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Behind Closed Doors: Proactively Building New Protocols for Safer Fitness Facilities

Every day brings a new set of updates as the numbers and the nation respond to the Coronavirus pandemic. Facility teams from every market segment are grappling with how to adapt in order to keep tenants, residents, members and guests safe, especially when visiting commonly used fitness facilities.

Even though the recommendations change day-to-day and it can be dizzying to try and react to every twist in the market, many property leaders are taking proactive action.  Preparations for reopening include rearranging equipment and setting aside floor space to allow for (and encourage) social distancing, and renewed emphasis has been placed on cleanliness in all forms. For organizations with numerous facilities to manage, pivoting to the “new normal” can be challenging, but it’s considered a critical necessity.

The leaders at Bridge Property Management, with multi-family properties in 21 states, took a proactive to the situation. More than 100 of their properties have fitness amenities, and each needed a solution to help figure out how to safely reopen their fitness facilities. Working with Advanced Exercise, revised layouts were compiled for each fitness facility to show how equipment should be arranged to allow for appropriate social distancing.

“Generally, our focus is on cleanliness, spacing and social distancing,” said Micah Brown, director of project management and strategic initiatives for Bridge Property Management. “We received information from all of our property managers to gauge each situation. We ultimately determined that there was an option to move and store equipment to socially distance, use signage to limit the number of people and let them know protocols for spacing.” With on-site storage options limited at most properties, the strategy for redoing fitness layouts became primary, while ensuring new cleanliness processes were put in place as well.

“Each facility has different equipment, different needs and different space allocations, and we were able to reconfigure each layout to accommodate social distancing health recommendations,” said Kent Collins, vice president of business development for Advanced Exercise. “The Bridge properties each took a few minutes to share information on their existing fitness set-up, and we took care of the reconfiguration and provided current expertise and recommendations to maintain public safety levels, saving each facility time and effort during their planning stages to reopen.”

The executive team at Bridge Property Management continues to hold regular strategic discussions on the subject of reopening fitness facilities, with the CEO, president and regional VPs working together to share the decisions and drive communications into every level of the company.  “We started to open certain amenities up once the right cleaning protocols and spacing issues were in place,” added Brown, “but it’s a day-to-day, property-by-property set of decisions.”

As Coronavirus infection levels continue to rise and fall, it’s still a daily call on when and how fitness amenities will reopen. “Communities recognize the importance of fitness amenities for both physical and mental health, especially during times of stress,” commented Collins. “Each property wants to make its fitness facilities safe and available, helping community members feel comfortable by demonstrating new levels of cleanliness and public health awareness. We’ve been able to help many organizations adapt and prepare for heightened levels of vigilance around community health.”

Signage and communication are also key in this mixture, with some equipment pieces marked off or unplugged to ensure social distancing with other units in use. Enforcement is mostly by the honor system at this point, but some facilities are denying entry if masks aren’t worn or they’re finding other ways to limit personal exposure risks. Every facility is different in how they approach the safety protocols that work best for them. However, all are looking to work with fitness and health experts to implement their plans as solidly and professionally as possible.

From creating new layouts that allow for social distancing, to offering touchless temperature check systems and antibacterial wipes, Advanced Exercise’s team of experts are spending time with clients while doors are closed to make sure that all preparations are in place.

Many clients are using downtime to replace outdated equipment or, more importantly, to tear out dirty, bacteria-laden flooring to opt for safer, anti-microbial performance flooring that is easier to clean and presents a fresh look for returning community members. The best time to switch out equipment and flooring is when facilities are closed, so part of the preparations for reopening may include refreshment of the entire fitness environment.

It’s widely agreed that the changes that are being made are not just temporary, but no one seems to be able to predict any solid timing on how long restrictions will last, when doors can safely reopen, and what other changes will be necessary.  So, decision makers are taking things one step at a time, with the latest knowledge available.

“I wish I had a crystal ball, but I don’t know that any of us know what the new normal looks like,” concluded Brown. “With new construction, new offices and new fitness facilities, we’re putting in spacing to allow for social distancing. Now, you have to take that into consideration. Amenities like pools will be at lower capacity to allow for spacing. These were considerations that weren’t there before, but that doesn’t mean that we’re not moving forward. We’re just taking more cautious steps, with new lenses to look through.”

Many fitness spaces are figuring out how to create more individualistic workout spaces, or differently configured group exercise options. Industry experts and facility managers alike are exploring new approaches to creating fitness experiences that meet current needs and comfort levels. The Advanced Exercise team is available for any level of consultation, from a complimentary reopening review to a full flooring assessment, whatever is needed to keep fitness communities safely engaged in the healthy pursuits that they love.

About Advanced Exercise

Founded in 1986, Advanced Exercise is a leading fitness equipment and facility design resource, combining more than 30 years of design expertise with access to top fitness, wellness and recreation equipment brands to help clients create fitness experiences specific to the needs of their distinct communities. Advanced Exercise fitness consultants work with clients to maximize the use of available space in any facility, sourcing the best new or used equipment solutions for diverse ranges of fitness amenity end users. For more information on fitness equipment and facility design services, visit or call 800-520-1112 to connect with one of Advanced Exercise’s experts.


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