Gyms and fitness studios are progressively reopening in Phase 2… but they won’t look and feel the same. The question then is, should we wait it out or join the crowd?
This is not given unconditionally, though restrictions have been eased to allow for group fitness activities to resume. An advisory by Sport Singapore covers a slew of measures related to all sports and physical activities in consultation with industry players, and all private operators are to adhere to it.
With nearly three months of pent-up energy from members, coupled with significantly reduced capacity, gyms, fitness studios and other facilities may be overwhelmed with demand.
Slots at major gyms and fitness studios such as Pure Group and Yoga Movement are almost fully booked the moment they are opened, especially for classes by popular instructors. It’s back to the fastest fingers game, except that now, the pie has shrunk.
Cassandra Lau, co-owner of Actualize CrossFit, is psyched to get back in action, but she’s approaching with caution. “We are facing a high volume of members rushing to join the classes. To this end, we have limited each member’s booking to a maximum of three classes a week. We are also continuing with online classes for those who prefer to work out from home,” says Cassandra.
As you start packing your gym bag, be prepared for a new ball game. The preventive measures put in place will change the nature of your usual workout – making it less enjoyable or even (horrors!) rendering it not worth pursuing at this point until measures are relaxed.
And let’s not forget, the safety concerns of sweating buckets in an enclosed area with strangers – and possibly sharing equipment with them – are still there.
Before you decide whether to join the (hopefully controlled) crowd or wait it out, let’s take a look at the main measures and what they mean for us, in terms of enjoyment and safety.
1. Mask up at all times; except during strenuous activities
Masks are to be worn by all staff and members except in the practice room for all yoga studios. When removed, masks are to be placed in a ziploc bag or an envelope, and safely put away. Some studios provide separate dustbins for masks to be disposed of. At Yoga Movement, members may request for an envelope at the front counter to store their used masks.
Due to the relatively low movement nature of yoga as well as the fact that each person is largely kept to their mat throughout the exercise, there are less concerns about coming in contact with the bodily fluids of others. Moreover, mats are now staggered and more spaced out than before, to accommodate the advisory of ensuring 10 sq m per individual.
However, this is not the case for workouts such as CrossFit, HIIT and rock climbing, where high movements as well as intensities are expected.
At CrossFit and HIIT gyms, members may remove their masks during strenuous workouts. However, the word “strenuous” is subjective. What is strenuous for an untrained beginner may not be so for a regular participant.
This leads us to another point of contention. How is enforcement done across the various gyms and studios? Places that are lax in enforcement may enjoy higher traffic by people who detest having their masks on. Keep in mind though, that this comes at the risk of a higher chance of contracting the virus.
Climbing gyms with handholds mostly made of plastic resins, which allows the virus to survive for a longer period of time – up to 72 hours compared to wooden or metallic surfaces – have the added risk of transmission through surfaces. As such, some climbing gyms have announced a blanket rule of having masks on even when members climb. Considering that members have been out of action for more than two months, and that fitness levels would have declined, gyms are advising them to start small and simple instead of going for difficult or challenging routes, to avoid overexerting themselves and risking injuries.
2. Safe distance of 2m or more
Another notable measure is that individuals are to stay at least 2m away from one another. For exercises of higher intensity or movement, in groups of no more than five, or within confined spaces such as indoor HIIT, the advised distance increases to 3m.
In view of this, gyms have marked out boundaries to minimise cross contamination.
Grid-style training is practised at Actualize CrossFit to ensure that members keep their droplets to themselves. Coaches will set up equipment within the grid prior to each class, and take the responsibility to wipe them down after use. However, with the increase in transition time between classes, each class duration has been shortened.
No doubt, meeting and chatting with like-minded folks is part of the gym culture most of us embrace, but for now, socialising will have to wait. Gyms and fitness studios have cordoned off their usual chill-out areas, and are advising members to show up no earlier than 10 minutes before class. They are also discouraging members from dwelling, with some closing off the shower area.
“There are no cookie-cutter solutions when dealing with this new virus. Our best bet is to rely on expertise from the government’s advisories on how we may operate most safely,” shares Collette Miles, creative and content manager of Yoga Movement.
On the bright side, some members enjoy the smaller group sizes, which come with more attention from instructors as well as greater space to stretch their limbs out beyond the mat. Assuming you’re able to snag a spot (lucky you!), it’s not a stretch to say that you’ll be getting more value for money.
3. Reduced Capacity
According to guidelines by Sport SG, sport and recreational facilities are to ensure at least 10 sq m of space for each individual. Each facility is to have a maximum capacity of 50 people. Group classes should also be capped at no more than five in a group.
“In keeping with our aim of providing best in-class facilities and services to our members, we will be doing much more than what will be required so as to give our members the peace of mind to come back into our gyms,” says True Group’s director, Sean Tan.
Like the other big gyms, True requires members to book slots for their workout via the in-house True app. To give members a heads up on gym space, the app features a club capacity tracker which reflects real-time capacity and availability at the clubs.
Booking of workout slots may feel like a hassle, but doing so helps gyms to spread out capacity. It also enables routine cleaning and sanitisation of the space and equipment after each time slot.
Not up for a group workout setting yet? You could switch to personal training sessions (though that comes with additional cost), or continue with online classes offered by most gyms.
So, to hit the gym or not?
“With several measures in place, our clients will have full confidence that we are keeping them safe. If they’d rather practise at home for a peace of mind, our online class series, YM Live, will still be available for them,” shares Collette of Yoga Movement.
Most studios now provide members with videos on demand. Members may choose to continue with virtual classes rather than attend a physical class that comes with various degrees of restrictions and inconveniences. For those with unlimited class packages, some gyms and fitness studios allow for suspension upon request. Others like the Pure Yoga and Pure Fitness studios provide an opt-in suspension till July 15 – no questions asked.
Ultimately, it’s up to you to make an informed decision that suits your needs and risk tolerance level, based on the measures implemented by your gym or fitness studio, their flexibility with memberships and packages, as well as the alternatives offered – whether free, paid or discounted.
Whichever option you choose, be it heading to the gym, doing home workouts, or a mix of both, vote with your mind rather than your heart. Be socially responsible, and continue to stay safe for yourself and others.