By Jason Sheridan, Senior VP of Operations, GoodLife Fitness

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit Canada in mid-March, GoodLife Fitness made the difficult but

important decision to close its clubs to prioritize the health and safety of its Associates and Members in a fluid and unknown situation. We joined gyms across the country in experiencing complete upheaval and uncertainty.

It was an extremely tough time for the fitness industry. We all took a huge hit. But as Canada’s largest gym chain, we knew we had to be proactive to find ways to stay connected with and take care of our Associates and Members.

A multi-disciplinary team kicked into action to address immediate problems, and we prepared to start planning how to get back to doing what we do best — giving everyone in Canada the opportunity to live a fit and healthy good life.

Communicating the latest information

At the time, there were so many questions. Information was changing quickly. We established a dedicated section on the GoodLife Fitness website with frequently asked questions about novel coronavirus and its impact on the Clubs. This content was updated regularly to address Associate and Member concerns, as well as evolving health and safety requirements. GoodLife also added a weekly email update to keep Associates informed and connected.

Keeping people safe and #CanadianStrong

With gyms closed, we offered alternate workout options and content to keep people active from the safety of their homes. GoodLife launched its new digital gym #GoodLifeAtHome that gave all Canadians access to a weekly schedule of free workouts, wellness tips and free live classes on GoodLife’s social channels (@GoodLifeFitness).

#GoodLifeAtHome expanded over the subsequent weeks to deliver a variety of live fitness options to a wider audience. Senior leaders with experience in group fitness and team training stepped up to offer daily 30-minute strength, HIIT and functional fitness workouts online. These regular workouts helped many GoodLife Members stay connected, stay active and provided a sense of routine during a time of chaos.

Improving and expanding personal training

The personal training team kept their skills up with a virtual development session called Stronger Together in May. The sessions attracted 500+ personal trainers and fitness professionals to learn from experts in their field about how to deliver great experiences post-lockdown.

As a way to stay in touch with their peers and clients, several GoodLife senior leaders and personal trainers used Instagram Live to post regular interviews with personal training experts sharing their experiences and tips for maintaining mental and physical strength.

GoodLife introduced at-home virtual training, as well as outdoor training options for clients looking for different venues to workout with their personal trainer.  Policies, best practices were revamped to ensure personal trainers were comfortable with this option for their clients.

GoodLife also adapted its GoodLife Personal Training Institute and Base Camp programs to give personal trainers the option to learn virtually with the same standards and expectations

Revamping anything that requires movement analysis and coaching requires a lot of detailed work and practice. The personal training team and trainers in the Clubs have committed hours to ensuring they deliver training with the same high standards clients experienced before the closure.

Setting ‘The GoodLife Standard’

Long before provincial governments gave the green light to reopen gyms, GoodLife consulted experts in infection prevention and control and sanitization to ensure every Club that reopened would align with or exceed the recommendations and standards put forth by all levels of government.

GoodLife developed a comprehensive health and safety plan focused on three main areas: ensuring physical distancing, reducing capacity levels in our Clubs, and enhanced cleaning and sanitization practices. The plan was introduced as The GoodLife Standard, and acted as a guide for reopening Clubs across the country. The GoodLife Standard outlines a clear structure and guidelines for Associates and is intended to help Members understand what to expect when they come back to a GoodLife Club.

We filter every aspect of the business through The GoodLife Standard to ensure it stands up to today’s ever-changing health and safety requirements.  We recognize this is a continual process and we use these principles constantly as we operate our Clubs in this new normal.  For example, as we move into the colder months, we’re considering how changing conditions will affect Members and are preparing our Clubs to be ‘winter ready’ in line with The GoodLife Standard.

Crash testing safety protocols

But we didn’t stop there. GoodLife worked with healthcare design experts Dr. Chris Hicks and Dr. Andrew Petrosoniak of Advanced Performance Healthcare Design to crash test its COVID-19 safety protocols, including The GoodLife Standard. Hicks and Petrosoniak , both ER physicians, used simulation, combined with clinical and behavioural psychology expertise, to create customized solutions for the unique needs of fitness clubs.

Hicks and Petrosoniak completed thorough research on the fitness industry, as well as GoodLife spaces, processes and policies, with a specific focus on the company’s proposed re-opening plans and new operating model.  They tested The GoodLife Standard against real life scenarios using a situational analysis, tabletop and in-club simulations.

Their findings helped us pinpoint and fix confusion points and blind spots, as well as eliminate friction associated with compliance before Clubs opened.

A video of these simulations can be viewed on the GoodLife Fitness YouTube channel.

Reopening in stages

GoodLife worked closely with the provincial governments and regional public health offices to prepare our Clubs to open as safely and as efficiently as possible. We got ourselves ready in every province, so we could open our doors to Members as soon as we had the green light.

The official reopening dates were informed by a number of factors, including:

  • The stage each region was at with their recovery
  • Information and guidelines released by public health authorities
  • The full implementation of The GoodLife Standard

Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, was the first GoodLife Fitness club to reopen. It proved to be a good test market since there were minimal COVID cases and there was only one Club in the province. We proceeded to reopen our other Clubs province-by-province as government regulations relaxed. During the reopening process, we learned to be flexible and patient to accommodate unique markets and regional fluctuation of COVID cases.

Communicating with Members

As we reopened, we took steps to make sure Members clearly understood the new normal, including health and safety protocols, cleaning requirements and what to expect during their workouts. We used as many channels as possible: email, social media, and the website. We produced images and videos depicting our processes and what Members can expect.

Of course, there will always be people who haven’t seen the information, so we made sure our Associates were equipped to explain the new protocols and answer questions from Members. Members have been happy to contribute to the cleaning and other preventative measures in our Clubs. Largely, people recognize that everyone’s safety is dependent on each person’s actions.

GoodLife asked its Members to book their workouts in advance using the GoodLife app. Members were able to book one time-block per day but were also allowed to walk in if there was capacity at their Club. These measures have been relaxed in some markets where COVID-19 rates have been lower.

To evaluate the safe-work practices, GoodLife turned to our Members and Associates for feedback. What we’re hearing has been overwhelmingly positive, and Members and Associates feel very comfortable with the protocols we’ve implemented.

Here’s what GoodLife Members said about their experiences shortly after the Clubs reopened:

  • 92% of Members said they feel very safe or somewhat safe in the clubs
  • More than 90% said it’s very easy or somewhat easy to practice proper physical distancing in their club.
  • 89% rated the space in their club as very clean.

We’ve had nearly 5 million check-ins since reopening, and we’re proud of the teamwork, dedication and flexibility of GoodLife Associates and Members. We’re always looking for ways to improve on our protocols, and we continue to consult Dr. Hicks and Dr. Petrosoniak along with government and health unit guidelines to continue making our Clubs as safe as possible.

About Jason Sheridan, Senior Vice President of Operations, GoodLife Fitness

As Senior Vice President of Operations, Jason Sheridan oversees strategy, sales and operations for GoodLife Fitness Clubs across Canada. Through research, innovation and creative thinking, he is constantly developing the company’s culture and practices, ensuring GoodLife’s Members receive the best experience possible and GoodLife’s Associates have fulfilling careers.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Jason has taken the lead on GoodLife’s reopening strategy, ensuring that the health and safety of our Members and Associates is at the forefront of all decision making, and that our Clubs are consistently aligned with the requirements and recommendations from all levels of government and the many local public health units across Canada.

In his 20+ years with GoodLife, Jason has worked in multiple positions, including sales and personal training. He is passionate about coaching people to develop and reach their goals, whether it’s personal fitness goals or a career path. He urges people to make fitness a habit and believes achieving goals comes with passion.