Does the UK indoor fitness industry need to reframe the coronavirus pandemic as a marathon rather than a sprint?

Black woman using a training battle exercise rope tied to her kitchen table

On May 11th, 2020 the UK Government’s COVID-19 recovery strategy was published which outlined a phased reopening of the economy subject to “successfully controlling the spread of the virus.” Indoor fitness venues form part of stage three of the strategy and are provisionally outlined to open “no earlier than 4 July, 2020” and subject to scientific advice. Many across the fitness industry have promoted 4 July as a guaranteed opening date when it never was.

An insidious virus

As I write more than 43,000 people have died of COVID-19 across the UK which would fill the majority of Liverpool football stadium. This insidious virus is far from finished and will be quietly working its way through our communities for some time yet.  Why not use a few more weeks – Oliver Dowden, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has signalled mid-July to gyms, to deepen our understanding of how this virus spreads and refine COVID-19 business preparedness? It hurts deeply when you’re not selected, but this should not become a battle between the hospitality and fitness industries (alcohol versus activity) and rushing to whip up support for online petitions which could undermine long-term stakeholder relationships.

I do not agree with the suggestion that this is a lobbying failure and those industries that shout the loudest, open first.

From the gym to the kitchen table

All organisations connected to the physical activity marketplace have done a remarkable job over the past three months in helping customers weave exercise into their lives in a novel and hopefully sustainable ways while gyms have been closed. The government and its scientific advisers have undoubtedly taken note of this substitution in making their initial stage three decision.

We should all remember that when businesses are reopened that it is on a “conditional and reversible” basis and driven by local virus reproduction rates so we are tethered together in tackling this pandemic. We will likely be living with COVID-19 in our communities for several years which is why we may have entered a marathon and not a sprint.


Image via the Wall Street Journal.