The largest gym chain in Michigan has completed an expansive reopening plan that seeks to transform the Judgement Free Zone into the COVID-19 Free Zone.
The Planet Fitness plan calls for half capacity at all gyms, taping off every other piece of equipment, marking squares in the free weight area, strongly encouraging patrons to wear face masks and routine temperature checks for employees, who will be required to wear a mask and gloves.
And no more free pizza, bagels or Tootsie Rolls.
The new rules are detailed in a 45-page playbook issued by the Hampton, N.H.-based company to its 80 franchises in Michigan.
“We believe that fitness is Michigan’s path out of this pandemic,” said Bryan Rief, who owns the largest Planet Fitness franchise group in the state. “Fitness has absolutely proven benefits for people, not only physical benefits but mental benefits as well.”
The pandemic will almost certainly do permanent damage to gyms, whose business is to facilitate heavy breathing and sweating. Some fitness centers in metro Detroit have already thrown in the towel. Gym operators everywhere are hoping that the desire to hit the treadmill again outweighs the fear of getting sick.
As Gov. Gretchen Whitmer moves forward with a phased reopening of businesses in Michigan, gyms and fitness centers are expected to be among the last to receive clearance. Rief, who operates 44 locations statewide under Northville-base PF Michigan Group LLC, said he’s presented his plan to the governor but had not gotten a response.
Once Planet Fitness reopens, new protocols will include:
- Occupancy limited to 50 percent capacity (most locations have regular maximum occupancy of 400)
- Closing off every other piece of equipment
- Check-in by mobile phone
- At least six hand sanitizer stations at each gym
- Creation of a designated waiting area when gym hits capacity
- Group classes not allowed
- The usually 24-hour gyms must close every night for cleaning
- Suspension of free pizza and bagel days
- Mandatory temperature and wellness checks for staff at the beginning of shifts
- Gloves, masks and sanitizer provided to all employees
Rief pointed to an April study about obesity by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as a key part of his pitch to reopen. The study indicated that obesity was the second most common underlying condition, behind hypertension, for a sample of hospitalized COVID-19 patients.