Fitness in the Time of COVID-19
Fitness in the Time of COVID-19
With social distancing and home quarantines becoming the norm, an industry dependent on physical interactions is finding ways to cope.
,The #COVID-19 pandemic has taken the world by storm, and not in a good way. Schools have been forced to suspend classes. Companies have implemented work-from-home schemes to prevent the risk of employees contracting the virus. Business supply chains have been disrupted from the inevitable halt of operations brought by city-wide lockdowns and quarantine periods. Here in Metro Manila, fear of spreading the potentially deadly pathogen caused public event cancellations and the temporary closure of businesses such as restaurants, malls, and fitness studios.
Fitness as a Luxury
For the majority of the public, fitness is still viewed as a “luxury”, meaning it is a non-essential service. However, despite the non-essential nature of the industry, it is a source of livelihood for many individuals, including me. Aside from this, it is also a large part of people’s day-to-day lifestyles.
In Metro Manila alone, there are dozens of studios and gyms offering everything from the classic gyms to group exercise studios (yoga, cycling, dance) to specific sports facilities such as boxing clubs and outdoor sports facilities. Most, if not all of them, are closed for the time being.
With the general public advised to stay at home and facilities forced to shut down.
- How do fitness establishments uphold its commitment to helping individuals stay fit?
- As a coach, how do you do your job of training your client?
- How can group instructors teach their classes if they and their students can’t come to the studio?
Online Workouts replacing Gyms
The most common thing I’ve noticed among fitness facilities since the quarantine started is that they all somehow started to utilize social media. Fitness instructors are conducting online workouts and classes via live stream services and many of the individuals who would usually head to the gym for a good sweat session are tuning in to these live broadcasts at home to stay active. Yoga studio Yoga Plus has daily yoga workouts through Facebook Live while cycling studio Electric Studio does their workout through IG Live. I’ve also seen coaches conduct 1-on-1 sessions through video calls with their clients.
Abby Jose, head cycling instructor at The Upper Deck in Ortigas, believes that this can actually be one of the good things to come out of the crisis:
“We found new ways to be creative and workout in the comfort of our own home. The fitness community united online to help spread positivity and encourage people to stay active.”
For the longest time, most fitness professionals have depended on face-to-face training.
What happens when that’s taken away?
Online coaching programs have been around even before the pandemic hit
Online coaching programs have been around even before the pandemic hit, and we are seeing its benefit now. Jay Garcia, a registered nurse and personal trainer to celebrities like Bea Alonzo and Cherie Gil, says he’s fortunate that he already had an online program set up prior to the recent crisis that has forced many fitness professionals to go digital.
However, he did mention the large impact it has on the majority of the fitness workforce: the instructors.
“In terms of how it (the quarantine) affected trainers in general, malaki. Kasi we’re paid by the hour”. (In terms of how it affected trainers in general, it has a very big impact because we are paid by the hour)
“Most trainers don’t have any benefits and hazard pays. So during a crisis like this, Coaches need to be creative in conducting their sessions with their clients.” says Edsel Vengco, a fitness instructor who has been active in the industry for over a decade.
“The fitness industry falls under “service related” meaning that Coaches and Trainers get to be paid for every personal training session or class they give. No conduction = No pay”.
Like many of the employees and citizens whose livelihoods have been affected, fitness professionals have taken a hard hit from missed client sessions and class conduction. Apart from working individuals, business owners who operate their own studios are also affected.
“Most Gyms, clubs and studios in the Philippines fall under an SME (small/medium enterprise). And being an SME, like other businesses, we are affected mainly due to the closure of our facility.”
shares Edsel who is also the general manager of Pretty Huge Obstacles, an indoor obstacle course facility in BGC, Taguig. Just like many of the studios that are closed at this time, Pretty Huge Obstacles has adapted to the situation by conducting online workouts to keep their community active.
Though the situation seems bleak, there is hope. Since being forced to retreat, we’ve seen the fitness community rise up to the challenge by utilizing the power of technology.
“Having people online gave the fitness community an opportunity to reach people through social media and increase awareness for their studios / facilities. It’s making people excited to visit these clubs and studios after the lockdown is lifted”
says Abby when asked about how individuals have reacted to the increase of community-led online workouts. It makes sense because after being cooped up indoors for a month, I can imagine people would be craving for activities outside their homes.
Being an optimist, Jay also believes that people will value their health now more than ever. The recent threat of disease has made us realize that health truly is wealth. And regular exercise is a factor in the healthiness equation.
So what does this mean for the future of this industry? Well, just like any industry that’s been affected by the pandemic, it will have to adapt to the changes bound to be present in a post-quarantine society.
“Revenue has definitely been affected, and will continue to be even after this lockdown, for the reason that people will transition back to their normal day to day routines. Membership rates (in facilities) will need to be adjusted during the transitory stage to entice the community to integrate fitness back into their routines at the soonest time possible.” says Edsel.
As we all wait for the world to go back to normal, there are looming questions about what will happen next. As a nation we’ve been forced to reexamine our crisis preparedness in every aspect from our livelihoods to our lifestyles. While hospitals and manufacturers of sanitation products focus on how to meet the demands brought by this pandemic, non-essential industries like fitness are quietly sitting on the sidelines and continue to hope for the best.
Staying fit and healthy will never go out of style, but crises like the COVID-19 pandemic are what ignite the continuous evolution of the economic landscape of today. When asked about how the fitness industry will bounce back from the economic and cultural impact of the coronavirus.
Edsel remains hopeful and realistic, “Only time can tell. What’s sure is that fitness has stood the test of time and would most likely be the case in the years to come.”