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Gym debuts workout pods made from shower curtains as chains increase sanitation

The gym's owner said he came up with the pod strategy so his clients wouldn't need to wear masks the whole time they worked out.
Owner Peet Sapsin leads a class that uses workout pods.FREDERIC J. BROWN / AFP via Getty Images
/ Source: TODAY

As gyms across the country begin to reopen, many (and hopefully all) are taking precautions to help fitness fans stay COVID-19-free.

One gym in Redondo Beach, California, is taking a more unusual approach: building actual pods with shower curtains and pipes for each patron to work out in by themselves.

The owner of Inspire South Bay Fitness, Peet Sapsin, told TODAY they had created the pods as a low-cost alternative to installing plexiglass dividers.

Owner Peet Sapsin built the pods using zip ties, shower curtains and pipes.FREDERIC J. BROWN / AFP via Getty Images

“When we built the dividers, we were like, ‘OK what can we do so that our clients don’t have to wear a mask?’” Sapsin said, adding their contraptions were “well received.”

“Everybody was super excited,” he said on Monday. “Our classes were maxed out this morning.”

A small gym with usually only around 30 people working out a day, he said each class they run with the pods will only have nine people inside.

People exercise at Inspire South Bay Fitness on June 15. FREDERIC J. BROWN / AFP via Getty Images

“If you stand in the middle of the pods you’re at least 10 feet apart,” he explained. “We turn off the AC the entire time and open up all our doors and have fans that push the air out.”

Sapsin added if clients are still concerned about working out at the gym, they can stay home and watch their workouts online. Sapsin plans to keep streaming classes online until there’s a COVID-19 vaccination.

Just north of Sapsin’s gym, Urban 728 Yoga also reopened on Monday. Owner Joe Komar told TODAY they’re taking a lot of precautions at their Los Angeles studio.

“We’re following all the guidelines,” he said. “Overall ... our facility is contact-free from the student’s perspective. They don’t touch anything.”

Komar said students wait outside until just before the class opens, and they walk them in only four people at a time and check their temperatures and ask them to use hand sanitizer. Each class is only allowed to have 20 people in a room that would normally fit 50 to 60, and there is an extended period between each class to let the rooms clear out and be sanitized again. He added there is a commercial-grade ventilation system he happened to have installed when he opened the studio three years ago.

“Before all this, I was a huge believer that you need fresh air in a yoga studio,” Komar explained, adding the air is circulated through a HEPA filter within the ventilation system several times throughout each class.

Komar said each mat is a safe distance apart and everyone wears a mask until they're at their location on the mat.

“We started with four classes this week, just to see if people are going to come, but as more people want to come, we’ll just add classes,” he said. “People are feeling nervous about getting back into their lives.”

Popular dance studio Playground LA is taking similar precautions; in an email sent to clients, the gym owners outlined a contactless check-in and extensive hand sanitizing.

"We ask that you maintain social distancing AT ALL TIMES," Playground LA said in the email. "We will be placing markers on the dance floor for you to follow and stay within during the class."

National Chains

As gyms begin to reopen across the country, franchise owners of national chains are making decisions about how to keep their clients safe.

Planet Fitness told TODAY that staff will get daily temperature checks when they arrive at work and will have finished “extensive” training about enhanced sanitization policies and procedures.

A company spokesperson said they are doing “increased, thorough cleaning” with disinfectant, including “walk arounds every 20 minutes by our team to continually clean and sanitize high-touch areas.”

The company also appears to have trademarked its own way of maintaining social distance: “Social Fitnessing.” The spokesperson added some pieces of cardio equipment will be marked as out of use as a result of keeping customers a safe distance apart.

Orangetheory Fitness Reopens With New Measures Amid Pandemic
Clients run on treadmills during a class at an Orangetheory Fitness gym in Atlanta on May 27, 2020.Elijah Nouvelage / Bloomberg via Getty Images

Another national chain, Orangetheory Fitness, told TODAY their franchise locations are in charge of their own protocols, but the company “strongly” encouraged local studios to follow recommended cleaning and safety guidelines.

A spokesperson for the company said their guidelines had classes limited to the number of stations — each with one treadmill, rower and weight stand — in each studio, and coaches as well as people working out would need to wear a mask to and during class. Coaches and gym members will also have to have their temperature taken before entering and will have to use hand sanitizer before walking into the lobby. They said each studio will be deep cleaned before reopening and disinfected after every class by staff wearing PPE and keeping a log of each cleaning. Every night, the spokesperson said, each studio should be disinfected again. She added the fans should be kept running 24/7 and all air filters should be changed to HEPA filters, “at a minimum.”