As gyms in various emirates reopen, The National reviews exactly what members can expect from working out in public again.
From Wednesday, May 27, gyms and sporting facilities around the emirate were allowed to open their doors, but this came with a list of conditions from the government.
Capacity was originally limited to 50 per cent, but has now been expanded to 100 per cent. Guests and trainers still have to maintain a two-metre physical distance and wear masks during light or moderate physical activity, no two people can use equipment at the same time, and it all must be sanitised in between use.
Here we answer some of your most frequently asked questions about these terms and conditions.
Can I take a shower?
As of Thursday, June 18, this rule has been changed. Shower facilities, lockers and changing rooms are permitted, under the condition that cleaning and sanitisation is performed after every use, or at a minimum once every hour.
Will the gym be full?
Gyms are also now allowed to function at 100 per cent capacity, after previously being set to a limit of 50 per cent, but facilities unable to maintain social distancing must reduce their capacity, while fitness centres need to make sure there are no more than two trainees with every personal trainer, and that the mandatory two-metre distance is maintained between them.
Is there an age limit?
Not anymore. Children aged 12 and under and people over 60 can now take part in sporting activities.
How will group classes work?
Fitness facilities will have their own way of doing these, but, as mentioned, people must keep a two-metre physical distance between each other at all times, and no two people can use equipment at the same time.
This can be tricky for group circuit classes, but gyms are working around this by setting up individual areas for their clients. For instance, The Den DXB in Motor City has limited classes to nine members and one instructor and cordoned off specific areas with the necessary equipment for each person. They also include mandatory cleaning supplies members must use after the session.
Yoga studios are doing a similar thing. Yoga House at The Greens and InterContinental Dubai Marina, for example, asks attendees to bring their own mat, towel and props (the studio does provide blocks, which are sanitised between use). Space on the floor is marked out to ensure social distancing and yogis must place their mats within the marks.
Other gyms aren’t running group classes at all at the moment. For example, Optimal Fitness in Studio City is only offering personal training and continuing its online workouts for the time being.
Contact your gym directly to find out how they are handling group sessions.
Can I still do live workouts online?
Yes. Many gyms are still hosting live-streamed workouts online at the same time as doing their in-class sessions.
Others are taking their time to re-introduce their studio classes, preferring to continue their services online as owners thoroughly navigate the new rules.
During the closures, fitness facilities found members have really taken to the idea of online workouts, and so many are looking to incorporate this option into their services for the long run. For example, GymNation, which has branches in Al Quoz and Bur Dubai, struck up a partnership with Les Mills whereby members and non-members could do free online classes. It was a huge success, says chief executive Loren Holland. “We have over 10,000 downloads of the new Les Mills On Demand platform and expect our members to continue using this platform to either supplement their training at the gym or until they have confidence to return.”
Contact your gym directly to find out if they are still offering live online workouts.
Are barriers between equipment at gyms compulsory?
No. The rules state that partitions or separators must be used between equipment where it is required. The main focus is that everyone is maintaining a strict two-metre distance and so individual gyms will manage this in different ways, by spacing out their equipment appropriately or by including the partitions.
While venues such as The Den DXB, Warehouse Gym and GymNation have opted not to use partitions, other facilities have, including Alserkal Avenue's boutique spinning studio Crank.
When do I have to wear a mask while working out?
The rules state that people should wear their masks during “light to moderate” exercise, but they can remove it while undertaking anything more “strenuous”.
What exactly does that mean? “Anything that is leaving you out of breath and increasing your heart rate significantly I would consider rigorous,” explains gym owner Michael Sole of The Den DXB. “Also worth considering is the climate you are exercising in.
"Extreme conditions – hot or cold – are going to intensify the exercise you are doing, and thus categorised as rigorous in my opinion.”
Holland says the definition of strenuous exercise will differ from person to person. “The key is to not inhibit your breathing and oxygen consumption, but where safe to wear a mask then members should do so to protect themselves and other gym users.”
Light to moderate workouts would include a walk or a casual cycle to the shops, for example, Sole adds. As members of his gym regularly work at rigorous intensities, they are asked to wear masks when entering and leaving the facility.
It’s a similar story in yoga studios, confirms independent instructor Dina Ghandour. She explains how some facilities may ask class attendees to keep their mask on during the warm-up, but then they have the option to remove it when the class gets more intense.
The same rule applies for instructors, who may wear their masks unless demonstrating more strenuous moves, she adds.
Who is responsible for cleaning gym equipment for the next person?
No two people can use equipment at the same time, and it must be sanitised prior to being used by another individual. A number of gyms are asking members to wipe down their equipment after use, but they will also be responsible for doing another sterilisation sweep in between users or classes.
“During these times it’s everyone’s responsibility to ensure we all maintain the highest standards of hygiene,” says Holland. “GymNation and all other gyms have increased the number of cleaning staff and undergone sanitisation programmes, but it’s with the help of everyone that we can maintain the most safe environment.”
Are employees regularly tested for Covid-19?
This is not a mandatory requirement, but some instructors have opted to do so anyway. This will differ from gym to gym and trainer to trainer, so contact your facility directly to find out their specific internal policies.
What is being done to maintain air quality, particularly in smaller spaces?
While, again, there are no specific governmental requirements in this regard, all gyms will have undergone a sanitisation treatment before reopening. At GymNation branches, for example, this included having the air-conditioning and fresh air filters cleaned, too.
Are residential gyms and swimming pools open yet?
All gyms in residential buildings have been allowed to operate from May 31.
Strict measures are in place, including: the wiping down of equipment before and after use; distance of at least two metres from other gm users; wearing a face mask at all times; a one-hour workout limit; children under the age of 12 and adults over 60 are prohibited from using the facilities; and personal trainers are not allowed.
While some of the larger property groups have reopened communal facilities, smaller building gyms have yet to reopen.
Swimming pools have now opened, too.
General gyms and fitness facilities, as well as residential amenities, remain closed in the emirate for now. On May 24, the Department of Culture and Tourism Abu Dhabi set out an extensive list of rules that hotel facilities, including pools and gyms, must meet before they can resume operations. This included regular temperature checks, social distancing policies, limited capacities and frequent sterilisations.
Gyms remain closed in Ras Al Khaimah and Sharjah.
Fujairah has allowed hotel facilities to open, with some restrictions, along with water sports and other activities.
On May 30, gyms were allowed to reopen in Ajman, with various restrictions and a maximum of 50 per cent capacity.