Gym goers split on returning
TO go, or not to go? That's the question the estimated 40 per cent of adult Queenslanders who frequent gyms will be asking themselves as fitness centres prepare to reopen their doors on June 13.
But it will be a changed industry. Vigilance about wiping down equipment will be paramount, and numbers will be limited to 20 at first. Some gyms will introduce booking systems and others will not offer shower facilities.
Research by Bastion Insights shows around 40 per cent of Australians have been exercising less during the lockdown period, while one in four are exercising more. And many of them may now simply prefer working out in their own home or at a local park.
Fitness enthusiasts who spoke to News Corp this week said they had paid as much as $5000 to set up their own home gyms.
A spokesperson for fitness retailer rebel said that in April, weights were being sold at four times the rate they did in April 2019, and demand for pilates and yoga equipment was more than twice the usual weekly average.
"More Australians are turning to home workouts. We noticed the trend as soon as authorities started talking about social distancing," a rebel spokesperson said.
Gold Coast bodybuilder Marlette Le Feuvre said she had been able to continue her crucial post-competition training at home with a mix of bought and borrowed equipment, but she
was looking forward to getting back in a gym.
"As a bikini bodybuilder, I have to train in a specific way to manipulate and grow my body. I can manage (at home) but I definitely would prefer to go to a gym," she said.
While the home workouts had been convenient, she said she missed the routine of the gym, and its atmosphere.
The 27-year-old paramedic competed at the Arnold Amateur bodybuilding event in March, but the threat of the virus was by then already forcing events to be staged without spectators.
Despite winning the champion novice title at that event, Ms Le Feuvre said it "wasn't the full Arnold experience".
Her sights are now set on the same event next March, and a hopeful top three placing.
Asked whether she had any health concerns about returning to the gym, she said she wasn't worried or afraid.
"I'm very well aware of the precautions I need to take to protect myself and others, so if everyone washes their hands, cleans the equipment and adheres to the distancing rule, there should honestly be no reason why that won't suffice," she said.
"I'm definitely ready to go back, plus I'm exposed to people being unwell in my job, so I guess that just makes my skin thicker, I guess."
Others have made use of online fitness platforms to get them through the lockdown. Subscriptions to Chris Hemsworth's Centr app reportedly jumped by 300 per cent, and last week former Bachelor star Sam Woods revealed sign-ups to his app 28 increased by 258 per cent leading up to May.
Snap Fitness CEO Ty Menzies told News Corp that online fitness classes would continue to be popular even after gyms re-open.
"There will be a number of people who will still feel anxious about coming back to the gym," he said. "Or they may only want to do a couple of days a week and potentially work out at home to limit any sort of risk, so those virtual workouts will give really handy tips for them to supplement their workouts."
Snap would be arranging for increased cleaning, sanitation stations and barriers between equipment when its 207 Australian centres re-open, Mr Menzies said. Users will be reminded to bring their own towels and told to wipe down all machines after use, while shower facilities would not be accessible at first, he said.
Social distancing requirements might force some franchisees to implement booking systems for users, Mr Menzies said, but Snap's 24-hour operating model would actually work to their advantage, with a more even spread of gym-goers throughout the day.
Mr Menzies said he was encouraged by the opening of Snap Fitness centres in New Zealand, where outlets were reporting patronage at 90 per cent of pre-COVID levels.
"There's significant consumer sentiment in New Zealand to get back to the gym, and I have no doubt that getting out of the house and back to the gym will be something that Australians will be very eager to do," he said.
A spokesperson for Fitness First said their procedures for reopening were still being finalised, but they would include social distancing, increased cleaning, staff training and the provision of hand sanitiser and disinfectant wipes for all gym users.
Originally published as Gym goers split on returning