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The government has issued new advice on the easing of lockdown – but what does it mean for gyms?

It’s been a long month. The second lockdown in England meant that gyms had close again. In fact, the doors to the weights room, yoga studios and treadmills have been shut for a total of over five months this year. But now the news is in: gyms are allowed to open again from 2 December.

Considering the industry had waited eagerly, sending petitions to the government with over 600,000 signatures, it was very welcome news when Boris Johnson announced on 23 November that fitness centres could open as part of the government’s ‘Winter Plan’. 

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The rules will mean that gyms, outdoor sporting and swimming pools can all open. As lockdown will be replaced by a tier system, there are slightly varied rules for each location as shown in the government paper outlining the country’s next steps, but the general guidance is that gyms and fitness spaces are open for business. 

Tier 1 exercise rules:

  • Gyms and swimming pools remain open
  • Classes and organised sport can take place inside following the rule of six 
  • Classes and organised sport can take place outside

Tier 2 exercise rules:

  • Gyms and swimming pools remain open
  • Classes and organised sport can take place outdoors 

Tier 3 exercise rules:

  • Gyms and swimming pools remain open
  • Classes and organised sport can take place outdoors, but avoid high-risk contact activity

It’s not surprising that the government have re-opened gyms after the pressure on MPs to protect the mental and physical health of the nation. Celebrities even got behind the campaign, with Dame Kelly Holmes issuing a statement in support of Nuffield Health’s petition to re-open gyms. “[Gym closures] have a huge impact on everyone, but particularly disadvantages women, who most report feeling unsafe exercising outside, with fear of harassment likely playing a big part in this. It’s clear that this is a further example of a health inequality being caused by the lockdown,” Dame Holmes said.

In fact, when gyms opened for the first time after the first lockdown, culture secretary Oliver Dowden referenced the fact that opening fitness and sporting facilities is important in order to support people’s physical and mental health, saying that fitness had been classed as ‘essential’ since the beginning of lockdown. “We need to get the nation match fit to defeat this virus,” Dowden said of gyms opening, calling it “work out to help out”.

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What will gyms look like after lockdown?

If you went back to the gym after lockdown 1 then you pretty much know what you’re in for. First and foremost, you’ll need to take steps to keep yourself and equipment germ-free, meaning that you’ll be wiping down kit before and after use and, in some gyms, be expected to wear a mask while walking around communal areas (but not while training). 

Gyms themselves will remain looking quite different from pre-coronavirus. That means goodbye to your overcrowded, messy gym floor (really, who’s complaining?) as gyms are limiting the amount of people that can enter the gym at one time and have removed certain pieces of kit for ease of social distancing. 

Will social distancing be in place in gyms?

Most gyms have taped off benches and equipment to ensure that no one is getting too close to each other. 

Will I have to book to go to the gym?

This is down to your individual gym. Some branches implemented a booking system only during peak hours, while others insisted that you need to book for a limited-time slot regardless of what time you wanted to enter. Check with your branch to see what they are doing. 

Can I train with a partner?

Unless you live with or are in a bubble with your usual gym buddy, you won’t be able to train with them. However, even if your housemates are going to the same gym as you, you may still have to remain in your own taped area to limit the virus spreading. PureGym has said that it will be “prohibiting ‘pair-training’ or ‘spotting’”, and that they will be encouraging “‘lighter load’ exercise to prevent heavy breathing”.

Will I have to clean equipment at the gym? 

A big yes. Gyms will be providing spray and cloths to wipe down equipment before and after use. Generally, it’s still best to avoid touching your face until you have left the gym and properly washed your hands. 

Follow @StrongWomenUK on Instagram for the latest workouts, delicious recipes and motivation from your favourite fitness experts. 

Images: Getty

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