As The Bahamas moves into phase five of the national reopening of the economy plan, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis announced in the House of Assembly on Monday that gyms are allowed to reopen on Wednesday July 1.
As expected, gym operators are excited and relieved for that announcement as they have been closed since March.
“The reaction is relief,” said Kent Bazard, operator of Empire Fitness. “As gym owners, we are very anxious to get back to business as we have been closed for three months without any income and still having bills to pay and it was a very uncomfortable situation all around. Definitely not optimal but we are excited to get back to business.”
Also happy to get back in operation after three months of closure is owner of Evolve Functional Fitness, Tangerine Dinnick.
“I am ecstatic. I finally have a date of when my business is going to be opened. It is good news for us,” Dinnick said.
Better Bodies Gym partner Kenny Greene said they are very excited to provide their service again.
“We are elated and very excited that we are able to cater to the general public again. Gyms are essential for good health and we know that a healthy nation is a wealthy nation. We feel that the gym plays an integral part of that,” Greene said.
Gyms on New Providence have been using hospital-grade sanitizing methods for years.
Bazard said a group of gym owners got together and submitted a proposal for safety protocols, from when the country began to enter into phase two of the reopening plan. Those protocols were based on what they thought made sense locally and what other gyms were doing around the world.
As expected, there have been some tweaks in how they operate. For Bazard’s gym, which is located in Seagrapes Shopping Plaza, there has been proper sanitizing protocols from they first opened their doors. Those protocols include sanitizing their equipment and implementing hand sanitizing stations. He said he has added a few new safety measures.
“We start with controlling the entry point and making sure that there is no crowding at the entrance and persons can get in safely and easily. Patrons can sanitize their hands as soon as they walk inside and check-in without making contact with employees and each other,” Bazard said. “At Empire Fitness, we are going to request for persons to limit their training time for at least the first phase to allow others to get in. We are going to have a digital check-in system using our Empire Fitness app.”
Greene said they, too, have put in some added measures for their patrons.
“We have put in a few extra sanitizing stations,” Green stated. “We are going to be even more adamant about insisting that we practice a healthy and clean environment in which our patrons can operate. We were always held to a higher standard than the average everyday business. We have a fairly large facility that can accommodate patrons and allow for proper social distancing. The way our gym floor is laid out, the floor plan and spacing of the equipment already are eight to 10 feet apart, so the gym is very spacious and allows for proper social distancing.”
Better Bodies is located in the Shirley Street Plaza. Greene said they will be operating at about one-third capacity.
Over at Evolve Functional Fitness in Palmdale, a family fitness gym, they, too, are taking steps in ensuring that proper protocols are in place.
“One of the new protocols we have in place is fever checks at the door. Then once their fever is fine, we give them a sanitizing spray to sanitize their hands. They have to come in with a mask and wait to enter the class and follow instructions. The class has been spread out where we have half hour deep cleaning sessions between each class and we have also marked off our gym space by boxes that are nine feet by eight feet to allow people to move in their own area of the gym,” Dinnick said. “I also have a swimming pool, so I had to think about swimming protocols and how I was going to handle my swimming pool. We have reduced capacities there, only allowing 12 swimmers in a 25-meter pool at any given time. No one can be on the wall at the same time while practicing social distancing. They will have to enter the pool deck with a mask and take off the mask as they enter the pool and put it into a Ziploc bag. Before they get out of the pool, the mask must go back on.”
For Empire Fitness, persons will be able to book their slots to participate in classes. They will be given preference and walk-ins are also welcomed. Bazard said he is looking at up to 90 minutes’ workout time for each patron. He is asking for patrons to co-operate and be patient because it is not a good situation as they try to get back to normal proceedings.
Evolve Functional Fitness has both a kids fitness and swimming program and Dinnick said she does not know when those programs will resume as the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture, up to yesterday, had not recommended when those programs could start again.
Dinnick also encourages persons who want to use the gym to book in advance. With the national curfew in place from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m., she said she is waiting to see if she can open at 5 a.m. or push it back to a later time.
According to Dinnick, a company will be coming to sanitize the entire building as they prepare to open for business.
Some of the classes offered at Evolve Functional Fitness are water aerobics, yoga, therapy for senior citizens, weightlifting classes, dance classes and strength classes.
Bazard said that they have to perform a balancing act and they are going to do their best to make it work. He stated that he expects a mad rush to the gyms on Wednesday, July 1. They are opened from 6 a.m. and close at 8 p.m.
Greene is hoping that the government of The Bahamas allows them to have an extended period of time to open and inspect the gyms and enough time to sanitize upon closing, so that they can make their way to their respective homes before the curfew comes into effect at 10 p.m.
Come Wednesday, gyms are prepared to ensure the safety of their patrons with the various protocols put in place by public health officials.