I’ve no wish to see gyms close. I started working in a gym over 30 years ago when I was 17 and it’s provided me with a successful career and many good friends.
Some history first…
Over the last 30 years the gym has come to symbolise different things to different people, good and bad. For some it was the social aspect, a hobby and others a necessary evil.
Back in the day a gym was a place of exclusivity whether you were into fitness or bodybuilding. Along came Fitness First and opened fitness to the masses and became affordable, then came along the budget clubs. Cheap memberships, high volumes of people in less square footage to make it a good business. There lies the very problem with Covid-19.
The very nature of exercise and the aerosolization of bodily fluids. High volumes of breathing in confined spaces is a huge factor in the spread of this virus without even taking fans and air conditioning into consideration.
But there’s something else…
During the outbreak it has been inferred by medical professionals that lifestyle related conditions such as obesity, hypertension and diabetes could influence an outcome should you be hospitalised by Covid-19.
The very groups gyms set out to help are at the greatest risk.
What’s strange is that contrary to expectations and gyms close, lockdown spurred previously inactive people to become more active.
Gyms closing have broadened people’s minds of what exercise is. If there was anything good to come out lockdown is that exercise has become about wellbeing and health again and less about ego. I’m not down talking gyms, there will always be a need for a controlled environment for some people to exercise, especially dark winter evenings.
With speculation of Choristers not being able to sing in Churches together this side of Christmas, the chance of gyms reopening in the same format is an ambition.
- Aerosolised body fluids in high volumes over several meters.
- Increased breathing rates.
- Recirculated air and air conditioning.
- High volumes of people in close proximity.
- Even in non-pandemic times, gyms are a hot-bed for germs and infections.
For many Zoom has been a god-send for me and the people I look after during lockdown. The convenience of not having to leave the house has lead to an increase in exercise. Reductions in travel have given couples and families time back, travel savings with a positive impact on the environment.
What’s my prediction?
Sadly gyms will close. For the small independent gym with a personal service they will be the future with ability to adapt fast providing a safe environment for members and clients to train. Be prepared to book your time slots as limited numbers will be allowed. With social distancing, it might not be as social as it was.
Training outdoors will become the new norm, as it has been for KB3 and myself for many years. Switching during lockdown was nerve racking but a welcome relief, something for people to look forward to each evening.
SInce the easing of lockdown we’re running ‘in the flesh sessions’ (according to Gov. guidelines) and Zoom simultaneously, so everyone can still chat and laugh. Being outdoors social distancing is easy to implement. Walking, running, open water swimming, Strava, Zwift, Zoom, is just the start. I think the future is exciting for everyone.
Larger gyms will require big investment. Packing a gym full of machines with no staff other than PT’s is a thing of the past. With cleanliness being the no.1 bug bear of many gym members, social distancing and hygiene is going to come at a premium. With a need for more square footage for less people, gym memberships prices may get pushed up to a point where people are not prepared to pay. With profit margins already low, refinancing will not be attractive to investors so expect closures.
Lockdown for me personally has been a revelation because it’s forced me to try things I wouldn’t have done before. I’ve experimented with great results with clients expressing gratitude which I didn’t expect as I was more grateful they’d stuck with me!
I think the perception and behaviors towards gyms will change. Lockdown has pushed out an old fashioned concept that wasn’t healthy in the first place. It’s going to be replaced with an exciting meeting of technology, the great outdoors and a better environment for all of us.