Michelle Welling

Firsthand Review of Post-Lockdown London Fitness Studios

1REBEL victoria opens after lockdown

When lockdown set in, I, like many people, rushed online to kit out a makeshift amateur home gym. Up to this point, I had been training about 5 days a week, training for a since-cancelled marathon. With only 381 days until the new race date (sigh), I was afraid of falling out of shape. Fitness goals aside, exercise has always been a positive outlet to help regulate my mental and physical wellbeing. It’s no secret a bit of exercise can help boost a mood – as demonstrated by millions of Britons making the most of their once-a-day outings in the early days of lockdown.

But with my home gym set up and a social media feed saturated with workouts, I couldn’t find the same motivation to keep up a routine of exercise. I eventually accepted that perhaps I needed to take some time off rather than guilt myself for not exercising as much as I did before you know what. I went out for the odd run around now and then, but I largely neglected the new dumbbells and online workouts.

So, when the UK did finally announce the reopening of gyms and fitness studios, I like so many others who had spent the past however-many months fluctuating in activity and motivation, eagerly signed up to get back through their doors.

While nothing is risk-free nowadays, I felt like getting back into the gym was an important step in looking after my physical and mental (and emotional) wellbeing. And with facilities being quite forthcoming with the safety measures they had in place for guests, I decided to give it a shot. Here’s a recap of my first-hand experience of a few London fitness studios I’ve tried since they reopened.

WHAT IT’S LIKE IN A POST-LOCKDOWN FITNESS CLASS 

What is Barry's like after lockdown?

BARRY’S

I clearly wasn’t the only person looking forward to getting back in the Red Room. Classes at Barry’s open for booking at noon 7 days prior. With COVID regulations limiting classes to half capacity to allow for social distancing, the most popular time slots routinely sold out within a couple of hours of opening. So if you plan to go, make sure to set a reminder to book as soon as registration opens.

To my excitement, a post-lockdown Barry’s class is no compromise on the Red Room many know and love. The most notable difference in format is that every session for the foreseeable is a “Dirty 30”. Often deployed as a surprise by tough trainers, a “Dirty 30” is when you spend half of the time on treadmills and half on the floor with weights. This is to ensure there is no shared equipment before it can be sterilised by the staff (which happens in between every class). 

During every visit, I felt as though people were taking the guidelines seriously. We queued outside before each class rather than congregating in the studio. Masks were worn in common areas outside the Red Room and the locker rooms. People were diligent about using hand sanitizer. Many attendees showed up in “Social Fitnessing” merchandise - earned by participating in a number of Barry’s At Home Challenges , which emphasised the power of community London studios like Barry’s maintained even while teaching classes online

Key Takeaways:

  • Reduced capacity

  • Bring your own towel

  • Wait outside before class

  • Mask in communal areas

  • Temperature check

  • Dirty 30 classes

  • No shared equipment

PSYCLE reopening measures after lockdown

PSYCLE

I’ve attended two classes at PSYCLE since their Mortimer St reopening: Strength & Conditioning and Barre 55. Like most studios, PSYCLE are offering a reduced timetable to allow for social distancing and time to sanitise equipment. That said, they still had a wide range of classes and times to choose from - in particular at Mortimer St, their largest location. 

When I entered the studio, neither myself or the people entering with me were required to have our temperature taken although this is listed as a requisite on their website. There was however a shield at the check-in desk and smoothie bar, and a one-way footfall system to direct guests. Both classes I attended at PSYCLE were on upper levels, so I was directed upstairs for the correct check-in desk and locker room. Unlike some studios, PSYCLE did offer towels for guests which I was especially grateful for as I’d forgotten mine at home. They had reduced lockers for social distancing, but I had no problems finding a spot. I dropped off my things and headed to the studio.

During the Strength & Conditioning class, our small group of just 4 people were asked to sanitise our kit before each station rotation. It was a really enjoyable class and it was noticeable that attendees were happy to be back in the space. The Barre class had no shared equipment, and we were able to keep a safe distance during the class. At Mortimer St, the Barre studio is the very top floor or 5 levels. The space vent airy and well ventilated which was reassuring. As someone new to Barre, I was surprised at the sweat we worked up through minor movements! Similar to S&C, we sanitised the equipment for leaving. 

As you leave PSYCLE, you’ll follow the arrows on the floor to guide you through the one-way system to the exit. All in all, I didn’t feel as though safety or hygiene was compromised at any point, and I look forward to future visits.

Key Takeaways:

  • Temperature check

  • No mask required inside

  • Reduced locker availability

  • Reduced class capacity

  • One-way walking system

  • Sanitise equipment after use

  • Some shared equipment

1REBEL Victoria covid measures

1REBEL

Of all the studios I’d visited, I was most curious to see the safety changes made at 1REBEL. The team at 1REBEL have been pretty outspoken with the measures they’ve put in place to make for a safe experience: there are large partitions between treadmills in their RESHAPE class, and the bikes in their RIDE studios now sport very futuristic-feeling curved shields at the front. 

When I stepped inside their Victoria studio, I was met with a few new check-in procedures. As with many studios, the check-in desk was shielded by plexiglass, and a temperature check was mandatory before going any further. Towels were available upon request, and guests were welcome to help themselves to pull clip-in shoes for the bikes as per normal operations. 

As Rebels wait for their class to start, the studio have placed some social distancing markers along the side wall to form a spaced out queue. The markers themselves are printed with entertaining questions such as, “Name the longest river in the U.K.” (the answers to each are in small print on the marker in front of every question). I thought this was a fun touch to lighten the mood amongst all the changes we’ve come to see in present times.

Before long it was time for the RIDE class to start, and we all made our way into the studio. The class was not booked to capacity, as Friday classes often can be, however the bikes were no further spaced out than under normal circumstances. 1REBEL claims to have a ventilation system superior to an aeroplane. With ventilation as one of the primary concerns of gyms and studios reopening, this was reassuring. But as we were working up a sweat in class I couldn’t help but wonder how effective the bike shields could be, or whether they were placebo.

After class, guests can still make use of the shower facilities, however their toiletries such as dry shampoo, deodorant, etc have been removed. I never felt unsafe working out at 1REBEL. There were sanitation stations throughout the studio, and overall I felt they were doing everything a gym could do to create a safe environment.

Key Takeaways:

  • Temperature check

  • Mask required inside but not during class

  • No toiletries provided in locker rooms apart from in the shower

  • Social distancing before class

  • Shielded bikes at normal capacity

Core Collective HSK reopens after lockdown

CORE COLLECTIVE

The last stop on my tour of London fitness studios reopening was at Core Collective. I made my way over to their High St Kensington studio to try their ultra-popular spin classes and see what’s changed since lockdown.

The High St Kensington branch, or HSK, features a retail pop-up in collaboration with us at The Sports Edit, featuring some of our favourite kit picks fit for the various strength, cardio, and yoga fitness classes at C/C. It is in the main reception area, and visitors still welcome to shop around for things that catch their eye. 

Upon entering the studio, you can expect a contact-free temperature check as you sign in for class. As a precaution, C/C are not offering towels for visitors. However if you are attending a spin class, you can still borrow optional clip-in shoes.

Downstairs, the lockers and showers were still available to visitors (just remember to bring your own towel!). Guests could head straight into the spin studio and make any adjustments necessary to the equipment before saddling up. 

This was my first ever spin class at C/C, and I quickly learned why they’re so well loved. For one thing: the technology on the bikes tells you your resistance, pace, and all sorts of stats for you to track your effort. The music was great, and the coordinated lights in the studio made for an immersive atmosphere. 

I was a little surprised to find the class was completely full to capacity. It was a cosy studio of about 35 or so bikes all with eager riders giving their all. But that aside, there were ample disinfectant stations around the studio, and I could tell people were making an effort to be careful. All in all, it was one of the best spin classes I’d been to and look forward to visiting again.

Key Takeaways:

  • Temperature check

  • Bring your own towel

  • Normal capacity

safety at gyms post lockdown

WHAT SAFETY MEASURES HAVE FITNESS STUDIOS TAKEN?

For an extensive breakdown of safety measurements London studios are enacting to protect visitors against infection, please check out our blog on what you can expect from gyms reopening. And if you’re not ready to head back to the studio just yet, check out our guide to top London studios offering classes online

CONCLUSION

Gyms and studios everywhere have done their level best to create a safe environment for visitors to come and exercise. While nothing is risk-free in the current state of the world, in all my trips to different studios across London, I never felt any more unsafe than going to a store, or to a restaurant under the current government guidelines. If anything, it felt like I’d taken a step toward improving myself after being demotivated indoors for months. Ultimately, getting back in the gym or not is subjective and you should do what works for you. Whether you exercise in a studio, with an online workout, or on your own, keep moving! But remember we’re all figuring things out as we go, take things one day at a time.