Till about ten months ago, the fitness sector was booming. With Gyms, Zumba and Yoga centers mushrooming even in Tier 3 and Tier 4 towns, `being fit was the new mantra’
But suddenly in the first month of the COVID 19 pandemic, gym-going suddenly became a dangerous activity. Most governments across the world advised closure of gyms. They were considered a high risk zone for infection as people workout in close proximity. As infections exploded across the country, states ordered gyms and fitness centers closed, along with restaurants, movie theaters and bars.
Nobody really thought that this Pandemic could last on for so long. As Gyms shut, many workout sessions shifted online. Surging liabilities, rents, electricity bills have forced many gyms to shut shop. Actually, the Pandemic has spelt the death knell for many fitness establishments across the world. Job losses in the fitness sector in bustling metros like Mumbai, Pune, Delhi, Bangalore and Ahmedabad have been particularly high.
Gyms are now opening up
Unable to bear the losses, things are slowly opening up. Everyone has accepted that the virus is here to stay and with the opening up of restaurants, shops and mall; even gyms have begun to open up. Fitness freaks and other people used to their daily dose of workouts want to venture out with the right precautions.
To reassure vary customers, owners have put in place and now advertise a variety of Coronavirus control measures. At the same time, the fitness industry is also trying to rehabilitate itself by pushing back against what it sees as a misleading narrative that gyms have no place during a pandemic.
Though now Gyms are opening up, things are a bit difficult. Dilshad Merchant, who runs a franchise of Gold Gym in Mumbai says, “We have to ensure that at any given point there are not more than 10 people in the gym. Plus, we need to sanitize the entire surface time and again and make sure that everybody is wearing a mask. We have to understand that while working out we cannot be wearing a mask all the time. That would restrict free breathing.”
“Everything from a set of squats to a run on the treadmill requires a mask. Every other cardio machine is off limits. The owners have marked up the floor with blue tape to show where each person can work out.
The New Normal at the Gym
Shweta Salve, who has just began “There are safety protocols. But, the vibe is not the same as before. I was honestly just losing my mind. There is no longer the rush in the gym. Also, enrollments will take time, as people are still being cautious.
Fitness is really a habit and the eight month lockdown many have changed to Yoga, Pilates and other simple exercises which can be performed at home. Says Shweta, “Since, everybody has to wear a mask and practice socially distancing, many of the people I know are now working out from home and staying fit with Yoga and simple exercises.”
For Gym owners, it is a difficult proposition; as it has drastically reduced the ability to serve the community. The limit capacity and new requirements have also added to the financial outgo of the gyms.
You cannot have lots of people moving around indoors, sharing equipment and air, breathing heavily — it could be a recipe for easy viral spread.
But now staying healthy and fit are also an requirement to counter the virus. Many states continue to limit capacity and have instituted new requirements.
These are some of the guidelines issued in public interest
- Use outdoors as far as possible
- Sanitize your hands before you enter the gym and after you leave
- During personal training in yoga institutes or gymnasiums, one must ensure a distance of six feet between the trainer and clients whenever feasible.
- People must wear face covers and face masks at the premises of fitness centres. However, while exercising or yoga kriya, they may use a visor. The guideline also noted that using masks and face covers while working out (especially N 95 mask) can cause breathing difficulties.
- Gyms users should use staggered timings or come in batches.