Getting Back To Class…
Are We Ready?
It will happen. Our world, our countries, and most of our facilities and our classes will reopen. Some sooner than others, but most facilities and pools will reopen post-COVID19.
Sadly, we realize that some facilities and pools will not, and for those individuals impacted by this, we send encouragement that other opportunities will be realized. AEA knows the importance of regular exercise for health and wellbeing, as well as a source of income for fitness professionals across the globe. We want to help you move forward as part of the AEA family.
AEA would like to provide resources and share ideas regarding starting back up your classes and personal training sessions. We encourage you to also share input – motivating ideas, scheduling tips, resources, and even your concerns. Together, we can all become better prepared for this next phase of our aquatic fitness journey.
Please share your thoughts relating to these topics in the comment area at the end of the article.
Topic: Valuable Resources
The World Health Organization (WHO) offers many resources and guidelines for dealing with various aspects of COVID-19, including for schools, workplaces and institutions. The publication, Getting your workplace ready for COVID-19, can be downloaded here https://www.who.int/docs/default-source/coronaviruse/advice-for-workplace-clean-19-03-2020.pdf?sfvrsn=bd671114_6
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has extensive resources on COVID-19, including guidelines for preparing facilities and businesses. Among the important links that you may want to access are:
Water and COVID-19 FAQs “There is no evidence that COVID-19 can be spread to humans through the use of pools, hot tubs or spas, or water playgrounds. Proper operation, maintenance, and disinfection (e.g., with chlorine and bromine) of pools, hot tubs or spas, and water playgrounds should inactivate the virus that causes COVID-19.” https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/php/water.html
Guidance for Administrators in Parks and Recreational Facilities https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/parks-rec/park-administrators.html
Guidance for Retirement Communities and Independent Living https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/retirement/index.html
Cleaning and Disinfecting Your Facilities https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/disinfecting-building-facility.html
Get the latest coronavirus news, from the health experts at WebMD, by subscribing here: https://www.webmd.com/subscribe?pg=1166&icd=wnl_cov_web_cons_instrmend
The US federal government guidelines, Opening Up America Again, can be found here https://www.whitehouse.gov/openingamerica/#phase-one
But even the CDC and WHO will have a difficult time covering every possible scenario, so each facility will develop specific protocol (based upon federal, state and county guidelines) that employees and members must adhere to for optimum safety. As a fitness professional, you must know your expected duties and clear communication with your facility management is extremely important, now more than ever! Some areas to consider at your pool facilities:
We know that the pool itself is a safe place, but people have to get to the pool through the locker rooms and will need to use the restrooms. What policies will be in place to offset these potential problem areas?
Street shoes, and even water shoes worn in the locker rooms and bathrooms, will be potential sources of contaminants. Do you need a modified policy?
Screening recommendations for staff and participants and what is your role in this process. Will your facility have in place any special policies for members who are at higher risk for contracting COVID-19?
Face masks while in public – the policies vary and will likely adjust with time. How will that translate into exercise scenarios?
Size of classes to allow proper social distancing. During intense physical activity, water droplets from respiration (which could contain the coronavirus) travel much further, so safe social distancing may need to be adjusted during group exercise classes. Schedules may need to adjust to more, smaller class sizes.
Keeping facilities clean and disinfected will include all equipment. This may be a good time to consider having your students purchase their own small pieces of aquatic equipment, such as gloves, noodles, bands & loops, and even hand bars.
Topic: Staying in Touch with Clients
Even as fitness centers and swimming pools open, not everyone is going to feel comfortable coming back. Additionally, some facilities may have additional restrictions the older and at risk populations. How can you reach those individuals?
Some of you have been maintaining contact with your class participants and clients through the Stay At Home requirements, which has allowed you to provide encouragement and possibly at-home workouts for fitness maintenance during this interim period. Some of the ways that we have been hearing about include the following:
Zoom meetings, Skype, Facetime, Facebook Live – for classes, small group interactions or one-on-one socialization
Closed Circuit TV – some multi-resident facilities, such as assisted living homes and senior living communities, provide exercise and related courses directly into the residents’ rooms
Email, text – follow up with notes of encouragement, inspirational quotes, educational topics and send sample home workouts.
Phone calls – some people do not have access to technology, or if so are not tech savvy, and appreciate hearing your voice on the phone
Including other information in addition to workouts: boredom busters, things to do while at home, brain puzzles, web links to virtual experiences, etc.
Other ideas to share? Add your comments below to help fellow AEA professionals.
Topic: Need for Socialization
The lack of socialization has been very hard for many people. Research indicates that exercise adherence may be better in group exercise due to the social aspect of gathering together, feeling a part of the community and having accountability to others. Once we begin classes again, many fitness professionals have already realized that the need to talk and catch up will be initially just as important as the exercise aspect. Most people have had the opportunity to exercise at home, but most have NOT been able to visit with their fitness friends and family. So how do we prepare for this?
Do NOT get frustrated with your class. They need time to share, to interact, to experience the joy of gathering together again.
During the first few classes, plan for more time to socialize – while still following the social distancing directives that will be in place.
Now is not the best time for activities that involve touching – but in the pool you may choose partner activities that link individuals together by noodles, such as a circle activity where a noodle is extended between each person for the connection.
Guide socialization with relevant topics, e.g. what did you learn from this experience. Kimberly Huff, AEA Training Specialist, has provided a list of 20 questions that will help you get started. CLICK HERE TO ACCESS
Have you done something different that you want to share with your colleagues? If so, please share at the end of this article.
Topic: Impact of Reduced Exercise
Although many people have had opportunities to exercise throughout the Stay At Home situation, not all have taken advantage of the resources. Some have simply been apathetic about exercising on their own, others may have been fighting depression and a resulting lack of interest, some were hesitant of exercising on their own – or even fearful of becoming injured.
And, although we live in a technology-based world, not everyone has access to this technology or understands how to jump into a virtual Zoom class! Reduced levels of exercise for 2 weeks or longer will show declines in fitness levels. Lack of exercise altogether, for some individuals that may be for periods of 2 months or more, can be devastating to physical abilities as well as self-efficacy, which might hinder the person from beginning to exercise again when the opportunity arises.
How do we prepare for our initial classes to ensure optimal safety? How can we reach those – often our most-vulnerable populations – who may be hesitant, or unsure how, to begin to exercise again?
Don’t expect to pick up where you left off 5 weeks ago! Reduce exercise intensity and/or duration and put more focus on technique for the first few weeks.
Use this time to your advantage to add in components of much-needed socialization (see the previous topic: Need for Socialization).
Ask the participants, “What movements do your find more difficult?” Create exercises to improve performance of those movements.
Offer classes on how to use technology so that participants can access additional resources.
Offer classes where people will feel safe and comfortable in attending after a hiatus from exercise; consider the class name, description and scheduling.
Personally invite those who used to attend classes but have not yet returned. Find out what is preventing them from coming back to class – health, finances, accessibility to facility, fear? Can you help them overcome barriers?
Consider keeping some virtual classes on the schedule to help participants make the transition and also reach those who are not able to be in class.
What else can you do to make it easier to begin exercising after a long break – or for some, to finally begin to exercise?
Your colleagues would like to hear your ideas, so please post below.