Running A Gym & The Covid-19 Epidemic
Seattle is the epicenter of the Covid-19 epidemic in the US. A dubious honor, to be sure, but one that does require business owners pay attention. 2 weeks in, we're already seeing small businesses close forever. Our larger employers are telling workers to work from home. Our governor has banned all gatherings of more than 250 people. Many schools are closed.
Oh, and people are dying.
Running a gym during this time presents a whole host of challenges, from safety to fear, to literally staying in business if we start losing revenue. Not gonna lie, it's really stressful. That said, we have a really incredible community, with whom we've been working and communicating closely.
So from Seattle, to the rest of you, here's a timeline of what we've done to address the issues and try to be prepared for anything that may come. If you own a gym, this has worked well for us. Even if you think it's a hoax (which, oh my god, stop watching FOX News, please) this is good for your business.
If you go to a gym, look at how they're handling this, I think you can learn a lot about a gym by how respectful they are of the concerns and health of their community. If you're going to a gym that is bloviating gaslighting nonsense at you, you might consider looking for a gym where the owners believe in science, respect your health and safety, and actually believe in being prepared.
So, here are the stages of this situation, followed by our response.
1. OH SHIT, THIS CORONOVIRUS THING IS A THING
Weeks ago, when it became clear that this was going to be a thing, we:
- Reached out to doctors who are also members and created a group thread to talk about developments and seek their advise. That thread has been active pretty much every day since.
- Sent a message to all our members saying that we've convened an advisory panel and are paying attention.
- Reminded them to wash hands immediately upon entering the gym.
- Reminded them to always wash down equipment after they use it. Suggested maybe doing it before you use it too, just in case.
- Asked them to please share any thoughts / fears / concerns with us. (My favorite thing that came out of this was concern about the fan in the Assault bike blowing germs everywhere. Fuck the Assault bike, I hate that thing anyway.) (Joking, I love it. But that was an interesting question.)
2. THIS IS A THING THAT IS HAPPENING FOR REAL, PEOPLE ARE DYING
After consulting with our panel, we posted the message that is screen-shotted here on our Facebook page.
- Removed the check-in computer and had coaches check people in on their phone to remove a vector.
- Got rid of cloth towels, using paper towels.
- Reminded people of all the usual things: don't come in sick, err on the side of caution, etc....
- Reminded people that the inexpensive 24/7 add-on is a great way to get a workout in, in the gym, without a crowd, which is great for social-distancing.
At this point, the emails from members started coming in stronger, so we talked to our head coach and started making plans for what we would do if (when) things got worse. How will we handle quarantines, closures etc?
3. SHIT'S GOING DOWN
Businesses started shutting, schools started closing, people kept dying. Also, the recommendations from the DOH changed to say we needed "social distancing" and no large gatherings. So we:
- Reduced class sizes to 10
- Started planning at-home WODS and Zoom meeting classes. Super Kudos to Pat and Taz at Warmup and Workout who rose to the occasion and are writing bodyweight versions of all their programming so that we can ride this out.
- Bought a pesticide sprayer and started spraying the gym floors after every shift with a 9:1 Water: Bleach solution. This is what the Seattle Fire Department uses as their decon protocol. (Brady is an officer in SFD.)
4. THEY'RE GONNA SHUT US DOWN
Okay, we're planning on being shut down at this point. Our concerns now are getting people a good workout and paying our employees even if we are shut down and they're not working. They depend on us to make a living. Likewise, members who have lost work and cannot afford to pay will have their membership fees waived. WE ARE STRONGER TOGETHER. So, we:
- Made arrangements with PR Lifting to allow our members to order some at-home gear and PR Lifting is delivering it, for free, to the gym for our members to pick up.
- We will be posting at-home workouts on our social media as well as in our private SugarWOD for people to do at home.
- We will be hosting yoga and HIIT classes using Zoom meetings.
- We will find a way to stay afloat and serve out community no matter what. And honestly, we are hoping that our community will do the same for us, and we think they will.
5. OH MY GOD WHAT NEXT?
Honestly, we have no idea. But we'll continue communicating, and making the best decisions we can at the time with the information and tools that we have at the time. That's really all we can do.
We do believe that we can all go about our lives, but that we all have to take extra precautions in order to slow the spread, and take care of the vulnerable people in our society. And the vulnerable systems.
But we'd be lying to you if we said we weren't scared. We are. We're scared for our business. But mostly, we're scared for our community. People are losing jobs, businesses and lives.
As business owners, however, or job is to be thinking about how our community feels, not just how we feel. If they are scared, it's our job to show that we care and we're taking precautions. I think that goes extra for gyms. We're literally asking you to trust us with your bodies every single day. The least we can do is show some respect for the fact that you might be scared.
We hear you. We feel you. We're here for you.
We closed our doors on March 12. The State of Washington shut down all Seattle schools on March 12, restricted crowds and gatherings, and our panel of doctors told us, simply "it's time." We closed before other gyms, which is hard to do, emotionally. But we communicated clearly with our members that we KNOW the only way to stop the spread of this is to enforce strict social distancing. That is not possible at the gym.
People can transmit this days before feeling any symptom at all. Therefore "if you feel bad, don't come in" simply isn't enough. And then we spread it to vulnerable people. Those people can die.
We cannot have that on our conscience.
We are putting three versions of a workout into our SugarWOD for members.
1. The regular gym WOD from WUWO.
2. The bodyweight home version from WUWO.
3. At home, simple equipment WOD from the WUWO "Outside the Box" programming, which is available to anyone and I highly recommend.
We will be hosting ZOOM workouts starting on Monday. Weather permitting, weekend workouts will be outside, but still observing social distancing.
We're doing our best.
Our biggest fear personally remains that people quit and we lose our gym. But so far, everyone has been supportive enough that I have literally shed tears over it.
This community never fails to inspire me.