One Month Later: Fitness Center Reopening in Phases

One Month Later: Fitness Center Reopening in Phases

As a certified fitness professional who serves multiple multifamily apartment communities and thousands of their residents in the Dallas market every year, I’ve seen how this pandemic has affected multifamily community operations all over the metroplex. The common thread is the need to establish proper safety guidelines, communicating those guidelines to residents, and finding additional support especially in the form of gym attending and cleaning.

States are lifting COVID-19 restrictions on public places, and plans for reopening our seven gyms at three different properties are coming together in phases. I've been fortunate to work with one of the greats, Lincoln Property Company. Phase one: cautiously re-open with safety guidelines and accommodations. We discussed these points in our previous blog “12 Steps To Re-Open Your Fitness Center with Success”, feel free to check that out to get up to speed.

Now as residents are trickling in to utilize the amenities they’ve missed these last few months, we’ve seen a diverse mix of results. This is what we know after hiring attendants to monitor capacity levels, wipe down high touch points and ensure social distancing measures:

The positive:

  • Capacity: As to be expected, the repopulation was gradual. Maximum capacity wasn’t reached until a few weeks after reopening, allowing time for residents to adjust to all the new changes. Attendants available to enforce max capacity numbers and keep high touch points cleaned was helpful to staying compliant and reassuring residents could feel comfortable.

  • Usage: Individual use time limited to one hour has, for the most part, been observed. Strictly enforced hours of operation, typically 6 am - 9 pm, have been generally respected and understood. Residents are responding well to new guidelines, and appreciate gym attendants as a safety measure keeping their environment secure. Gym attendants have also been exponentially helpful to show residents ‘equipment 101’, for newbies and veterans alike.

  • Sanitization & Supplies: A daily 1-hour closing period during low traffic times has allowed attendants to perform additional thorough cleans. The mid-afternoon clean is performed by attendants wearing personal protective equipment. Gym attendants work closely with maintenance staff to ensure they have supplies at all times as well as communicating equipment issues, updating safety protocols, taking out trash, keeping wipes stocked and acting as a buffer to the leasing office. Wipes and sanitation are still in high demand, and attendants are working diligently to help properties stay stocked.

  • Resident feedback: A major pain point for gym-going residents is the need for professional guidance on equipment. Trainer gym attendants are available and qualified to offer tips and advice on workouts, helping residents get the most out of their facilities and services.

The not-so-positive:

  • Individual Compliance: While not enforced as strict rules, feedback shows residents are hyper-aware when fellow gym-goers are not following cleanliness protocol or cooperating with new safety standards such as wiping down equipment. The majority of complaints come from patrons who respect the guidelines reporting other patrons who willfully disregard them. The danger there is that if enough patrons are seen or reported not engaging in safe practices, they risk having this amenity shut down again. 

  • Preparedness:No one saw the cleaning supply (and toilet paper) shortages coming. For the first two weeks, it was a major challenge to keep all the properties and gyms stocked. Now that supply is finally meeting demand, managers and owners are able to get cleaning supplies regularly. It’s of utmost importance to pay close attention to inventory and keep gym wipes and sanitizer stocked. Residents want to use and see hand sanitizer at all times, because it means their safety is seen as a priority. Maintenance team preparedness was tested, and as a result they learned how to better handle the high demand of wipes and cleaning supplies needed to maintain facilities.

The next steps:

  • Awareness: Checking in to ensure residents are aware of and understand fitness center guidelines is of utmost importance. A community-wide bulletin or announcement is a helpful solution to increase awareness of the guidelines and the consequences associated with noncompliance. Another effective method we’ve seen is use of signage in the gym.

  • Virtual Services: There are surely still a percentage of residents who miss the gym, but aren’t comfortable returning just yet. We’ve seen residents utilizing virtual training and yoga classes even after gyms become available, and we anticipate this trend continuing for the foreseeable future. 

  • Personal Training Services: Trainers helping residents get their groove back is important for resident health and wellness and overall satisfaction with their property’s amenity offerings. Not only are trainers guiding them through exercises and proper use of equipment, they’re guiding them through the new safety processes for a smooth transition into the new normal. Introducing a program at no cost to properties to include a free personal training session for every resident, whether on-site in their newly reopened gyms or through exclusive access to a library of virtual services, is in high demand according to recent resident feedback.

Phase two likely consists of maintaining sanitization practices and re-introducing equipment and services as state and federal regulations allow. We’ll revisit this phase as it approaches, and keep you in the loop. 

I’m happy to share my learnings and talk more about how to help your community bounce back from shutdown.  Need some advice on attendants? 

Reach out to get started.