How to Social Distance at the Gym
You probably never thought you’d have to read a how-to guide about the gym and a potentially deadly pandemic, but here we are. In the COVID era, we are all attempting to figure out how to go about our daily lives with as little risk to ourselves, our families, and the general public.
The easiest way to cut down on your risk for contracting COVID is to stay home and not interact face to face with anyone outside of those who live in your house. However, it’s not practical to think that you can stay in your house 24/7 for the foreseeable future. You have to get groceries and other essentials. For some people, the gym is a necessity. We understand that for many people, the gym is medicine - medicine for your body and medicine for your mental health. We understand that because we are you!
When we leave the house, we’re told to wear a mask and be sure to social distance. How does that apply in the gym setting?
Call Your Gym
If you’ve yet to reenter the gym, and you’re itching to go back, the first step is to learn your gym’s new COVID policies. Strict guidelines are put into place for gyms to safely open, and they may have their own policies designed to keep staff and clients safe. You’ll want to find out what their COVID policies are concerning:
- Their cleaning and sanitizing procedure
- Number of clientele in the building
- Whether you need an appointment or not
- Temperature checks
- Availability of their usual facilities such as showers and pools
- Wiping down equipment
- Social distance
Regardless of your gym’s COVID policies, you should consider wearing a mask and attempting to social distance as best you can when you enter the gym, just like when you enter any other public setting. By wearing a mask and keeping your social distance, you can limit the spread of the disease.
Assuming you follow your gym’s policies regarding COVID, and you’re doing the responsible thing and wearing a mask, here are some other social distance rules to follow when you reenter the gym for the first time in the COVID world.
COVID Etiquette for the Gym
- Maintain social distance at all times, whether you’re on the gym floor or in the bathroom. Unfortunately, this means if you see your long-lost gym buddy, no running for hugs and high-fives. Sure, you can exchange brief pleasantries, but keep your distance and move along quickly.
- Don’t loiter or socialize. This rule is a standard gym etiquette rule, but it becomes even more serious in our current COVID situation. On top of getting shredded, your new goal for the gym is to get in and get out as fast as possible.
- If you need to talk to someone for more than a minute, make sure you're not standing right by the wipes, trashcans, or other common areas. When you’re blocking areas where everyone needs to enter, you’re making it very hard for others to social distance.
- Skip machines. Meaning if there are two stair stepper machines three feet apart, and someone’s on one, you do not get on the other. Be courteous and wait until the other client leaves so you can maintain a social distance parameter around you.
- Limit your time on scarce machines. In our example above, it becomes rude to stay on one machine for an hour when you know a patron may be waiting because they can’t get on the machine right next to you while they social distance. If there are limited machines, make your workout more efficient so you can be done quickly and share it with others.
- Wipe down your equipment before and after you use it. You should already be in the habit of wiping down your equipment when you finish, that’s standard gym etiquette. COVID etiquette includes wiping equipment down before you use it, as well. The wipe before you use a machine is for you, the wipe after you finish is for everyone else.
- Take responsibility. If you enter the gym and it’s too crowded to social distance or feels uncomfortable, listen to your gut. Do the right thing and walk out, knowing that you can always return another time.
- Lastly and most importantly, do not come to the gym if you are sick, have any symptoms associated with COVID, or are sneezing or coughing. Even if you’re sneezing and you know it’s due to allergies, stay home! If you’ve contracted COVID and you’re unwittingly in the incubation period, your “not-sick-sneeze” will still spread your germs all over the place. On top of that, you don’t want to be the person who sneezes in the gym during COVID times. If looks could kill, you can bet they’d kill the sneezer in the gym.
Social Distancing and Physical Exercise
Social distance guidelines vary slightly but are generally six feet between you and the next person. However, consider keeping a minimum of ten feet between you and others while you exercise. We suggest ten feet because lungs that are working hard expel droplets up to ten feet from the nose and mouth. In the gym, people are working their bodies and lungs hard, so try to keep as much space as possible between you and others.
Is the Mask Necessary?
We hear you. Masks are uncomfortable to begin with, and wearing them over your nose and mouth while your respiratory rate is raised, and you’re sweating? Misery.
Still, yes, you should wear a mask in the gym. Hard-working lungs expel bodily fluids farther and faster, and COVID doesn’t always show symptoms. You could be working out next to a person who doesn’t know he is positive for COVID, or you could be the one that is unknowingly infected. We would argue that of all the places you go to, the gym might be the most important place to wear a mask and social distance.
COVID is a serious, highly contagious illness that we all need to take seriously. It’s possible to resume your gym routine, but follow your gym’s protocols to do it safely. So keep social distance, wear a mask, wash your hands, and get in and out. To provide your body some potential protection, consider adding a vitamin D supplement to your diet. Some studies suggest that COVID is significantly milder in those with a higher vitamin D content in their diet. Let's get through this together!