Gyms and yoga studios in Dubai have been given the go-ahead to reopen after more than two months of enforced closure, but with a long list of strict guidelines in place, some are moving faster than others to welcome back their clients.
Among the instructions released by Dubai Sports Council on Tuesday, May 26 for opening the following day, sports and fitness establishments must:
- keep to 50 percent capacity
- ensure staff and customers wear masks at all times, which can be removed for “strenuous physical exercise” such as HIIT classes
- have all equipment sanitized by a Dubai Municipality-approved sterilization company
- maintain two-meter social distancing and install acrylic or plastic dividers between machinery
- close off all waiting areas, locker rooms and shower cubicles and sanitize bathrooms and toilets after each use or at least every hour
- clean all frequently used equipment and floors after each use
- trainers and instructors are not allowed to congregate, and hours are limited to those outside of the National Sterilization Program in Dubai, which runs from 11pm to 6am.
- all customers, trainers, coaches and employees must have their temperature taken before the start of every activity
- anyone with a temperature higher than 37.5 degrees Celsius, or a cough, respiratory disease, breathing difficulties or a compromised immune system will not be allowed to take part.
- no under-12s and over-60s
Catherine Hanson Farid, director of operations for REPS, an independent public register of fitness professionals in the UAE, said the announcement on reopening had come at just the right time, as it was now getting too hot to exercise outdoors.
“We feel that the fitness industry is part of the solution to Covid-19,” she said. “It is imperative that people maintain their fitness and are also mindful of healthy eating and leading a healthy lifestyle overall.”
While some gyms have already opened, others are taking a little more time to ensure all possible safety measures are in place.
As Dryp, a hot yoga studio in Dubai Marina, posted on Instagram: “We have heard the good news & we are now working to get ready to welcome everyone back. Most important now is YOUR safety and we just need to make sure all the necessary guidelines are in place.”
Shimis Yoga Studio in Al Serkal also announced via Instagram that it would not be able to reopen on Wednesday. “We are busy preparing the studio to ensure complete safety for our customers,” said the post.
Karma Yoga in the Dubai Marina and Inspire Yoga on Sheikh Zayed Road both reopened this week, telling clients they had to bring their own mats, towels and water bottles along with all the other precautions that would be taken.
Inspire Yoga assured hesitant clients that it would continue to offer virtual classes via Zoom and freeze membership packages until September 1, “at which time we hope to have returned to the ‘new normal’.”
Gyms and studios that did open worked overtime to reassure potentially worried clients that it was safe to come back. Gold’s Gym UAE posted disinfection certificates and created bookings for 90-minute workout slots, to allow for 30 minutes cleaning time in between.
Warehouse Gym in Al Quoz reassured clients on social media: “We pledge to follow the government guidelines thoroughly and efficiently. We will also be implementing some strategies of our own to go above and beyond to ensure your safety.”
Loren Holland, chief executive and founder of GymNation, a new chain of affordable gyms, said:
“Whilst we have always been dedicated to the cleanliness of GymNation locations and the health and safety of our staff, we have been working round-the-clock to ensure that all additional safety and cleanliness measures have been implemented within our gyms, in accordance with government guidelines.”
Staff had been given extensive training in Covid-19 protocols, while all gyms in the company had been sanitized by an approved contractor, he added, and this would continue “on a daily basis.”
Metalize, an 836-square-meter, Dubai-based independent strength and conditioning gym based in Ras Al Khor, announced they are changing focus. They are limiting classes to eight people and offering virtual class bundles for customers not yet ready to return, and discounts for those who are.
“We want to help people to get or stay fit in a way that is safe and works for them, and that includes a new focus and new membership options,” explained Metalize founder and owner, Abdel Rahman.
Freelance trainer Lesley Jones said the announcement on reopenings had come as a relief.
“Clients are still concerned about returning to gyms but I hope when they see what safety guidelines are being put in place, they should not worry.”
Anna Pukas has reported from all over the world as a foreign correspondent for British media. She is now an editor based in Abu Dhabi.