When—and how—health clubs will reopen is on the minds of gym-goers and owners alike.

With governments around the world discussing timelines and procedures for lifting stay-at-home orders, clubs are working on their reopening strategies to enact as soon as it's safely possible to do so. Many clubs are using this four-pronged framework to work with their local administrators to manage the risks associated with COVID-19 within exercise facilities.

We caught up—virtually—with one Virginia club owner who shared her reopening strategy and how her members have responded to the news.

With the COVID-19 situation rapidly evolving and changing day-to-day, please keep in mind the information in this video—and article—reflects the situation and understanding at the time of posting.

Lori Lowell has worked in the fitness industry for more than 30 years. She's been a group fitness director, an assistant to Nike's lobbyists in Washington, D.C., and is co-founder of MOI Cycle and Drishti Beats. Since 1995, she's been a Gold's Gym franchisee and is currently part of a group in Northern Virginia that collectively has 13 clubs, seven of which she is a partner.

"I have the most amazing partnership group in the Gold's Gyms, and we work so harmoniously together," said Lowell. "It's been a really interesting journey, even during this [pandemic]."

How is this Gold's Gym franchisee planning to reopen safely?

Lowell says she takes safety very seriously and has listened to advice from health officials and the medical community—including her brother, who she shared is a doctor working on the front lines treating COVID-19 patients.

"I want to be part of the solution, not part of the problem," said Lowell. "Part of the solution for reopening back up the world, for reopening back up the economy."

During the interview, Lowell shared some of the precautions she is taking. Read the transcript below or watch the video above for:

  • 0:33 - 3 Safety Measures Clubs Should Consider When Reopening
  • 1:39 - 4 Tips for a Safe Reopening
  • 2:08 - Ways to Notify Members of Any Changes to Operations
  • 2:38 - How Members of Lori's Clubs Have Responded

Full Video Transcript

Lowell: I want to be part of the solution all the way around. So I have to listen to both sides and take the right precautions. So I'm not here to say, trust me, we're 100% safe, everything is great. But I am here to say we're taking every precaution based on all the research that we've done from the professionals.

We're practicing proper science, protocol. My whole idea is to continue to create experiences and habits that are lifelong.

3 Safety Measures Clubs Should Consider When Reopening

Lowell's three safety tips include:

  1. temperature checks for all employees,
  2. requiring masks, and
  3. increased sanitation policies.

Lowell: Well, temperatures at the door. If they have a temperature of 100.5 or more, they immediately aren't allowed to be in the club.

Masks [are] a requirement. Until we get a vaccine, you cannot be without wearing the mask. So, all of our members, you want to come in, you're going to be wearing a mask.

We have such strong protocol in place to keep people healthy and to keep people safe. And we don't just want to open up. But if we're going, we should be able to open up with the right precautions. And this is our point.

So, it's really about masks and not touching and sanitation. So, we have to change our whole sanitation policies—sanitation stations, all over the club with someone manning. We may not bring back all of our staff at the absorbent amount that we had before, but the staff that we do have are going to take on new roles that focus 100% on sanitation.

So this is critical, and that's a whole training process. I want to be safe. I want to be part of the solution, not part of the problem.

4 Tips for a Safe Reopening

Lowell has four tips for clubs to reopen safely:

  1. block off 1,000-square-foot areas,
  2. have staff monitor each area,
  3. reduce or space out the equipment in your club, and
  4. adjust your group fitness classes accordingly.

Lowell: We're blocking off thousand square foot areas, and it's going to be manned by a sanitation person on the outskirts making sure that there are only six people in that space. We're taking all of our bikes out. And we're only putting X amount of bikes in each studio depending on how big the studio is, with six- to eight-foot distance, and we're going to have to either double up on classes or just have a smaller schedule.

Ways to Notify Members of Any Changes to Operations

Lowell: We have people on board facilitating Facebook calls, Facebook messages, and phone calls all day long. We haven't shut down the phones.

We have letters that have gone out. Now, we're getting ready to send our reopening letter, and what that's going to look like and what the protocol is going to be. We've put together all of our new policies and procedures on how you must enter the club, how you must leave the club, what will happen when you enter the club, what it would look like. That's just going to be a big email.

How Members of Lori's Clubs Have Responded

Lowell: We have people stopping by every day, smashing their face up against the gym because they just can't wait to get back in.

So we have a lot of those community people that the gym is their second home, right? They live, eat, and breathe the gym. Of course, you have members that are scared. And you know, on the other side saying, how can you open?

If you're afraid, and if it doesn't feel right to you, you shouldn't put yourself at what you feel is [a] risk. You have to make your own decision at the end of the day.

But for the most part, everybody's been very understanding, very caring, very concerned for us because we're mom-and-pops. So we're not a big corporation. Everybody knows who we are in our communities. And we love each other.

More Coronavirus Resources

For more resources to help you navigate the coronavirus outbreak—including 18 Safety Considerations to ask yourself as you create your reopening plan—check out IHRSA's Coronavirus Resource page.

Also, please consider contributing to the Industry Leadership Council. Now, more than ever, a strong advocacy arm is needed to track, confront, and overcome threats, and jump on opportunities like including the fitness industry in any relief packages, but we need your help.

To contribute or learn more about these efforts, please contact Meredith Poppler at mpoppler@ihrsa.org or 617-316-6750. Club companies large and small have contributed, and 100% of contributions will go directly to industry relief efforts.