When a Zone Fitness message came through on my cellphone, advising me to dust off my gym clothes, I instantly felt my adrenalin pumping.
That was after more than five months of not setting a foot in their facilities, owing to the Covid-19 pandemic and the subsequent national lockdown.
Like most gym fanatics, I had to find alternative ways to keep myself in shape during the lockdown. Those included a morning jog and in-house exercises.
The news of gyms opening was music to my ears.
As a matter of fact, I was among the first few people at Zone Fitness Watergate on that opening Monday.
Upon my arrival, I was informed of all the new gym protocols, including the unenviable task of training with a face mask and the ban on sweat towels.
Due to me being mindful of the danger we are facing and my desire to get back to my normal routine, I obliged.
What has happened since then is nothing short of disastrous.
Having been to a number of Zone fitness facilities, including Bellville, Willowbridge and Promenade Mall, I am perplexed by the blatant disregard of the current health protocols or Covid-19 regulations by both the members and management of these facilities.
While there had been amendments to some of the stringent rules for the gyms when we moved to alert level one, the wearing of masks in public places is still a non-negotiable and gyms are no exception.
There are exceptional circumstances where members can take off masks, subject to social distancing.
However, at the aforementioned facilities, you often see members wondering like lost lambs, either with no masks on or with masks hanging on their chins.
A huge concern is the ongoing defiance when a fellow member highlights the matter. What is more concerning is when the gym’s staff fails to enforce these fundamental protocols.
This is a matter of life or death.
Most members, if not all, have relatives or children at home.
This type of behaviour puts everyone at risk, particularly with a threat of a second wave of the pandemic.
The gyms have an obligation to protect their members and, sadly, some Zone Fitness clubs are failing in this regard.
This is something I have personally raised with managers at Watergate and Promenade.
The responses were simply appalling.
One of the managers went so far as to say they are not allowed to kick out people who refuse to wear masks.
This was after I had pointed out that it is a law to wear masks in public.
In fact, the gym had a board at the entrance highlighting this.
Therefore, they reserve the right to admission and to decisively deal with transgressors.
I argued that members who defiantly refuse to wear their masks should be ordered to vacate the gym as they put other members’ lives at risk.
Another important factor is the provision of disinfectant liquids and paper towels for members to clean the equipment before and after use.
These are vital and should be readily available.
On Saturday 10 October, I went to Zone Fitness Promenade.
Unfortunately, here I encountered more problems.
In the entire gym, there was but one paper towel roll and one disinfectant bottle.
This was not just an inconvenience but a massive health hazard.
When I raised this with staff members, I was taken from pillar to post.
What was even more mind-boggling was to hear that there was no manager on duty to listen to my complaint.
This is unacceptable and health authorities need to ensure there is compliance with lockdown regulations.
The work and gains made in the fight against Covid-19 cannot be undone by ignorant idiots who blatantly refuse to do what is right.
Frankly, businesses cannot put profits ahead of people’s lives.
Equally, people who refuse to wear masks at the gym should be evicted.
According to Zone Fitness’s Santie de Kock their “trained compliance officers” are there to enforce the law and are mandated to “report to the Covid-19 manager and the Covid-19 response team” any form of transgression.
Judging by what is happening at some Zone Fitness branches, this is not working.