Gyms across America are slowly reopening.
Is it safe?
You should go
We were flooded with questions about safety in the gym from our online coaching customers. That is why we decided to dive into the topic today with this guide.
Find out how NF Coaches help customers train during the pandemic.
We will cover the following:
Important NOTE: I'm not a doctor! This should not be taken as personal advice on whether you should go back to the gym as an individual. I'm just creating a discussion about the questions we should all ask ourselves.
For friends who are both scientists and doctors, and others who are small business gym owners, this is a challenging thread for navigation. So we stick to the facts.
Talk to your doctor and blah blah blah, you are grown up and can make your own decisions.
Okay, let's get started.
Is it safe to go to the gym again? (Gyms as high-risk environment)
Even before our last pandemic, many gyms weren't exactly the cleanest.
In one study, common surfaces were tested in four different gyms and found that 25% contained anti-resistant bacteria, flu viruses and other pathogens. (1)
Dr. James Voos, the lead author of the study, told the New York Times why: (2)
"If you have a relatively high density of people who exercise and sweat in an enclosed space, you have conditions in which communicable diseases can easily spread."
Dr. Voos indicates that the device itself can be difficult to clean. Barbels, dumbbells and kettlebells often have textured surfaces to make them easier to grip.
This also enables many tiny nooks and crannies where germs can hide.
For this reason, Dr. Jose Jimenez, a professor at the University of Colorado who examines the corona virus, gyms a “high-risk environment”. (3)
I don't want to point out that you are paranoid about ever setting foot in the gym again. It would be like saying, "Driving a car carries a much higher risk of car accidents, so you should never drive your car again."
However, this context is important to balance the safety of the gym in a pandemic era:
Should you continue exercising in your home gym?
Or are there measures you can take to reduce the likelihood of illness if you are determined to go back to a public gym?
What to research when your gym reopens
If you decide to go back to a reopened gym, you will likely find that things have changed.
You can limit the number of people who can enter at the same time (some gyms require appointments).
The equipment may be so far apart that people can remain separated.
Common areas that are more difficult for social distance, such as a changing room or a sauna, can be closed.
Disinfectants and cleaning agents should be available more often.
You may even have to sign a waiver. (4)
It would be good to find out how your gym responded to the COVID 19 outbreak.
Call them before your first trip and ask them about the balls above. Also make sure to ask specifically about the hygiene procedures they have created.
Even if the gym staff wipes all equipment between uses, it is still recommended that you clean everything you touch before and after use.
Your gym's response to the coronavirus is not the only thing you want to investigate.
Before entering the gym, think about the following:
How do you get to the gym? Driving, walking, public transportation, etc. Your routine may be different today.
What will you wear Changing rooms can be closed very well. Do you come before or after work? Make sure you have a plan on how to put your sportswear on and off.
What are you going to do in the gym? We'll talk about efficient training and home / fitness hybrid routines shortly.
Do not hold it as usual for the first time. Plan to go to the gym, work out in the gym, and come home.
Next, let's talk about wearing a mask.
Should I wear a mask in the gym?
Don't be surprised if you have to wear a mask when you reopen your gym.
While the procedures in every gym are different, some visitors like the national chain Equinox all have to wear a mask.
Why face masks?
Although research is ongoing, it is believed that from June 2020 the coronavirus will spread via breath droplets and exhale from one person to another. This is exactly what happens during strenuous training, especially in a closed environment.
A face covering like a mask helps to absorb some of these droplets. (5)
Dr. David Thomas, director of infectious diseases at Johns Hopkins Medicine, supports the idea of masks in gyms.
"I want the person training next to me to wear a mask," explains Dr. Thomas. (6)
Thomas continues: "We now understand that the degree of exhalation, that is how hard you push air out of your mouth – to sing or scream or exhale –is an important factor in the amount of particles that are pushed out of your lungs. "
In other words: People breathe heavily in the gym. If someone has the virus, they will continue to hurl it while walking on the treadmill.
If all athletes use facial covering, this can help reduce the spread of breath droplets.
It's one thing that people have to wear a mask. Actually, training with one strapped to your face is something completely different.
Compared to normal breathing, every mask you wear narrows your airflow.
How much it does really depends on the type of mask.
Wearing an N95 mask, such as that used by hospital staff, can restrict airflow so much that performance is affected. (7)
You need oxygen to generate energy. Therefore, it makes sense for a properly worn N95 mask to reduce your ability to generate electricity. (8th)
On the one hand, they offer the greatest protection. On the other hand, you need to know what you are doing to wear it properly.
Hospital personnel perform regular tests to ensure that the N95 mask is properly attached.
A strong smelling solution is presented to the wearer. If you can't smell it, the mask fits.
If you wear a cloth or DIY mask, your breathing will be less affected, but it still helps to limit the range of your exhalation. Just know that it will probably not stop you from inhaling any germs.
I also find that wearing a mask makes me overconscious about every case I reach for my face and reminds me that I should do things differently and NOT touch my face, eyes, ears or mouth.
At the end of the day, the decision to wear a mask is up to you and the rules of your gym.
It's probably still a good idea, especially if you're training right next to people.
The next good idea on our list would be to disinfect your own equipment.
How to clean fitness equipment (proper hygiene)
The cleaning staff in your gym is probably great.
I bet most people in your gym are polite too, wiping all equipment after use.
However, I prefer the "better safe than sick" approach.
Although experts believe that the corona virus is not transmitted by sweat, it could lead to the transmission of the virus if someone coughs in their hands and then touches some equipment. (9)
For this reason, we will give a brief lesson on cleaning fitness equipment that you should know even in times without an apocalypse!
Technically, we will "disinfect" it. (10)
While soap and water are removing germs from the surface to really kill the little guys, we're going to need some chemicals.
The Environmental Protection Agency provides a list of disinfectants that can be used against the coronavirus.
How to clean fitness equipment:
Wipe the device and clean it of dirt and dust. A wet towel is fine here.
Apply the disinfectant and make sure that you adhere to the "dwell time" or how long the surface should remain wet. For most products, this often takes a few minutes. However, be sure to follow the manufacturer's instructions.
Optional: Wipe the device again to remove the remaining cleaner, which can cause iteration of the skin. Do not use the same towel as before.
If you use a lot of equipment in the gym, it's easy to see how painful this can be.
You may spend as much time cleaning as lifting.
In the next two sections, we'll talk about how to get the best bang for the buck in the gym.
How to make the most of your time in the gym (efficient training)
Even before the corona virus broke out, I was a fan of getting it quickly and getting out of the gym.
Finally, there are video games to play.
This is even more important today in gyms where there is a “high risk” of exposure to viruses.
If you want to take the chance, you can make the most of your time in the gym:
# 1) Prioritize compound exercises and movements.
At Nerd Fitness we are big fans of “compound exercises” where more than one muscle group has to work together to complete the movement.
Think of exercises like squats and pull-ups.
With a pull-up, you can train all of your back muscles, biceps, lats, traps and abdominal muscles.
Compare this to bicep curls that more or less just train your biceps.
In our guide to functional fitness, we recommend compound exercises because they are more similar to moving your body in daily life.
The other advantage: since you train several muscle groups at the same time, you can do more in less time.
# 2) Focus on exercises that minimize your body's contact with municipal devices.
This is part of my personal philosophy regarding training, but especially during a global pandemic. In other words, avoid machines that you sit / sit on, and focus on movements that do not require you to lie down or sit down:
Do standing shoulder pressures instead of sedentary shoulder pressures.
Do not lie down on communal mats to sit on, but make planks outside.
Do alternative push exercises (ring pushups, handstand on a wall) instead of bench press.
Focus on exercises that use the same equipment repeatedly (take a barbell and then squat, then overhead presses, and then bent rows).
Spend most of your training standing up, not sitting or lying down.
# 3) Consider warming up and stretching outside before going to the gym (if your walk is short).
A closed room makes it easier to transmit a virus because all breaths are held together.
You can solve some of this by going outside part of your workout.
Maybe your warm-up is doing jumping jacks outside:
Perhaps you will find a nearby lawn for your route after training, as I do in this video:
# 4) Know what you will do before entering.
In our gym guide, we always recommend having an attack plan for what you're doing in the gym. So double now.
Here are some questions to think about:
What are you training today Plan your workout, write it down and bring it to the gym.
What is your plan B if someone is using a device or it is too full in a certain area?
How long do you plan to stay in the gym? This ensures that you switch from one exercise to the other quickly enough.
Not only do you want to make a plan to enter the gym, you also want to review it when you get home.
Hiccup? Did you do everything you set out to do? Would you do something different next time?
This will help you prepare better for your return visit.
Next, let's explain a few ways you can use your time outside the gym so you don't have to pay a visit as often.
How to create a home / fitness workout hybrid
One of the things we recommend to our coaching clients when they are discussing going back to the gym is creating a home / fitness workout hybrid.
That is, on some days they exercise in the gym and on other days they exercise at home.
There are all sorts of things you can do to create a home gym, but I give you two recommendations that will go a long way:
Get a chin-up bar.
Invest in a kettlebell.
With body weight training, you can actually get a full body workout without equipment.
The only thing is that training the tension muscles can be a bit difficult.
Admittedly, you can use a door to pull in the following places:
Or even a table can help with rows with inverted body weight:
With a pull-up bar, however, you have everything you need to complete your body weight training and work towards your first pull-up.
The next thing you should buy for your home gym would be a kettlebell.
A kettlebell offers you a lot of versatility.
For one, you can do kettlebell swings. This will help you train your "hinge" muscles, just like you would do with a deadlift:
When you pick one up, be sure to check out our 20-minute beginner kettlebell workout, which can be done with a single bell in your living room.
Your new gym / home workout hybrid can look like this:
On your home training days, do pull-ups with your new bar and some push-up variations:
On your day at the gym, do barbell squats and deadlifts, as pushing a power rack and all of its equipment into it may be more difficult:
For more ideas on creating a hybrid plan for the home and gym, see How to create your own training routine.
OR you can check whether one of our trainers creates a program for you and adjusts it to the external circumstances every month:
Let a nerd fitness coach design an individual training for your home or your gym!
Should I go back to the gym? (Next Steps)
The choice of when you want to return to the gym is ultimately a personal decision and depends heavily on where you live and the status of your state or country.
Yes, gyms are absolutely "high risk environments", and if you can succeed in a home training environment, your decision will certainly be affected.
Personally, I've built my home gym in the past few months and I don't plan to return to a gym anytime soon.
But exercise is really important for health, including a strong immune system. (11)
Even some experts have returned.
"I'm still going to the gym," says Dr. Saskia Popescu, who currently supports HonorHealth. (12)
Dr. Popscu argues that you can do this as long as you are smart and understand the risks.
If you do the following as an individual, you can be sure at the gym:
Wash your hands frequently.
Do not touch your face during exercise.
Disinfect the devices before and after use.
Stay six feet away from others.
It is not an easy decision. You may want to create a pro / contra list.
When assessing when to return to the gym, consider:
The cases in your area. Are they rising or are they relatively low?
Are you in an endangered population group? Do you have any existing medical conditions or are you in an age group that raises your concerns? How about the people you live with?
Your own health. If you are sick, stay at home.
Do you have other exercise options? Maybe you are building a home gym or maybe you have space for a run in the neighborhood.
What do you think is right? Personal preferences should not be ignored here.
Just be safe in everything you end up doing.
If you need more specific help, I have you too.
Here are three ways to continue your journey with Nerd Fitness.
Option 1) If you want to have a professional coach in your pocket who can conduct video form exams, give feedback and customize your training based on the equipment available, read our online coaching program!
Suppose you want to go to the gym once a week and do the rest of the time at home. Your coach can put this training together for you!
Personally, I have been working with the same online coach since 2015 and that changed my life. You can find out more by clicking the box below:
Our coaching program changes life. Learn how!
2) Exercise at home and need a plan to follow? Do you have any questions you need to answer? Join Nerd Fitness Prime!
Nerd Fitness Prime is our premium membership program that includes home workout routines, live streaming workouts with NF trainers, a supportive online community, group challenges and more!
Find out more about Nerd Fitness Prime!
Option 3) Become part of the rebellion! We need good people like you in our community, the Nerd Fitness Rebellion.
Sign up in the box below to sign up and receive ours Rebel Starter Kit, including all of our guides who train from home.
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Complete guide to the most effective diet and why it works.
Complete and track your first workout today, no gym required.
Okay, now I want to hear from you:
Is your gym open again?
Are you going back soon
Already? How was it!?!
Let me know in the comments!
And please, we humans are great at projecting our individual experiences onto everyone else's.
Since it is a global community in various phases of blocking, we can have a civil discussion about what is happening at your location.
P.S. If you still avoid the gym, it's totally cool. Check out our guide The ultimate guide to getting fit at home.
Photo source: How are YOU socially distant ?, Dangerous material, Hazmat team, LEGO Ninjas, N95 tests, hotel gym, morning run with FitBit, scientists,