Re-opening indoor fitness: make your customers feel safe and confident

13 min read
Prioritising your customers' safety and confidence at your gym or studio is the best way to make sure your re-opening is a big success. Check out our steps on what you can do to help them feel safe.

Prioritising your customers' safety and confidence at your gym or studio is the best way to make sure your re-opening is a big success. Check out our steps on what you can do to help them feel safe.

As you prepare to welcome your customers back to group fitness classes, there are several ways you can guarantee your re-opening is a success, starting with making sure your customers feel safe. Your customers' comfortability, health and wellbeing are the first things on their minds as they decide whether or not to return to your gym or studio. In this guide, you can learn how your customers are feeling and what you can do to make sure they feel safe and confident about returning. Let's get started.

new wave crossfit spaced out in the gym


Photo Credit: New Wave CrossFit

Visible safety protocols boost comfortability

The moment your customers walk through your door it is your responsibility to ensure their safety. Updating your health and safety protocols to adhere to government-recommended guidelines is the best way to show your customers you are doing everything you can to provide them with a safe space to return to. The recommended safety measures for gyms, studios and fitness centres include:

  • Setting up hand sanitisation stations throughout your facility.
  • Allotting for extra time before, during, and after classes to properly sanitise and clean each piece of equipment, space, and station.
  • Using only medical-grade disinfectants and products.
  • Requiring customers to wear a mask while in class and in the facility.
  • Checking the temperature of each member as they enter your facility.
  • Requiring all staff and members to undergo the same safety protocols to instil trust and inclusivity.

Keeping your facility clean and sanitary and abiding by the regulations laid out by both your local and national governments can help you encourage your customers to return and ensure your facility stays open for the long run.

Embrace smaller class sizes for a more personal touch

One of the biggest causes for concerns amongst gym-goers is that there will be too many people within one facility at a time. People are more aware than ever of their personal space and with regulations telling everyone how distanced they should be from one person to the next, their level of nervousness increases when they feel that boundary has been crossed.

You can keep a safe distance between each of your members by adjusting your class sizes. While this might seem like a major change in the way you operate, it can actually help you give more of your attention to individual customers in one class and make better observations and guidance. It's safer for you and your customers and you don't have to worry about them feeling cramped in your space.

  • When you open your timetable, give your customers a heads up that classes are smaller so they can adjust their schedules.
  • Offer alternatives including additional class times, online classes or live-streamed classes, and on-demand content to supplement the change in class size.
  • Measure your classroom or studio space to get the number of members you can have in one classroom right.
  • Require memberships in order to come to class. Eliminating the drop-in option will help you avoid customers arriving sporadically.
  • Double-check that your timetable correctly reflects the new class size to avoid any confusion.

While adjusting your class sizes can impact your timetable, it will help your customers feel more comfortable in class and help you better assist those customers and their safety and fitness needs.

Once we were able to return we came back to 50% so we got to run one track meet all summer. We trained and split the training inside (outside not so much) and the number of athletes training at a time went from 20 to 15. We made adjustments and we have stuck by that and it actually helped me manoeuvre around the facility better. You want to be able to see everyone and be able to coach everyone so it helps to have less in the facility at a time. - Carlos Codie, owner of Elite Speed & Sports Training

Make sure everyone gets a chance to come to class with an expanded timetable

Due to reducing your class sizes, some of your customers might feel that there are limited options for them to come to class and will thus feel discouraged about returning. Yes, they can sign up for your waitlist, but even then that list can get very long and your customers might never get added to the list.

You can avoid long waitlists and customers not being able to register, by expanding your timetable. Offering additional class times and class types that your customers enjoy will give them a wider opportunity to come to class and not feel like they are missing out. While adding more times will add to your plate, your software can help you make the best decisions on how to organise and restructure so that your flow and admin isn't overloaded by more class times and registrations.

  • Use your reports to check and see the most booked class times and use that information to schedule additional classes of that type.
  • Ask your customers which classes they are most likely to attend and include more of their favourite class types in your schedule.
  • Offer additional class formats including live-streaming your in-person classes online, for people who prefer to attend class from home.
  • Update your customers with the new times available and reserve your regulars in advance so that they don't miss out on their favourite time slots.

Encouraging your customers to come back to your gym or studio only to find little to no availability can have the exact opposite effect you want. Prepare in advance for this possibility by asking your customers what classes they plan on coming to, opening up memberships early, and checking your past reports.

When we first came out of lockdown 2, the waitlist was filling up super quickly, so members were wondering how they could train when I was capping the classes and they were used to having much more availability. I knew I had to add more to my timetable and it was a lot for me, but it was the only way to keep the waitlist down and keep everyone moving. I arranged the timetable so it was back to back with a class from 9:15 am to 10 am and the next class from 10:15 am to 11 am, leaving me 15 minutes in between to clean, set up, and prepare for the next group. I also offered nightly classes in the same structure, and the clients were so happy to have so many options. - James Robertson, owner of the Fitness Game UK

Don't be afraid to raise your prices now that you are offering a premium service

Cleaning supplies, medical-grade disinfectants, adjusting class sizes, and purchasing new equipment doesn't come cheap. But neither does offering your customers a premium service for a low price. Raising your membership prices will help you offset additional costs you now incur due to providing a more safe and secure experience for your customers.

No one enjoys having conversations about payments and money, but your customers will understand that this is what you need to do to operate and offer them a safe and clean space to use. Do your homework, check your reports and forecasts, and find out what makes the most sense for you and your business before you change your prices. While your customers won't mind paying extra for a better service, they won't want those prices changing again and again.

If you are still uncomfortable with making a change in your current prices, consider offering new packages entirely. Let your customers know that while you transition back to your normal class schedule and routine, these packages and prices better reflect your provided service and experience. If you need some assistance figuring out your new prices, take a look at our pricing guide.

"It was one of our clients who's been helping us get better on top of the business generally and made us look at our numbers and bottom line...basically we have to go to reduce our class numbers — albeit temporarily, we have got to invest in a machine to clean/sterilize the air in the studio because we have no windows at all, no outside walls to vent, so to ensure client confidence in returning we have to spend a minimum of £600 upwards possibly over a grand on an air filtration system. Even with larger classes, we need to address ventilation or lack thereof. People are always funny about prices but we will be paying a premium for lots of supplies that our members know we cannot work without, so it shouldn't be a surprise for anyone that prices will rise." - Karen Grinter, owner of Northants Pilates

Over-communication is not the enemy

Recent studies show that while people generally feel more confident about returning to the public spaces they frequented before the pandemic, they are still hesitant. According to IHRSA's COVID Era-Fitness Consumer Report, 89% of fitness customers who recently returned to their gym felt informed about the safety measures, opposed to the 55% who had not yet returned and thus felt less informed.

Transparency is key and communicating with your customers is key. An informed decision is always better than one based on the unknown. Provide them with the facts and encourage their return based on concrete evidence of what you are doing to keep them safe.

  • Include updates about your measures in your email marketing and social media posts.
  • Update your forms and waivers to include new information on your policies. When your customers go to book your class or purchase a new membership they will be prompted to read and sign your waiver. Your customers will need to read and accept your new policies in order to register, thus showing you they agree to adhere to your new rules.
  • Send your customers additional check-ins leading up to your re-opening with the information they might need to know before returning, including what arrival and departure protocols are and what they need to do before coming to a class.

The more prepared your customers are the more responsibility and control they'll feel over their own safety and wellbeing in your facility as well.

Find out how your customers feel about coming back to class by...asking!

Your customers have different motivations for wanting to re-embark on their indoor fitness journey and don't be too surprised if their previous motivations have shifted. As their trainer or teacher, it's your job to help them adapt to the current situation and address their new motivations with just as much support and encouragement as you did before lockdown and in your online classes. Their needs and motivations for coming back to the gym become your most powerful sales message, so find out what those are before you re-open.

  • Send your customers a check-in survey before classes resume to find out their new goals.
  • Find out what they did at home during lockdown so you can figure out how to help them transition back into the gym.
  • Don't shy away from the hard conversations. Your customers have been through a lot and might need you to be a little more hands-on as they navigate returning.

There is no better way to find out where your customers are at than by asking them yourself. Talk to your customer, give them a call, or send a message. Your outreach can be just the thing they need to decide to come back.

We knew a lot of people were on hold or cancelled so when we found out we could start outdoors again we started taking deposits and applied them as account credit on TeamUp. That holds their spot and since we are going to have much more limited availability and space with social distancing, we can now see who plans to come back right away.

I have also been able to sign people back up and start their memberships once we fully re-open so it has helped people want to come back. Being able to hold peoples' memberships was really helpful and now they can come back and we've been able to value them for being loyal customers. - Lizzie Fisher, owner of CrossFit 2012

Incorporate your customers' new fitness interests into your programs

Your customers will have found other ways to keep themselves fit and entertained while your facility was temporarily closed. According to Run Repeat's Fitness Trends Report, exercising outdoors is currently the #1 most popular fitness trend for 2021 followed by at-home exercise, personal training, sports, and online classes. You can encourage and motivate your customers to return by including these interests in your programs.

  • Offering them a variety of indoor, outdoor, online, and on-demand to keep them engaged and eliminate their need to look for external content or resources
  • Ask your customers to suggest themes, exercises, and classes they love so you can include those in your classes, timetable, and program.
  • Find additional teachers with specialised interests and resources to guest teach your class.
  • Incorporate leading trends into your programs to keep things fresh. Whether it's Peloton, races, or Apple Watch workouts, your customers need supporting programs, and you can provide them with that content they now enjoy.

Just because your customers have new interests doesn't mean they are no longer interested in what you have to offer. Take those interests and find ways to build an even better service and experience for your customers that they can't get anywhere else.

Ease everyone back into exercise, it's been awhile

Whether your customers took online classes or watched on-demand content or found alternative ways to stay fit, everyone is going at a different pass. The last thing you want is for your customers to return only to injure themselves because they jumped in too fast. They are excited and eager, but pushing their limits will not get them to their goals faster.

  • Don't let your customers overdo it in their first days back. This will only prolong their return and leave them discouraged.
  • Remind your customers that while they kept up with their routines at home, they need to take it easy and go back to basics.
  • Motivate your customers to come back strong without overemphasising the need to "go go go." Support and patience are going to be your best tools.
  • Organise your programs to help them build back up without breaking them down.

You and your customers want their return to be for the long haul, and in order to do that they need to ease back in and exercise safely.

Trust your instincts

You know better than anyone who your customers are and what they need. This is a transition period and there is no right size fits all answers to all of your questions. But with patience, support, following proper guidelines, and considering all of these steps to providing a better safer experience, your re-opening will be a huge success and big step in the right direction for your business.

To learn more about re-opening your gym, studio, or indoor fitness facility check out our essential guide to re-opening. Don't forget, your software can help! Sign in to your dashboard or sign up for a free trial to help you organise and prepare to re-open.

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