How to properly reopen your fitness amenities

Gyms may need to be reconfigured, current capacity limitations reconsidered and machines alternated in light of COVID-19.

Kat Pisano
National multifamily consultant,
Commercial Fitness Solutions

As things around us start to come back to life with the lifting of stay-at-home orders, fitness centers are unlocking their doors with several new things to consider.

Many of these items will revolve around safety and protecting users from the novel coronavirus, but other will have to deal with an increased capacity for those facilities that are specific to multifamily. Since clubhouses and amenity spaces rarely are staffed at all hours during which they are accessible to users, maintaining cleaning and proper capacity can prove a challenge with residents responsible for ongoing cleaning or self-policing. Reopening your facility should first address more commonly used areas such as cardio and strength spaces. To ensure social distancing will be observed some general tips would be: Gyms may need to be reconfigured, reconsider current capacity limitations and alternate machines that are in use to maintain cleaning schedules. Placing marks on the floor or installing proper distance mats, especially in higher-traffic facilities and providing additional sanitation/cleaning stations that are accessible are ways to encourage self-protection. Sending an email to all potential users as well as posting signage at the entrance with the new expectations will allow users to feel prepared and knowledgeable.

It is suggested for a contracting company to come in weekly for a deep cleaning of 24-hour fitness facilities. Increasing the frequency of daily cleanings is advised and can be achieved by scheduling gym closures throughout the day to allow cleaning crews or your maintenance team to thoroughly clean the equipment and floors. It may be best in the early stages to eliminate 24-hour gym availability to ensure that fitness centers receive a complete cleaning at the end of each day. To avoid risking your warranty coverage, be conscious of the guidance from your equipment manufacturer and their recommended procedures for cleaning and disinfecting.

Following instructions ensures that the maintenance schedule is in line with maximizing product life, your fitness distributor can guide you to proper solutions and, in many cases, provide them. Use your trusted resources, working with your equipment dealer to provide guidance and insight regarding floor planning and repurposing fitness spaces is a wise option.

Diving further into the alternation of machines would mean that half of the cardio machines are marked as being out of order on even days, and the other half are being marked as such on odd days. This allows surfaces to sit without needing as much attention and less constant cleaning. Strength equipment that can be properly spaced does not need to be alternated, but those that do not share this ability should be alternated as well. In group fitness rooms, or flex fitness rooms, items that cannot be easily sanitized such as yoga blocks, resistance bands and jump ropes, should be removed temporarily and users should be encouraged to bring their own light fitness equipment. Capacity in these smaller areas should be limited so that those using the area can safely participate in dynamic movements and stretches without entering someone’s social distance space.

Another large change that is expected after the initial first impact of COVID-19 is the increased amount of people who will be working from home on a more regular or part-time basis. Businesses are quickly realizing that overhead costs are down, employee production is up and that things run just as smoothly while employees work from their own spaces. What this means for multifamily and the amenity wars is increased usage and more spread out usage times of items such as the fitness center, dog parks, outdoor spaces and coworking spaces.

Getting in front of this increased demand will be an important distinguishing factor among competitors in the near future. Amenity spaces should be looked at to see if there are possible expansion options for those spaces that are going to require more difficult social distancing such as patios, pools and fitness centers. Better ventilation, cleaning access and resident flow should be considered for these spaces as well. For those properties that do not have the ability to increase existing spaces, other spaces that are not being used or that seem more creative could be tapped to spread out the new user base. Spaces such as business centers, movie theaters, underutilized outdoors spaces and garages should be considered for programmable fitness, or self-paced fitness spaces.

Other options to provide benefit and safety for residents who are going to increase their at-home time or decrease their away-from-home radius by utilizing community amenities more frequently would be at home fitness. There are a few ways to offer an in-home fitness experience, first being streaming applications that can be purchased as a community made available on phone and tablets of resident users. The other would be rentable fitness packages that contain simple items such as spin bikes, rowers, small dumbbell sets and TRX X Mounts.

Featured in CREJ’s July 2020 Property Management Quarterly

Edited by the Colorado Real Estate Journal staff.