KUALA LUMPUR, June 18 — Hitting the gym before or after work used to be the norm for many working Malaysian urbanites who revelled in the adrenaline rush to power through the day or help them wind down.
Those who do so from now will need to prepare themselves to forego some past routines. Things like freshening up with a post-workout shower in-house, or recharging with a cold pressed juice while chatting with other gym kakis in the lounge are now prohibited under the sweeping social distancing guidelines set by the National Security Council (NSC) to curb the spread of Covid-19 that has infected over 8,500 people and killed more than 120 nationwide.
On lockdown since March 18, gyms, workout studios, indoor sports venues and snooker centres were allowed to resume operations last Monday so long as they follow strictly the NSC’s SOPs.
Malay Mail spoke to several gym owners and instructors in the Klang Valley to find out what patrons can expect of the new normal when they visit. Here’s what we found out:
More space but less workout time, and no more walk-ins
Like any other business operating indoors, there will be a maximum number of people allowed inside the studio space at any one time. These would largely depend on the physical size of the gym or studio.
Mazlan Abdul Manan, the founder of Hyper Gym Fitness Centre in Kota Damansara, said his gym could accommodate about 50 people before the coronavirus outbreak.
“But now, we have to reduce to half the number, otherwise we won't be able to prevent people from crowding at the gym,” he said in a recent interview.
He also said Hyper Gym members are required to book their workout sessions prior to visiting and emphasised that walk-in users who want to try out a class are no longer encouraged.
He said such measures were necessary for the gym to keep its tight schedule as fewer people are allowed in, necessitating a shorter workout time per person.
“This helps us prevent overcrowding at the gym,” he explained.
Noel Chelliah of the Daily Muscle Lighthouse in Glomac Damansara said his gym has a membership count of 350 people and would now have to reduce the number of participants per class.
From 16 in a class, he said the new normal is to cap it at nine.
“Our advantage is being smaller than the large big box gyms (that can have 10,000 members and more) gives us the advantage to put more measures and protocols and have greater control over everything,” he said in a recent interview.
No sparring too
Samir Noury Mrabet, owner of Monarchy Mixed Martial Arts Gym in the city centre, said sparring has been prohibited for all sports categories for now.
“Pad works, paddles and shields are not allowed too.
“At this juncture, members are not allowed to work out on their own, and everything will be class-based,” he said.
Samir said returning members should look out for its colour codes to know which classes were in session. He said the colour marking was introduced to make training sessions more systematic. Red is for boxing, Muay Thai, strength and conditioning, and self-defence. Blue is for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and wrestling. Yellow is for personal training.
Smaller classes, higher prices
As studios are forced to trim the number of participants in each class, several operators indicated that fees are likely to go up in the next six months or up to a year to make up for lost revenue and still keep their staff employed.
Mazlan said Hyper Gym has also reduced the number of participants for its Zumba classes, resulting in revenue loss. To cover the loss and enable the salaries for its instructors, the gym has decided to raise the fees per participant.
“We have no choice but to increase prices of our Zumba classes, because otherwise we won't have enough to pay the instructors.
“It's not an increase by a lot because we managed to negotiate an affordable price so we don't end up burdening our participants and members,” he added.
Moving classes online
During the three-month lockdown, enterprising trainers started offering Zoom classes to their regular clients. This trend looks likely to continue.
“Unlike restaurants, we can’t GrabDeliver a workout to your home, while for some, the situation at home is not conducive for a workout,” Noel of Daily Muscle said, adding that his team is considering making more classes available online.
Christian Lee, co-founder of Tribe Boxing Studio in Mont Kiara said its online classes introduced during the first phase of the movement control order proved to be quite a hit with its regulars.
“Over time, our online classes have gained quite a good feedback and we have decided to keep that class option permanent,” he said.
The bonus, Lee added, was being able to reach even audiences abroad.
The downside, yoga instructor Farhana Abdul Wahab told Malay Mail, is that virtual coaching places physical limitations, which erodes interest in the activity.
“The challenge is that I cannot correct the students’ form. I cannot really see anyone.
“I initially had quite good feedback during the start of MCO, but when RMCO (recovery MCO) came around, my students seem to have lost the passion for online classes, and at times I would have no students at all during my scheduled class,” she said.