Return to Normal Strategy for Fitness Facilities: Think Like A Member Again

By Sal Pellegrino
Intro by John:

I’ve known Sal Pellegrino (with Precor) for a number of years. Since our initial meeting in Bend Oregon at a Fitlife convention, I’ve learned he is not only an icon in the fitness industry but will do everything he can to exceed expectations of his customers. Whether its being involved as a keynote speaker at the annual Gold’s convention or helping the many facilities he has relationships with to improve the membership experience, Sal brings a sense of commitment and loyalty that is not often seen or experienced.

Again, Sal has stepped up to the plate and prepared a list of things to think about for reopening your facility (see below). His commitment to detail is unmatched and if implemented, it will make your reopening process smooth and uneventful. In typical Sal-esque fashion, this is his gift to you that you will realize success with your “reopening” and that your members will be safe and enjoy their workout experience.

I would encourage you to contact him (his email address is printed below) should you have any questions or comments. Or, send him an email just to say hello and share with him your appreciation for providing the “Reopen” document.

Finally, all of us here at PetrA-1 appreciate your business and the opportunity to help you during this stressful “Reopening” process. If you have questions, comments or concerns, forward an email to us and we will make sure one of our representatives gets back in touch with you immediately. Stay safe and we will all get through this challenging time together.


You Must Get Things Right as Soon as the Doors Open!

Most of my current contacts know me as an exercise equipment specialist but, my career started as a club owner back in 1978. For six years, I learned a great deal about engagement, working with the new- to-exercise population, what it takes to be competitive in the fitness industry. My strategic advantage was earning the trust of my members and staff, creative programming, always re-investing profits, and creating a safe environment. Now more than ever, safety, cleanliness, and trust are top-of-mind for all of your members. It’s important that you “Think Like Member Again” and, put yourself in their situation. Trust will be the operative word and it will be so critical in the new roll-out. Remember you have only one opportunity to make a great first impression. If I was back in the owner- ship seat today, this would be my strategy to re-open a facility post COVID-19 shutdown.

I’ve listened to numerous presentations over the past few weeks and believe it’s time to really start planning your reopening strategy and ask yourself “What does your plan include? What will the fitness floor look like once we re-open? What programs do we offer? What will the members want and expect?”

Here are a few suggestions and things to think about for your overall gym and specific sections within it:

Member Communication Strategy for Pre-Opening:
• Share Your Preventative Safety Measures

• What can your members expect when they return?
• Determine what new signage is needed and where it should be posted. Show your members

what you have changed.
• Post expectations for member behavior.

• Consider what amenities may need to be phased in over time (walk before your run).

• Consider sharing a video of the staff doing a deep clean of the club for powerful messaging.

• Show the investment you have made in cleaning products, procedures, and facility upgrades.

• Create e-mails, update website messaging and in-club signage to communicate what members should know before they return to the gym.

• Share state and local official health guidelines for fitness clubs:

• When will you re-open (date set by local authorities)? Don’t rush this – get it right! o What are the limitations set by local governments (member numbers per square foot)? o Adhere to and exceed all CDC guidelines for cleaning, sanitizing, and social distancing. o Look at each of your studios closely to see what the new occupancy rules will be.

New Staff Responsibilities
• Who owns each of the areas in the club (responsible for making sure things get done in a safe environment)?

• Is there a written checklist for each staff member (things to do each day at specific intervals)? The team must be accountable to follow these guidelines.

• How should they greet and encounter members (how do they properly welcome everyone back)?

• You will only have one opportunity to make a good first impression and gain the trust of each of your members.

• Each staff member must create an environment of care, support, and safety.

• Post the cleaning schedule for members to see (perception is reality).

Cardio Area: Which Staff Member Owns This Area?
• Touch screen consoles must be sanitized after each usage. Educate staff and members to not spray the console directly when cleaning as this will lead to damage of your equipment.

• Consider investing in Electro Static Sprayer technology by Earth Safe for cleaning The cleaning solution wraps around the machine, barbell or fixture. The cleaning tablet is safe on all surfaces and cleans in only one minute.

• Cardio units should be 6-8 feet apart or alternate by having every other unit in use. Cover every other console face to ensure proper spacing – then rotate the units every other day to balance the usage. Have a sign on the cardio unit that says “I am practicing social distancing”.

Group Exercise Area:
• Clean floor mats and other exercise modalities. This is probably the dirtiest part of the club.

• Ensure all mats, dumbbells, kettle bells, bands, and other accessories get cleaned daily and after each class or SGT session.

• You will need to limit the number of members in each studio, group cycle room or SGT space.

• Determine if social distancing opens the door for streaming content or virtual training. If so, are you equipped to do so?

• Instructor Behaviors & Responsibilities: Managers must review all procedures and make sure each team member has a full understanding of these new guidelines.

Group Cycle Room:
• Reduce the number of bikes to create that safe social distancing environment.

• Spinning suggests allowing an area of 6×6 foot square per bike.

• Each instructor should have their own mic and headset with mic cover.

• Cleaning stations and supplies should be available in the room.

• Sanitize all bikes and room after each class.

HIIT / Turf Areas:

• No more rotating the group through various stations of a circuit. You must have enough equip- ment available for each member of each SGT class at their specific station (in other words, no more sharing of exercise tools).

• All equipment and stations should be cleaned after all sessions.

• Limit the numbers of members in each class (no more than ten).

Free Weight Area:
• Most gyms have way too much equipment in the free weight area.

• It’s time to re-think this space and spread out the benches, racks, platforms, and dumbbell racks in order to create a safe social distance between exercisers.

Group Exercise Instructor Behaviors Will Change:

• Pre-Class instructor guidance and greeting: Teach members how to self-clean the bike surface and touchpoints. Give clear instructions on the new rules for the ride.

• Post-Class: Everyone must clean their bikes and the club should sanitize the room after class.

• Schedule: Have at least thirty minutes between classes to clean and sanitize the room.

• Consider adding an UBE (Upper Body Ergometer) to the group cycle space (for inclusion of spe- cial populations).

Personal Trainers New Roles, New Behaviors and Responsibilities:

• Do they wear masks? Do they wear gloves?

• How do they greet members (no more handshakes)? Communicate new guidelines.

• Be observant of other members’ behaviors.

• Have cleaning towels ready (wipe down the machine or bench surface and grips before and after each exercise).

• Maintain social distance between personal trainers, clients, and other members.

Free Weight & Dumbbells Areas:

• Consider using electro cleaning spray devices for this area – this adheres to all surfaces.

• The Dumbbell handles must be cleaned throughout the day as well.

• I highly recommend that members wear full-fingered gloves while exercising. This makes it less likely to touch their face.

Selectorized Strength Machines:

• Consider Electro Cleansing Spray devices for this area.

• Make sanitizing wipes or spray bottles and paper towels available throughout the area.

• Check spacing between machines.

New Trainer Responsibilities:

• Make sure members wipe machines down after use.

• Suggest that members wear long workout pants or leggings.

• Make sure a staff member owns this space and is accountable for following procedures.

Recommendations for Designing Exercise Spaces In Post COVID-19 Environments:

• See a sample cardio area below: Adhere to proper distancing between each machine.

• Notice the differences between rows 1 and 2 (before the health crisis), and row 3 (which

considers social distancing spacing).

• See a sample Group Cycle/Spinning room (notice the reduced bike number in the space).

• Make sure the riders have 6’ radius or consider moving the bikes to a basketball court or


• See a sample free weight area (space out the benches, dumbbells, Olympic racks and stations).

• Use Wood platforms for Half and Full racks installations (helps with proper distancing).

I am always here to help you with the following:• Re-configure your group cycling space to reduce the number of bikes per class

• Re-do cardio room design to stager the cardio units

• Best methods for cleaning all cardio, strength products and work out accessories

• Precor Recommended Disinfectant Cleaners document

• Do you need a source for cleaning supplies? I have a great recommendation for you.

Thank you and enjoy this opportunity to re-invent yourself, reset club procedures, and create a safe club environment.

If you have any questions, please send me a note to or call 984-289-9426.

Sal Pellegrino
Senior Manager Strategic Accounts at PRECOR.

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