The One Thing Your Gym Could Do to Make You Feel Safe From Coronavirus

One facility in California has overhauled its space to help gym-goers maintain social distance.

Business owners across the country are facing new challenges as they alter their services and spaces to meet state regulations and otherwise try to keep their customers safe from the coronavirus. For some types of businesses, reopening is more complicated. While retailers can somewhat easily limit the amount of people allowed in stores at a time and require them to wear masks, gyms and fitness centers have additional problems to solve. How, in the age of coronavirus, can owners convince clients that they can work out safely and maintain social distance? One gym in Redondo, California, has instituted a change that may inspire other gyms to follow: workout pods.

CNN interviewed Peet Sapsin, who owns Inspire South Bay Fitness, about the ingenious design trick that's helping to keep gym-goers safe. "My wife drew them out on paper, and soon after, we built our first prototype," he said. The 6-by-10-foot pods are constructed of PVC piping and clear shower curtains; each contains weights, a bench, and any other equipment needed for the gym's fitness classes, plus supplies to disinfect the items. "We sent the prototype to our clients, and they were very excited, and felt more comfortable knowing there was a clear wall between one person and the next," Sapsin explained.

Since the very beginning of the pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have promoted social distancing—i.e. staying six feet away from anyone who's not in your household—as a way to slow the spread of coronavirus. For the foreseeable future, it seems, some businesses will be lowering their capacity and using signage to show people where exactly they should stand in line. You've probably also seen clerks and employees standing behind plexiglass dividers to protect them from potentially infected respiratory droplets. But as gyms and fitness centers obviously involve moving around, sweating, and heavy breathing, the same precautions are either inadequate or unrealistic to implement. Even if a business were to mark distanced spaces, there is little guarantee that clients would not drift from those spots.

Man wearing mask and using stationary bike at the gym
Shutterstock/Theera Disayarat

Sapsin also realized that requiring his clients to wear masks while they worked out wasn't possible. "We tested it out on Zoom, though, and could tell that people couldn't breathe," he said. "We felt really bad for them. Our clients are like our family. We were thinking, how do we want our family to feel?"

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The CDC recommends wearing a face covering for certain types of exercise, i.e. "when walking on an indoor track or when doing stretching or low-intensity forms of yoga indoors," and whenever interacting with others at your gym—like when signing in at the front desk, for instance. But wearing a mask while working out vigorously may not only be uncomfortable—it may also impact your progress. Bonnie Frankel, fitness expert and author of Bonnie's Theory: Finding the Right Exercise, previously told Best Life that wearing a mask "can inhibit your oxygen intake and can cause cramps in various body parts." The CDC guidelines state that high-intensity exercise should be done outdoors or at a minimum of six feet away from others, especially if you're not wearing a mask.

With this in mind, innovations like Sapsin's may be a way for fitness centers that are also small businesses to meet the needs of their clients without having to totally overhaul their facilities. According to CNN, the pods only cost the gym about $400 to put in place. And for more on resuming your fitness routine, This Is the Worst Thing You Can Touch at the Gym, the CDC Says.


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Sage Young
Sage Young is Best Life's Senior SEO Editor. Read more
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