Social Distancing Guidance for Safe ‘Social Fitnessing’

Part one of CFWs ‘The Great Corporate Fitness Reboot’ blog series featuring expert guidance from John Ruyak, President of CFW Design.

New normal concept and physical distancing people running in fitness and keep social distance to prevent from disease outbreak. New normal after COVID-19 pandemic concept

As companies start to reopen their office buildings and welcome employees back to the workplace, there is a heavy burden on facilities and management teams to ensure the workspaces and accessible amenities can support employee health and safety. This includes compliance with social distancing guidelines to remain 6 feet, or even further apart, whenever possible.

A fitness center layout that aligns with these social distancing requirements takes careful thought and planning. Equipment access, traffic patterns, placing appropriate signage and directional markings should all be considered. It can get overwhelming very quickly. We asked our President of CFW Design, John Ruyak some common questions related to socially distanced fitness center layouts, and here’s what he had to say:

Question: Is marking off every other piece of equipment good enough for social distancing?

John's Advice: From a layout perspective, marking off every other piece of equipment is a necessary and important place to start. However, we must recognize that it’s one part of a bigger equation. Providing six (6) feet of exercise distance, monitoring traffic flow throughout the space, ensuring all members are following local and state guidelines with regard to wearing masks, while promoting safe social interaction and hygiene – washing hands, cleaning equipment, etc. –are all needed to help individuals exercise safely and effectively while protecting themselves and their coworkers.

A method we’ve found useful for our corporate clients is to initiate the social distance layout by reviewing the electronic CAD (computer-aided design) file of the facility and equipment, then designating which units should be marked for use/non-use. Once the units have been marked accordingly in the space, go through and physically measure the distance that will exist between one user to the next to ensure a minimum of six (6) feet can be maintained. In most cases, alternating larger frame units, like a commercial treadmill or a smith press, will allow for six (6) feet or more between users given they are spaced properly to begin with. Smaller framed units, like group fitness bikes and adjustable weight benches, may require additional spacing for social distancing.

Red closed for social distancing; blue arrows traffic flow.
Red closed for social distancing; blue arrows traffic flow.

Question: How do you establish a traffic flow pattern that aligns with social distancing and participant workouts?

John's Advice: The approach here is very similar to your local grocery stores and restaurants. Once again, if available you can start with the CAD file of your facility to create one-way traffic patterns that align with natural entry points and usage flow with the equipment and space. The idea is to avoid cross-traffic in the space while preserving an efficient user experience as they use, clean, and then move on to the next piece of equipment. Then, implement that traffic pattern with signage on the floor with directions on how and where to wait for the next station so that members know how to navigate the space safely.

Sample signage floor markings for reopening

Question: What are the key pieces of signage and where should they be posted?

John's Advice: Reopening and resuming fitness operations in these days of COVID has brought on a slew of new guidelines, policies, and protocols that all fitness center staff and members must adhere to. Having the right signage posted in the right places throughout the facility helps to reinforce these protocols and give participants visible reminders of when, where, and how to follow them. In our research and implementation for reopening our corporate fitness facilities, we’ve created a completely new library of signage templates to achieve this. Some of the key pieces include:

  • Mask requirements in accordance with state and local government posted clearly at entrance
  • Adjusted hours and scope of operations based on cleaning schedules and/or capacity limits
  • Reminders for social distancing with markings on the floor for where to stand and wait
  • Notice for touchless check-in and/or temperature checks if applicable
  • Locker room reminders for social distancing and proper hand washing
  • Studio space usage and capacity limits (ie. Open for class only. Max capacity #.)
  • Diagram of facility (CAD or PDF) that maps out traffic flow and equipment open for use
  • Markings on the floor throughout conditioning spaces with directional arrows and 6 foot wait designations
CFW Check in Sign
CFW Masks Required

Question: Are there special considerations for social distancing in a group fitness space? What about locker rooms and other amenities?

John's Advice: Limiting class capacity and taping off six (6) feet workout space designations are becoming the norm a in a group exercise space. In some states, cities and counties, the local government has issued capacity limits for different types of businesses. Be sure to research what your local guidelines are to align your overall facility and group exercise capacity with those requirements. A studio occupancy level that aligns with the CDC social distancing recommendations can be found by calculating the radius of a 6-foot circle, which equals 113 square feet minimum per participant. Figure that number into your total usable square feet in the studio space to determine the maximum occupancy.

Once capacity is set, place markings on the floor to designate each 6-foot radius workout space. Add signage and markings to support traffic movement in one direction for entering, gathering equipment, exiting, etc. Establish and communicate your pre and post class cleaning protocols to class participants and instructors. Offer online sign-ups for members to reserve their spot for class in advance to avoid exceeding capacity. Set clear expectations for no person-to-person contact (like no high-fives, no congregating before/after class, and no hands-on form adjusting). Require masks be worn while entering, setting up equipment, and when leaving the space as these would be moments where 6-feet of social distance could be compromised.

In terms of locker rooms, space is a significant factor. Some gyms and fitness centers with limited space may consider closing off showers entirely, while larger facilities may be able to alternate every other stall for use. Certain sets of lockers may also need to be taken out of use. Masks should be worn at all times in the locker room space, and proper hand washing, social distancing and traffic flow signage should be clearly posted throughout. This is all very subjective to your current layout and available amenities and should be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

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With equipment properly spaced and traffic patterns clearly marked for social distancing, our next topic to tackle is cleaning. Stay tuned for our next article in this series: Cleaning & Disinfecting your Corporate Fitness Facility.

Needing a social distancing floor plan for your onsite fitness center, but not sure where to begin? Let us help you! Consult with our team of experts to receive your customized corporate fitness reopening plan. This can include proper layout and spacing for equipment usage and traffic flow, signage templates, cleaning guidelines with recommended products safe for fitness equipment, considerations for daily operations, guidance for occupancy thresholds, and ideas for programs and services to align with your company’s return to workplace.

Contact us for pricing and scheduling your consult for receiving your customized reopening plan.