5 days back in the game - my post COVID experience so far
It's July 30th. 5 days ago, I stepped foot in a gym for the first time in 4 months. In these 5 days I have delivered 14 group fitness classes, so not exactly easing myself back in gently. I wanted to share my initial reactions to getting back into the studios both as a record for myself and future readers to look back on and see how far we've come and also to help anyone who's clubs might not have opened yet or may not be teaching yet due to their personal circumstances. Here are my 5 biggest takeaways from the last few days:
1. Members are all responding differently
Some members at clubs I've visited are acting as if the last 4 months never happened, whilst others are being incredibly cautious. Everyone has experienced the pandemic differently so this was to be expected. However, it is this time that we need to put out foot down as instructors. We all know that the gyms could easily be asked to close again if we experience another spike and you don't want to risk losing your class because someone complained you weren't following proper procedure. Make sure you are enforcing the club's rules and be firm with people. This is a great time to get rid of some of those nasty studio habits that people had picked up before all this.
2. Every club has a slightly different procedure
Not a huge difference, but just tiny tweaks that make it a real pain to keep up with! Generally the big rules are the same; class capacities have been reduced, no sharing of kit, no hands on corrections and sanitise everything post workout. However, there are small discrepancies between companies. Some places are asking people to bring their own mats, some aren't allowing it. Some are doing temperature checks, other's aren't. Make sure you are confident with the procedures of each club before you teach there.
One large chain (that I won't name for obvious reasons) have asked all their instructors to purchase their own headset for the mic, usually to the tune of £100. I am really appalled by this as after 4 months of no/low revenue, this multi-million pound chain should be supporting their freelancers, not asking them to shell out in order to work again. In contrast, a smaller leisure centre chain have supplied all of their instructors with their own personal headset, free of charge. This company charges half the monthly membership fees of the big chain...
Image credit: Virgin Active
3. Staff are trying their best
These are unprecedented times and every member of staff is trying to adapt to this new way of working. They're all a little rusty after 4 months away and on top of that have been thrown in with a whole new bunch of ways of working. Please be kind to club staff. Make any feedback you have on their processes constructive and inform them if you saw anything that could be improved. Don't just shout at them and tell them they're not doing well enough - that doesn't help anybody!
4. This is a great time to connect with your members
On the whole, people are thrilled to be back but there are some who are still nervous. As class sizes are smaller we can pay even more attention to the people in front of us and really make them feel welcomed. This is a great time to learn some more names, make a lot of eye contact and connect. Give people the personal experience that they have been craving for the last 4 months.
5. You need to be kind to yourself
When I woke up on Sunday morning after teaching 2 classes on re-open day, I could barely move my neck! I wondered how on earth I used to do this full time. We are all going back to increased training volumes and your body is going to feel it. Take an epsom salt bath, get on your foam roller, get a sports massage if you feel safe to do so, allow yourself to eat that donut. Your body will adapt again but in the mean time give it a little bit more love. Get lots of rest and fuel it well.
(I deserve these...)