How To Return to the Gym in a COVID World
For any information regarding going back to the gym during COVID or information about COVID in general, please go to the cdc.gov site so you can make a decision safely. I'm not a doctor or medical expert and this is not medical advice. All of this information is my opinion. If you have any medical concerns, please contact your doctor.
We're almost one full year into COVID at this point and slowly we're coming back to a more 'normal' state. Vaccines are here and in the states, most gyms are currently open to some capacity. I've just recently started going to the gym myself and I must say it's great to be back. However, living in the NYC area gyms are always packed even with any restrictions in place. Meaning, catching COVID at the gym is highly possible. Some don't care, others may be on the more cautious side and don't know what precautions to take. If you're reading this, you probably fall into the latter category. In this article, we're going over how you can go back to the gym in a 'safe' manner.
Follow the Guidelines
Most gyms now, especially in the metropolitan areas require you wear masks at the gym. Whether you agree or disagree with the notion of masks is a different story, but nonetheless, it's part of most gym and state guidelines at this point for the time being. Not wearing one can get you kicked out of the gym or make others around you very uncomfortable. If you feel like wearing a mask is too uncomfortable for you, I highly suggest checking out this Adidas mask (Affiliated Link). It's very comfortable and has a filter pocket in it. I'll be honest, I never had an issue breathing in a mask nor do I find doing the nose poke out or chin strap really necessary. I will say, the only thing for me that's a bother with the mask can be vision sometimes especially when I'm squatting. That's the only time I've personally had an issue with it.
If you are planning on joining the gym, read the gym guidelines prior to joining and see if you're comfortable adhering to those requirements. Check out reviews as well for those gyms and see if other people talk about others complying with those guidelines too.
It's very hard to get any space at the gym especially in the metropolitan area. With fewer people overall due to the gym it should be a little less packed, however, that doesn't mean people won't pack into specific areas of the gym. If you can, try keeping yourself away from the crowds overall. This probably sounds like common sense at this point, but it amazes me how many people will still either go into your personal space or cluster together (even in a non-covid era, this is always annoying).
Personally, what I try doing is timing my areas depending on where others are. If I see the squats racks are packed, I'll go to any section that's not busy where I still need to exercise anyway and just do those exercises. If the weight section is too packed, i'll take the weights I need and move to a less crowded area. (The more I type this portion out, the more this sounds like my normal times at the gym, to be honest).
Find a Less Busy Time
Working around schedules maybe your best option to avoid a crowded gym. If you ever scope out a gym's Google page, you can usually see its busy times. Even though this isn't always accurate, it's still a good indicator of when you can avoid a crowded gym.
Usually, though, it will probably require some trial and error. For instance, I started getting to my gym at 6 am. It's actually crowded at this time but starts to clear out about 6:45 am so I adjusted my schedule to come in around that time and it works out perfectly.
Wear Long Sleeves and Long Pants
Okay, this one doesn't have any merit to it except that it may give you some peace of mind. From my knowledge, there isn't any evidence you can get COVID-19 from just touching a service that someone else touched. You would need to be touching your face afterward to potentially get it. (Nonetheless, you should look at CDC Guidelines for more information about this) Anyways, wearing long sleeves and long pants limits the amount of surface area your actual skin is touching the objects.
So if you usually wear just a tank top or short sleeves and you're laying on a mat to warm up, you may not want your arms exposed touching that surface. Instead, just wear long sleeves and long pants to avoid this.
Again, this is only for peace of mind. There isn't evidence (to my knowledge) that you can get COVID-19 from just touching an object or touching someone else's sweat.
Bring Hand Sanitizer
The secret COVID weapon any gym-goer needs, hand sanitizer! Obviously, hand sanitizer can only get you so far, but it's pretty handy for when you're at the gym. Anytime you're done or about to start using equipment, you can easily just throw some hand sanitizer and wipe your hands down. Now you don't have to worry about potentially touching your face after touching the equipment. This is something that will probably last in the Post COVID world too.
Wipe Down the Items
In general, it's always good to wipe down equipment after you use it. This includes items that you usually lay or sit on. It's considerate to anyone who is going to use the equipment after you. Incase whoever used the equipment prior to you didn't wipe down the equipment, now it's a bit cleaner too. I've noticed a lot of gyms give you sanitizer spray to spray items down, so you can utilize that too. I would highly suggest not use this on barbells though as it can destroy the quality of it over time and may rust it up.
The more I wrote this guide, the more it seemed like normal things you would do at a gym anyway. (Except the whole wearing masks thing). I do think if you follow the ideas mentioned above, you can return to the gym and feel relatively safe. Obviously, if you see someone sick, stay away from them. If you're sick with COVID and you've been to the gym recently, notify your gym in case they have some type of procedure to follow.
Unfortunately, I don't have any studies to say 'Hey, look it's safe to return!'. There was one study that indicated that the gym was a super spreader event. That was in February of 2020 if I'm not mistaking when no one really knew how much it was spreading. We didn't even have tests from back then.
If you still don't feel comfortable going to the gym during COVID, check out this article I wrote on how to keep fit during the pandemic.
Stay safe and get them gains in!