation.
8. Stay home if you’re unwell
This is truly a no-brainer but the COVID-19 count is proof that even such simple instructions can go unheeded. If you’re unsure about the status of your health or whether you’ve been in contact with an infected, but want to continue working out, you can always check out workout streaming services or videos that will be a worthy companion for doing so at home.
This article first appeared in Lifestyle Asia Singapore.