Crunch Fitness CEO on Reopening Gyms During Coronavirus Pandemic

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Do you miss going to the gym?

For many Americans, an everyday activity--such as a workout at the gym--have had to be put on hold as millions were forced to stay at home due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

But now, with many states reopening, what does that mean for your workout?

Jim Rowley, CEO of Crunch Fitness, joined TheStreet's Katherine Ross to weigh in on what Crunch is doing to protect members and how your average gym may look when everything reopens.

Watch the video above for more. 

Video Transcript:

Katherine Ross: As more and more states begin to ease their stay-at-home restrictions the thoughts on many American's minds are, "When can I go back to the gym?" So joining me to break down how gyms are preparing to reopen and how they can do that safely, during this pandemic, is Jim Rowley, CEO of Crunch Fitness. Jim, I have to ask the question on everyone's mind which is, "Is it too soon for gyms to reopen safely?"

Jim Rowley: Yeah, it's a good question. I think it's too soon if the gyms haven't been preparing for the eventuality of opening. We've spent the better part of the last month working on a 40-page comprehensive readiness plan. We turned the gym on it's head. We thought about every hard surface, every contact point between member and team member, even between member to member, and have changed all of our protocols with respect to that, so we're prepared. With that said, we're not rushing back. Even in Georgia and Oklahoma, which have eased restrictions with respect to gyms, our franchisees are being smart, they're being prudent, they're doing dress rehearsals. I saw a video yesterday of the entire team, masked and gloved, and walking through the entry process, walking through the greeting process, and what it will be like to work in a mask and gloves for eight hours. So we're really trying to prepare in advance of this. We're not in a hurry to get back. We're not gonna put business profits over health and safety I should say.

Katherine Ross: I'm wondering can you walk us through what a gym would look like in this age of social distancing? I mean obviously we know that there's a lot of human contact generally. 

Jim Rowley: Yeah, that's a good question. So if you look at cardio as an example. You know a lot of people think about gyms, you think about weights and you think about cardio. Our cardio was all spaced using a computer diagram four feet on center. We'll be moving most of that to six feet on center, but in the meantime, what we've done is we've taken every other piece of equipment out to create a six foot social distance between the members. We've got an entry system that basically has vinyl lettering as you enter the gym. And it says, "Welcome, ready, set, go." And each of those intervals was spaced 6 feet apart so as members queue up to check in, with a touchless check in by the way, they'll have staging on the floor showing them where to stand and when to proceed. And you'll see directions throughout the club for path of travel and so forth, along with equipment being turned off every other piece of equipment. In the group fitness rooms, which are large rooms, they can be up to 3,500 square feet, we've put a grid system on the floor. And the grid essentially is your workout space for the class. So you're required to clean that area, pre and post. That's the area you stay in during the class to avoid any distance issues with the member next to you. So things like that are really what we've done with respect to social distancing and preparation for our return for our members. There's also going to be an extensive amount of internal marketing, images, posters, instructions. And one thing that we really tried to consider is this overall tone, right? So we're saying for all the members, first and foremost, be kind, be considerate, and be mindful. And we're gonna ask everybody to kind of come back with that mentality.

Katherine Ross: You mentioned that you have to move equipment so we'd have the members in the gym six feet apart. Do you think that gyms, going forward, if we stick with social distancing protocols, say 10 years down the line, are they gonna need more real estate?

Jim Rowley: I don't know if they'll need more real estate. I think that we'll find new ways to reinvent the gym of the future. As an example, a lot of gyms today have the old traditional water fountain like you had at grade school, where you push the button and bring your mouth down to the faucet. Those won't exist in the future. A lot of our gyms have that and a bottle refiller. And I imagine that every gym in the country will only have bottle refillers going forward. I think the protocols in the locker room, with respect to washing your hands and hand hygiene, we'll see that in a perpetuity. You'll see a lot more instruction on gym behavior and gym etiquette around the workout floor. I think you'll see an increase in enforcement around members adhering to wiping down their equipment, cleaning after they've worked out, including dumbbells and benches, and so forth. And you might see lighter class loads, where you might not see a hundred people in a group fitness room anymore, you might see that restriction. In the beginning, we're gonna see gloves and masks. I believe that'll go away. I hope we're not wearing gloves and masks for the next 10 years. That would be really dark waters that we'd be in if that's the case. I think once we have the vaccine and all the therapeutics you'll see the masks and gloves go away. But a lot of the behaviors, conditioning the members to clean up after themselves, again, to be mindful of other members, to be considerate of their own health care. So if you are ill, if you're not feeling well, stay away from the gym. Those things will stay with us, I think, going forward.

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