When and how will Gyms and Personal Training studios really open?

Gym reopening

We really are the lucky country! For the fitness industry we’re grateful that most of us in QLD are able to open in stage 2 on the 12th of June – this differs state by state, while dates may vary slightly you can expect other states timelines restrictions to look similar.

The devil is in the detail how the rollbacks will happen. If you’re ready and raring to get back to do your training with us or another fitness facility, here’s a rundown on what you can do in all the stages of the roadmap.  We look at what we expect might happen with different business models in the industry, which will, in turn, have a big impact on clients, members and the livelihoods of the 35,000 people that work in the industry.

One-on-one Mobile Personal Training

Luckily for our Fitness Enhancement Mobile PT franchisees this was never shut down in COVID-19 restrictions, the majority of our mobile Personal Training clients around the country have been able to continue to train outdoors one-on-one with their Trainer during the COVID-19 pandemic. Social distancing and infection control measures have meant sessions have been modified, but still able to be run.


COVID-19 stage 1, the 15th of May: Outdoor group sessions can open


Boot Camps

The big news of stage 1 is that Boot camps or other outdoor group fitness can be run. There must be no more than 10 people in a group (so 1 Trainer and 9 participants) with social distancing and infection control processes. For our PT8 small group Training we will simply be taking these sessions outdoors until our studios are able to re-open, as we expect other gyms to also do. Gyms taking their business to the local park may create a saturation of Trainers and Gym members taking over parks which will come with its own set of problems that councils have dealt with for years. Social distancing will change the dynamic of many sessions, but hopefully everyone will be so happy to be back training that the limitations won’t be a huge issue.

Coronavirus gym

COVID-19 stage 2, the 12th of June: Gyms can open

This is the big one for the fitness industry! Commercial Gyms can re-open in stage 2 with a maximum of 20 people in them at once. However social distancing, combined with the 20 person rule, means that as our industry is quite diverse this is great for some and terrible for others. We’ve broken down what it means for each sector of our industry.

One-on-one Personal Training Studios

While Personal Training Studios lost out earlier on due to being classified as a Gym, we have been fortunate with stage 2. For our Fitness Enhancement Studios, like many around Australia, the 20 person limit won’t have an impact on us. There will need to be some minor changes to ensure social distancing is followed, but most Studios can do this easily.  A typical Studio has somewhere between 5 and 50 clients coming through each day for one on one sessions or very small groups. It’s easy to clean before and after this small number of people. Add to that a Studio knows each client very well, we know exactly what gear they touched and exactly when they are coming in. All of this means private Studios can handle stage 2 better than anyone.

studio location


Boutique Gyms

This label covers most functional group training or indoor boot camp style places, as well as specialty Studios like Yoga, Pilates and Barre (pronounced Bar for anyone who shares Scott Morrisons’s struggle)! The 20 person limit will mean many have to reduce class sizes, and some may need to be even smaller to allow for social distancing.

It hasn’t yet been revealed what social distancing and rules on equipment sharing must be followed for indoor fitness, in other countries where Gyms are already open, a common number is one person per 100 square feet, that’s about 9m² here. It’s certainly higher than the 4m² we have seen in other non-fitness businesses, the main reason being clients breathing heavily and sweating, which can increase the distance body fluids/contamination can spread. Equipment sharing has also been banned in many other countries. If it is banned in Australia, functional fitness places will have to drastically change their format, even if it’s not banned, clients may not be keen on sharing sweaty equipment with the other 18 clients. With larger class numbers compared to Personal Training studios, expect to see a lot more traffic throughout the day, which increases contamination risk and makes cleaning more of a challenge.

boot camp


24/7 Gyms

While many Gyms are 24/7 now, the term tends to refer more to low service gyms. These gyms usually have limited staffed hours, no classes or other luxuries of a full service gym, this means overhead costs are low so membership prices are low.  Expect social distancing to mean every second piece of equipment is taped off so it can’t be used, unless it has fancy screens like the picture of this Gym in Asia.  With limited staffed hours it will be difficult for these facilities to ensure distancing, client number limits and hygiene rules are being followed. Some countries have solved this by mandating that there must always be a staff member there, in effect meaning they can no longer operate as 24/7 gyms. Plus, the cost of staffing will greatly increase overhead costs for the owner and may result in increased membership fees. Depending on the size, a 24/7 Gym may have a few hundred people a day coming through – making contamination risk higher.

COVID-19 Gym


Big Box Gyms

This refers to a large scale, full service health club. You can expect to see a weights section, a cardio section, resistance training machines, multiple group exercise rooms, possibly a pool, spa or sauna, with multiple staff members at the desk, on gym floor and training clients. The big downside in this situation for a big box gym, is the large number of members and staff they need to be financially viable.  Across the wide variety of sizes most have about 2000 to 5000 members, around 100 – 200 people inside during prime times and 500+ people coming through in a day.  It’s simply not profitable for these large facilities with huge electricity and staffing costs, to be open if they can only have 20 people inside at once.

Many may choose to stay closed until COVID-19 stage 3 when they can have 100 or more people inside at a time.


COVID-19 stage 3, the 10th of July: Gyms can have 100 people in them


We’re all hopeful that Australia keeps up the amazing work for stage 3 to roll out in July. This will be a big help for Gyms that rely on way more than 20 people in them at once to survive. However once again the devil is in the detail and many PT”s and Gyms will only get back to being able to provide their usual great experience when social distancing rules are reduced.

Spotting training partners, holding boxing pads, sharing dumbells, stretching clients and even the simple high five are all key elements to the success of many Gyms, so one of the biggest wins for fitness professionals and members will be when this can happen again which may be well after stage 3.


Final thoughts

We’re in unprecedented times, so we just don’t know what may happen to client bases moving forward. As gyms re-open we may see a rush of people desperate to get back to the Gym for the COVID-19 version of a New Years Resolution boom, or it may be very slow to get back to normal. With many people still being worried about the virus, some not being to afford the Gym if they lost their job, others have found a new habit in staying home (hopefully in the form of home exercise, not Netflix)! This is sure to have an impact on how many Gyms survive. We have seen that overseas the return to normal has been slow, but the small numbers have still put many gyms at capacity due to social distancing.

The one thing we do know for sure, is that exercise is essential for good health.  Perhaps the only upside is COVID-19 has helped many people realise how important health is, and no one is more equipped to help than the 35,000 people in the Australian fitness industry that make a living out of their passion for changing lives. There are going to be so many dedicated professionals, such as our Personal Training franchisees desperate to help you get your fitness back on track. So get researching the best place for you and your goals right now, don’t put it off until stage 2 starts!

Author – Scott Hunt. Founder and CEO Fitness Enhancement, Australia’s largest Mobile Personal Training company. Awarded one of the top 5 Personal Training businesses in Australia in 2019. Over 20 years’ experience in the Fitness industry. Fitness Australia council member. Cert III and IV in Fitness. Bachelor of Business, Sports Management.