Though reopening timelines are hazy, some governments are discussing plans to open non-essential businesses like gyms.

On the surface, that seems like good news. I'm always happy to have any reason to be optimistic, but let's temper this news with caution. Here's the reality in the US:

  • Thirty percent of renters didn't pay their rent last month.
  • Unemployment is creeping toward 15 percent.
  • Consumer confidence is at an all-time low.
  • Your gym will probably reopen under restrictions (a small number of people allowed in at once or per day).
  • Shelter in place will become the knee-jerk response of every government on Earth.

My purpose is always to bring clarity, not to add to the noise. So I'm going to give you a clear plan to reopen your business—whether you're able to do that in a week or six months.

RECENT: Add Online Training in 24 Hours: The Step-by-Step Plan

Constructing a Plan

When we build a plan, we do it on three levels:

  • The vision level: We define the end goal clearly.
  • The strategy level: (broad strokes: "Here are the things we're going to do to get there").
  • The tactical level, "Here are the specific actions we're going to take, one by one"). I've included a checklist at the end of this post.


When it reopens, your gym will have a mix of in-person clients and online training clients.


These steps are listed in order:

  1. Retain revenue by retaining members online. (Hopefully, you've been doing this well.)
  2. Recover revenue by offering different services to current members online.
  3. Grow revenue by attracting new members to online coaching.
  4. Grow your business through this new online revenue stream and bring people back to in-person training.


  1. Customize your group programming for your members or upgrade them to personalized programming. Offer a group gathering every day or two (it can be a group workout but doesn't have to be).
  2. Ask your top clients, "What do you need most from me right now?" Then tailor your service depending on their answers. You don't have to give more for the same rate, and you definitely shouldn't start giving equipment or advice away for free. During this crisis, you might feel more like a mentor than a coach. If your clients need a service, provide it for them. If you're not qualified to provide a service they need, find a partner who is.
  3. Start attracting new customers using Affinity Marketing, then turn to organic marketing online, and then learn how to use paid ads.
  4. When public spaces reopen, start offering workouts outdoors as soon as possible.
  5. Assume your clients will still need to do at least some of their workouts at home for the next few months and set up a system to sell accordingly.

Gyms in the Two-Brain Business family have had amazing revenue retention during the COVID-19 crisis. Some are now reopening. When I asked them, "What was your checklist?" and "What did you forget?" or "What would you do differently next time?" these were their answers.

Keep in mind that your gym won't look the same as it did on March 1.

You might be wearing masks.

You'll probably have limited class sizes.

You're going to be a full-time cleaner.

You might have to enforce rules you didn't have to enforce before.

Before Reopening

Make sure you have these supplies:

  • An infrared no-touch thermometer
  • Painters tape to grid your gym floor
  • Terry towels to use to clean equipment
  • Multipurpose cleaner
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Paper towels and toilet paper
  • Disinfectant wipes
  • Rubber gloves to wear while cleaning the gym


Send out a detailed email about your cleaning protocol and what you expect from members upon returning. Ask if they're ready to return.

Ask your coaches if they're ready to return yet. If they're not, don't force them to return.

Freshen up your gym. Get the HVAC on.

Clean the toilets.

Post needed signage. Over-communicate the new rules.

Write your new cleaning standard operating procedures for your staff.

Stock up on masks and cleaning supplies.

Leave time to take client and coach temperatures before classes.

Be prepared for some backlash from other businesses and the community (and maybe your gym members) for opening.

Are you going to have your members sign up online? If so, have they done it in the past? Do they know how to do it? Make sure everyone knows and can navigate your procedures.

Call your cleaning company and see how soon it can come back to clean the gym.

Did you loan out equipment? If so, start asking for it back or figure what you have to use for the workout in the gym. Some imagined it all coming back at one time and didn't think of it coming back in phases. Some people are going to come back later in the month, so plan for that.

Budget some time to do maintenance on returned equipment because it might need some care and cleaning.

Don't forget to restock your merchandise.

Consider your programming—most people haven't been using a barbell or doing pull-ups.

Do a full boot up of all systems (check updates).

Update your membership system to reflect new RSVP policies and class sizes.

Restock all retail.

Advise members again of the new requirements before they arrive.

Remind coaches why you're taking these precautions.

Get your game face on. You're going to have to work harder to make this fun!

Reopening Day

Mark out spaces for clients to use in advance. Place equipment in each space before they arrive to avoid crowding at racks. Send a printout of the workout in advance to avoid meetings at the whiteboard.

Add at least 15 minutes between classes or appointments to minimize cross-contamination and give you time for cleaning and setup.

Close your bathrooms and showers if your government requires you to.

You will have to clean every piece of equipment after every use, and clients can't share equipment.

Take away the communal chalk bucket.

Eliminate movements where it's hard to distance people.

Make a huge show of cleaning before, during, and after classes. Even if you were sparkling clean before, perception is everything. Make sure people see you cleaning.

Reopening: After Class

Post pictures that clearly demonstrate safe distancing and clean use. Share only on "insider" channels, not publicly.

Avoid arguments with people who don't think you should be open yet. You can't win arguments online, but you can lose them.

Clean everything from top to bottom. Not your normal "flick off the sweat drops and tidy the dumbbells." Clean everything like your mom and dad will be checking your work later.

Get ready for the next class.

Reopening: After Day 1

At the end of your first day, sit down with your new standard operating procedures and update them for the following day. What went well? What could be improved? Consider this a quick after-action report, and send it to your staff in shorthand.

Finally, check-in with all members who attended. Did they like it? Will they continue to attend in person or would they rather wait?

The best "reopening" won't come down to government decision or even science. It will all come down to public opinion. True leadership won't be measured by how quickly a gym closed but by how carefully it reopens.

Finally, perform an "After Action Report": What went right during the crisis? What didn't? What will you do differently next time?

The real tragedy is a blown opportunity: To fix previous mistakes, to make necessary changes, and to capitalize on this new world of fitness.

Header image credit: Ivan Soima ©