Things that will likely happen when you return to the gym post-quarantine. What Do You Do When?
Members within the Nashville fitness community provide their input on gym reopenings.
Top left: Anna Chism, Brett Dayen, Kyle Roberts, Erin Jones / Bottom Left: Paul Knakk, Alfredo Rodriguez, Gary Mullins, Josh Wolfe,

by Nicole Swickle

Nashville gyms and workout facilities have been given the green light to reopen their doors on Monday, May 25. Per the Davidson County phased reopening plan, there will be modifications and requirements taken to reduce the risk of transmitting COVID-19.

Facilities are responsible for doing their part to provide a safe environment for members and staff upon reopening. This includes enforcing new policies such as physical distancing people and equipment, keeping doors open for added ventilation, enhancing cleaning practices, closing areas such as showers and saunas, and screening members upon arrival.

It’s no secret that there are differentiating opinions on gym openings, social distancing and how to properly navigate public settings post-quarantine. In addition to familiarizing yourself with these new policies, it’s helpful to know what you’re comfortable with before you leave home. Having an idea of how you want to show up and what you need to do to protect yourself can help alleviate anxiety as we ease back into our routines.

As fitness enthusiasts – we’re all on the same team. That means using common sense and not taking risks at the expense of others. I surveyed a small segment of the Nashville fitness community on how they would handle potential situations in our “new normal.” Here is what they had to say about heading back into the gym.

Someone goes to high five or fist bump you. What do you do?

Anna: I would high five back and smile, then take out my earphones and say hi!

Brett: I would reciprocate and sanitize after. I’d rather risk COVID because I would feel too disrespectful pulling back a handshake.

Kyle: I would high five or fist bump them back. No second thought whatsoever!

Erin: My initial instinct would be to high five or fist bump back… then about mid-way, I would make a joke about COVID and put my hand down.

Alfredo: I would give them a high five right back.

Gary: I would politely explain that even though I appreciate the sentiment, I will have to give them a raincheck on returning it since I am trying to make sure my family stays healthy.

There are paper towels wadded up in the cup holder on the cardio machine. How do you handle it?

Anna: I would throw it away and then clean my hands with sanitizer.

Paul: I’d let the front desk know so they can handle them with gloves.

Alfredo: I would leave it alone or move to another machine, if available.

Kyle: I never expect someone to wipe down equipment for me or ask anyone to do it.

Josh: I wouldn’t touch it until the staff members remove it.

Gary: I would grab a clean paper towel to use to throw it away, sanitize my hands, then clean the machine. Sure, I could just move to another machine, but then I would feel like I am contributing to possibly getting someone else sick. I would rather be helpful.

The person next to you isn’t practicing social distancing. They’re practically invading your personal space. Do you say anything?

Anna: After a few attempts to maintain my personal space, I would politely ask they give me space.

Erin: I will try to distance myself first. Most of the time people get the hint and will move.

Alfredo: I wouldn’t say anything. I’d just move over and give myself space.

Josh: I would ask someone to give me my space. If we don’t want to lose the gym again, we need to follow the protocol that is asked of us. If they disagree, they shouldn’t be allowed to use the facility. The same applies for any other facility rules.

Gary: I would keep my distance, even if it meant stepping away each time they stepped closer in hopes that they would get the hint.

There is a line to get in the gym. Do you wait your turn or go home?

Anna: I would wait my turn. At the end of the day, they want to get their lift in just as I do. No one is better than anyone else.

Paul: It depends how long the line is. I’ve learned that I can efficiently workout from home, so there are other options. Time is money.

Erin: I would wait up to 30 minutes. I am driving about 35-40 minutes right now to get to the gym, so I wouldn’t want to waste a trip.

Alfredo: I’d turn around and go home. I wouldn’t want to waste time waiting to get in.

Gary: If the line is short (maybe one or two people ahead of me) I would wait. Otherwise, I would go back home and workout there. My time is too limited to wait for an unknown duration of time.

Will you wear a mask at the gym? (Note that masks are recommended, but not required)

Anna: I won’t be wearing a mask. I went and served a nursing contract in New Jersey where I was in constant direct contact with COVID patients. I even became sick and was put in quarantine while on contract. I tested and it came back negative prior to coming home, so I’m positive I’ve been exposed and overcame it.

Paul: I will wear one, but not one of those goofy air-restricting ones that make you look like a supervillain. Gyms are naturally “germ city.” Protect yourself and your family.

Erin: If it was required to enter the gym, I would wear one, but I do not personally want to wear one when I am working out. It would be uncomfortable and probably make me touch my face more by adjusting and clearing sweat from my face. I have trained myself touch my face as little as possible and am very conscious of it at the gym.

Brett: I most likely will not wear a mask unless they highly recommend and encourage it. I’d wear it just to respect others and to help this whole thing move forward.

Gary: This is a good question, and the answer really depends on the situation. I will likely bring one with me but will only use it if the gym feels a little crowded, or if I suspect someone there of being sick. It all depends on how “at-risk” I feel.

What did you miss most about not going to the gym?

Erin: I miss it being incorporated into my daily routine. For me, the gym is my alone time, my release and my stress reliever. Not having that on a daily basis was pretty tough to overcome in the beginning of quarantine.

Paul: The actual gym. I miss the routine, the people, and heavy lifting. Being restricted to banded workouts for months gave me a new respect for the gym. Also, I can’t wait to have a treadmill and Netflix again. Don’t judge!

Alfredo: I miss being around motivated people. It’s contagious and can help you reach new levels in training.

Josh: I miss having a place to go, putting headphones on and removing myself from the rest of the world for an hour or so – all while still being productive.

Gary: I work from home, and going to the gym was one of the few times I left the house as it was. I also miss the selection of equipment and being able to quantify my progress.

What concerns (if any) do you have about returning?

Anna: I don’t have any concerns about gyms opening up. I just hope people remember that we all went through this together and not to act rude or entitled toward each other.

Paul: Gyms are naturally unsanitary, even before this. I’m interested to see what precautions they take for sanitization upkeep. I work at a bar on Broadway and we’ve completely had to retrain staff and change the way we operate.

Erin: There is always the concern of contracting the virus, but that’s going to be the case for anywhere you go in public. My other concern would be the influx of people wanting to go to the gym and it being overpopulated or full all the time.

Alfredo: My only concern in the midst of the pandemic, is that people will be unaware of the importance of cleanliness and wiping down machines after use. The lack of care for your fellow gym-goer.

Josh: People not following the rules and losing the privilege for us.

Have you worked out during quarantine? If so, what did you do, and did you enjoy it?

Erin: I have worked out during quarantine. I don’t have any equipment at home, so I started doing bodyweight workouts and using different apps. Eventually, it became harder and harder to motivate myself to do the at-home workouts because I need the separation of home, work and gym. I started getting outside as much as possible. I went for walks around my neighborhood and on greenways throughout the Nashville area.

Brett: I’ve been working out as much as I normally would. I have bands and a 30-pound sandbag. I also like to run and have done so a bit more since things shut down. I may not have gained in size, but I leaned down quite a bit. I can’t wait for the gyms to reopen but overall, I’ve made do without access to one. I will continue to mix up my training and show others you don’t need a gym to get a good workout in – which has been my biggest takeaway from this.

Paul: Quarantine isn’t an excuse not to be active unless you make it that way. It’s been frustrating, exhausting, monotonous, and rewarding. There are a ton of different exercises you can do at home. Ordering bands was a life changer…you just make it work with what you’ve got. I challenged myself to 10k steps a day, which took around 90+ minutes, rain or shine.

Gary: I have been working out. Progress is too important for me to put on hold. Since I have very limited equipment, I created a routine using resistance bands, a pull-up bar, dip bars, and a couple of adjustable dumbbells. At first, I was bummed by the situation, but soon found that the new workouts were quite challenging and effective, and I have managed some semblance of progression during this time. That being said, I can’t wait to get back to my usual routine with some heavier weights.

Know Before You Go

“Knowing what you’re comfortable with ahead of time is key,” said Alex Welch, Public Safety Director for nationally recognized sports and entertainment events. “Whether you’re at the gym or elsewhere, it’s important to understand your environment,” he said. “Familiarize yourself with the guidelines and know how you want to show up, but also understand that everyone has their reasons for how they conduct themselves. Common sense and community will empower you to make decisions that keep you safe and comfortable.”

Here are some additional tips for your consideration:

  1. Pre-plan your workout routine to avoid lingering in the gym
  2. Minimize socializing to allow other members to workout due to reduced occupancy
  3. Limit the items you touch within the gym to only the items you will use
  4. Consider limiting the length of your workout to avoid unnecessary exposure
  5. Remember social distancing requirements in locker rooms and other small spaces within the gym

Resources: American Industrial Hygiene Association / Tennessee Pledge

Be smart, stay safe, and ease back into your training. We’ve all been thrown off our fitness regimen, so it’s important to be gentle on yourself as we transition back into our daily routine.