Around the world some brick and mortar studios are preparing to reopen, some have opened and are being closed down again, while others are choosing to stay closed; continuing with virtual sessions. As we continue to navigate through so many unknowns it’s easy to fall into feeling overwhelmed or a loss of control.
One thing we can control is striving for optimal health; as individuals and as service providers in our community. We know that having and maintaining a strong immune system is vital to combatting any illness and a consistent Pilates practice plays a key role. As we witness many people disregarding the guidelines of wearing masks and social distancing or the rapidly increasing COVID-19 cases, it’s vital to uphold a high standard of health and cleanliness. As professionals, whether you’re a studio owner, employee, or freelance teacher, you can be the leader and role model both in and out of the studio. Here are some tips for staying healthy in the studio:
Handwashing is the most effective way to prevent spreading germs (not just for COVID-19). Germs hang out on surfaces and spread through touch; specifically by touching your eyes, nose, and mouth. In general, everyone should be washing their hands when handling food, after using the toilet, touching animals, cleaning, touching garbage, caring for an ill person, and more. Since the COVID-19 outbreak, it’s recommended to wash your hands even more often, especially after being in public places and before touching your eyes, nose, or mouth. In the Pilates studio, this means washing your hands upon entering and exiting the studio and in between clients.
Hand sanitizer is the next best thing, however, it doesn’t get rid of all germs. Handwashing with soap and water will always be the most effective. Hand sanitizers need to have a minimum of 60% alcohol and given the time to dry.
Countries, states, provinces, counties, and organizations differ on this subject. Many studios have made masks optional due to the social distancing measures that are being taken (spacing out the equipment and setting up sanitary stations). However, there is speculation that COVID-19 may be airborne, so requiring everyone to wear a mask would be the safest precaution. Gloves are proving to be more of a nuisance and less effective; readily spreading germs, so it’s best to hand wash and use hand sanitizers instead.
For people that are wary of exercising with a mask, Pilates Anytime instructor, Sherri Betz reminds us to reframe everything to a positive. Deep breathing is a key component of a strong immune system and there are theories stating that deep breathing moves viruses through and prevents them from settling in. Wearing a mask challenges your inhaling capability making the diaphragm and respiratory muscles work harder, thus strengthening them.
Some studios have never been a sock-free environment but now all studios will be. It’s important to use grippy socks as opposed to regular ones to prevent falls on the floor or slipping on the moving apparatus.
Many studios are requiring clients to purchase their own props and even their own pair of foot/hand straps. It’s a double win for the studio and clients, as it eases one thing off the teacher’s cleaning list as there are more cleaning protocols than before, and it holds the client accountable for their homework. Clients purchasing their own props can be another source of income for the studio as direct selling or as an affiliate. Clients bringing their own towels and water bottles cut down on the cleaning process and possible spread of germs.
The majority of Pilates studios around the world were already fairly clean but now cleanliness will take on a whole new meaning. All equipment will have to be cleaned before and after every session. Any common surfaces touched will also have to be disinfected. New protocols may be enforced such as when clients can enter the studio, going paperless (teacher signs everyone in), starting classes later, finishing earlier, or smaller numbers of people in the studio.
A topic that was easily thrown around before is now more important than ever. Your own self-care is not only vital to keeping your business running, but also keeping you physically, mentally, emotionally well. The new protocols will require a different mindset and diligence to keep following the guidelines, not to mention encouraging your colleagues and clients to adapt to the ‘new normal’. Make sure you’re getting outdoors for fresh air and sunshine, sleeping more than enough, mindfully eating, moving your body, and doing things that bring you joy. For many of us in the wellness industry, especially studio owners, this may sound condensing after 4+ months off, possibly losing clientele and fear of being able to cover the bills. Hang in there! Remember to breathe and just like the protocol on a plane, the parent needs the oxygen mask before they can help their child. You need to take care of yourself in order to care for your business, your family, clients, and community.
Circumstances are very different now compared to pre-COVID. Just as waivers and liability insurance had to be altered for virtual sessions, the same holds true for protecting yourself and your business from the possible liability of anyone getting sick. Contact your lawyers and insurance providers to update waivers, policies, and insurance coverage.
Make sure you’re up to date on your country, state, province, or county’s guidelines for local businesses and implement them. Studio owners may feel the need to add additional safety measures and clear boundaries for clientele and colleagues. It’s important that ALL teachers are on board. Teachers working at/for a studio, if you know that you’ll be in situations in your personal life in which you can’t adhere to social distancing or wearing masks, it’s your responsibility to speak up and bow out. You can always continue with virtual sessions. As teachers, if you feel your studio is lacking in precautions, speak up.
The motto has been ‘we’re all in this together’ so everyone; owners, teachers, and clients need to be on the same page without anyone feeling like they’ll be penalized.
You may have to be firm about your guidelines, especially if a client feels they’re healthy and there’s no need to follow them. If a client has been traveling or stayed in an area where restrictions on social distancing are lax, you may want to implement a 2-week quarantine rule before re-entering the premises. Remember you can always continue to offer virtual sessions between in-studio sessions.
Once you’ve made a plan, make it very clear; post info on your website, send emails, or make a fun video. Some studios have made excellent 3-5 minute videos walking through the changes of the studio as a client re-entering the premises.
Many studios are shortening their sessions by 10-15 minutes due to the additional cleaning and smaller class sizes. In general, group sessions will be smaller to accommodate social distancing, and as a result studio owners have had to make a slight increase to cover the costs. Being upfront and honest goes a long way and communities want to support their local businesses.
It isn’t going to be easy, but Pilates isn’t easy either. However, it is worth the time and investment and so are the protocols for staying safe and healthy in the studio. Your mindset and attitude will make a big difference in not only your own adaptation but those of your clients. Let us know in the comments below how you plan to implement any of the tips above or any additional tips you have for staying healthy in the studio.
For an example of how to run in-person sessions with COVID-19 protocols check out Sherri Betz’s webinar (the first 36 min).