On Tuesday, gyms and fitness centers are set to open after nearly five months with managements busy fine-tuning operational details such as hourly sanitization, equipment spacing to ensure social distancing and reduction personnel in accordance with government directives.
Thousands of small gyms and larger chains will welcome customers as part of ‘fitness in the COVID era’ on Wednesday, although outlets in states where lockdown rules have not been relaxed will continue to expand. be closed.
After the crippling losses and layoffs, the Home Office’s July 30 notice allowing gymnasiums and yoga institutes to reopen from August 5 was a huge relief, gym owners said. On Monday evening, the Ministry of Health released its guidelines and establishments are quickly making sure everything is in place before reopening their doors.
Aseem Rao, who owns Hype, a franchise of nearly 40 fitness centers across Delhi-NCR, said its outlets will follow all government-prescribed protocols, including the availability of disinfectants and oximeters , spaced equipment and thermal screening of staff and members.
“Most of my outlets are 6,000 square feet in size. To ensure social distancing during group classes, we decided that the space that was previously occupied by up to 60 people at a time didn’t will now accommodate no more than 25 people, ”he said. .
Mr Rao will reopen 19 of its centers across Haryana and Ghaziabad, while outlets in Delhi will remain closed.
Several states and cities, including Delhi and Maharashtra, will continue to close gyms. Maharashtra reported 15,842 deaths from COVID-19 and Delhi 4,004, according to figures from the Union Ministry of Health on Monday.
Pravesh Gaur, owner of the Fast Fit gym chain, is also preparing to open its stores in Faridabad.
“We will follow all government guidelines – checking thermal temperatures before entering the center, disinfecting all equipment hourly and before each use, as well as regularly monitoring staff for any symptoms,” M said. . Gaur. PTI.
Staff capacity will be 50%, he added.
The ministry’s “Guidelines on Preventive Measures to Contain the Spread of COVID-19 in Yoga Institutes and Gyms” also suggest staggered visits by members and direct that equipment, including cardio and weight machines, be placed six feet away if possible. It also states that visors should be used whenever possible during exercise.
Before exercising, people should have their oxygen saturation checked. If they are less than 95%, they should not be allowed to exercise, the notification says.
The fitness industry was among the first to be affected by the rapid closure of gyms in the states even before the national lockdown began on March 25, leaving thousands of coaches and support staff unemployed.
According to Gympik, a health and fitness aggregator, there are around 20,000 gyms across the country, including neighborhood workout centers as well as national chains like Gold Gym and Cultfit that have multiple centers in a single city. .
These centers offer facilities such as strength training, weight training and cardio, as well as yoga and Zumba classes, and accommodate more than 10 million athletes, he estimates.
Mr. Gaur, who has four centers in Delhi and Faridabad and ensures compliance with all orders, suffered an approximate loss of 20 to 30 lakh per branch. He said he was also forced to either let go or send some of his employees on “temporary leave without pay”.
Some of his trainers gave classes online, but it didn’t really work.
“The use of equipment that specifically targets each muscle group, as well as personal advice from a trainer for correcting forms and techniques cannot be replicated in online classes. We barely generated four to five. percent of our income from these sessions, ”he added. Mr. Rao agreed.
Over the past five months, he said, the losses have been huge, with no income but with rents and staff salaries due to be paid.
“Even though we were doing online courses, even our existing members didn’t seem very interested in these sessions and there were no new registrations during this time,” he said.
Shalini Bhargava, director of JG Fitness Center in Mumbai, does not plan to immediately open her facility with the Maharashtra government extending the lockdown until August 31, but is preparing for it.
“Most of our existing customers have called to get an idea of the time slots, rules and safety measures that will be followed. All government guidance was expected, so we are fully prepared,” Bhargava said.
Gym machines and equipment were spaced out, sanitation machines were installed, and fitness sessions were moved to the open-air patio.
She added that she also plans to install a UV tower that will continue to sanitize the gym hourly.
Fitness enthusiasts have missed their workouts in gyms but are reluctant to enter them.
Gurgaon-based Chetna Beniwal, for example, was visiting the gym five days a week before the lockdown. Given the continued spread of the disease, she said she decided to continue training at home.
“My main concern is using the same equipment and machines as other people. Also, I work out at home with a mat and a few weights, and it feels like a better alternative to gyms.
“Working at home is more convenient and easier. I can exercise whenever I want, whether it’s during the day or late at night,” said the 28-year-old customs inspector.
Unlike her, Mumbai-based Ankit Doshi said he couldn’t wait for gyms to reopen in his state.
“I used to train at least five days a week before the lockdown started. Thanks to the online classes and the workout apps, I was able to maintain my fitness program. I also took a yoga class for 21 days with The Yoga. Institute.
“But it was difficult to manage the weight training. Plus, in the gyms you maintain a certain discipline, which you sometimes tend to lose when you work out at home,” said the CEO of a company based in Mumbai, 34 years old. .
The fitness industry may be taking interim steps toward normalcy, but sweeping changes are in store, said Amaresh Ojha, founder and CEO of Gympik.
Agreeing with Mr. Gaur and Mr. Rao that the online only line is not a viable business model for gyms, Mr. Ojha said the industry will likely now operate on the “hybrid business model” – a combination of limited on-site and online courses.
“The fitness industry will no longer be a volume game. Most estimates show that attendance is likely to drop significantly to allow only 33 to 50 percent of member attendance, depending on space availability.
“The hybrid model will allow gyms to improve their game and bring the best of both online and offline worlds to their members by giving them more freedom and flexibility to train anytime, anywhere.” , did he declare.