In a recent interview with Cheddar, Planet Fitness CEO Chris Rondeau suggested that gyms could enforce social distancing policies as they take steps toward reopening in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
Gyms are among the businesses included in the first phase of the Trump administration’s plan to reopen segments of the economy. According to Business Insider, gyms can open “if they adhere to strict physical distancing and sanitization protocols.”
“We’re really going to be reiterating our cleaning policies and procedures with our staff,” Rondeau told Cheddar on Friday.
Most of Planet Fitness’ 2,000-plus locations closed in mid-March, and franchisees were urged to do the same. The initial plan was to close through March 31, but an update that came on March 30 extended the temporary closures until further notice.
Rondeau said that he spoke to an executive based in Asia about the necessary steps gyms took after opening in that part of the world, telling Cheddar that they unplugged every other piece of cardio, so that forced some space between treadmills, for example.
“That might be one thing we have to do at the beginning,” Rondeau said.
Fitness facilities and gyms have been among the hardest-hit businesses during the pandemic, along with other industries that rely on attendance in a physical location, such as restaurants, bars and movie theaters. Many gym members have demanded that their memberships be placed on hold while their access to facilities is restricted, which means those businesses are losing out on recurring revenues.
Gold’s Gym, another major gym franchise, closed about 30 company-owned (i.e., not franchisee-owned) locations in markets across several states.
Meanwhile, the pandemic has accelerated consumer adoption of at-home fitness options, such as remote streaming.
“We realized that the trend is going this way, and I don’t really see it as a way that people replace a gym membership,” Rondeau told Cheddar, “but it enhances their ability to work out when they can’t get to the gym that day.”