Missing gyms, but virtual fitness is here to stay

With gyms shut due to MCOs’ restrictions, it forces operators to move their operation online

by LYDIA NATHAN / Pic Source: celebrityfitness.com.my

AT THE height of the Covid-19 pandemic where people were forced to stay home, an important aspect of people’s lifestyle that had to pivot was exercise and working out.

When gyms and sports facilities were ordered to close under the Movement Control Order (MCO), people took to exercising outdoors while maintaining social distance like jogging and cycling.

However, as restrictions tightened under the Enhanced MCO, even taking brisk walks around the neighbourhood was prohibited.

Movement Dynamics founder Kevin Khandoor said with gyms needing to close, including its own, Movement Dynamics x Be, people have no choice but to do home workouts to stay healthy, which presented an opportunity for the entire industry to simultaneously adopt an online approach to fitness.

“Since March 2020, we have only been allowed to open our doors for about two months, then with the various MCOs and lockdown, we have been closed mostly,” he said to The Malaysian Reserve (TMR) recently.

Kevin said it was then that most gyms began conducting online group classes, personal training or Video on Demand videos to continue surviving.

“Although gyms switched to online training, the revenue being brought in was not the same as when people physically trained at gyms and studios, as online classes are quite cheap, costing around an average of RM8 to RM20 per class which is pretty low in comparison to RM35 to RM55 per class when training at the gym,” Kevin said.

Though Internet connection is a major setback during their virtual classes, both Kevin and Ng cannot deny its bene ts as it helps them in opening up the potential of new students from other countries in joining (Pic Source: popsugar.co.uk)

Movement Dynamics x Be had just begun offering group classes when it was thrown into another lockdown and had to move to the online space.

“Because we are pretty new compared to some of the other gyms that have been offering group classes and have been focusing only on personal training up till March, it has definitely been a challenge switching to online classes because we did not have a strong following yet.

“However, little by little through an amazing effort by the entire team, our group classes have started picking up,” he said.

In terms of differences between online classes and in-person, Kevin said the environment and atmosphere is the most glaring one.

“Studios have specific music, lighting and equipment set-ups to deliver the best experience when people join classes. It is difficult to recreate the same atmosphere while training virtually.

“Also, when doing online classes, a lot of connection issues can happen which really kills the flow of the workout as the instructor has to stop everything to address it.

“Another aspect is for studios with specialised classes like spin (indoor cycling). It can be especially rough because not everyone owns a bike and equipment rental can be quite expensive,” he said.

A bonus, however, is the ability to reach people far and wide through the power of technology.

“We have started getting international clients from Canada, Singapore and the UK, and we are always looking to expand in terms of services and the quality of content we produce,” he said.

Kevin opined that once the pandemic settles and gyms are allowed to reopen, people will definitely prefer training at gyms, similar to what is currently happening in the UK and the US.

“To the fitness community, the gym is not just for working out, but it is also a space for them to meet new people, hang out with friends and create a healthy environment together,” Kevin noted.

Meanwhile, yoga teacher Andrea Ng Yi Wei said unlike the normal gym training sessions, moving to online classes changed the structure tremendously.

Ng had just only enrolled in a teacher training programme in 2019, when the pandemic hit and the structure of yoga classes changed drastically.

She said despite having some experience with online Hatha yoga and Vinyasa yoga classes before the pandemic, most of her students had always preferred the physical ones.

“With online classes, I had to cue more and give more verbal instructions rather than just demonstrating with my body since we were seeing each other out of small screens.

“Because I could not see everyone, I had to be more wary of injuries and discomforts that students have and work on and give more cues to modify postures to avoid injuries,” she told TMR.

She added that Internet connections were not always performing at its best and the lack of human interaction had also initially dampened her spirits.

“The connection and relationship with students were the most affected, with motivational levels to manage classes in big groups also taking a hit.

“For instructors, it was a lot more draining as we have to keep the energy levels up all the time,” she said.

Ng echoed Kevin with the pros to online classes, namely the potential for reachability.

“It opened up the potential for new students from anywhere in the world, which is amazing. I also noticed a renewed need for people to be healthy and keep active, both mentally and physically.

“There was also a greater awareness in meditation classes and the exploration of different types of exercises,” she said.

Ng thought that virtual fitness is no longer a new contender in the market but a growing model, and will continue post-pandemic.

“I do believe that Covid-19 has accelerated the adaptation to a hybrid model of online and in-person classes, and I also think it is a great move forward to give customers more options and trying new places and workouts without time and location constrictions, while also allowing gyms to expand their customer outreach.

“However, I do believe 70% to 75% of the fitness community will resume pre-Covid routines, in-person classes and gym training once gyms open doors again.

“To sum it up, a hybrid model of virtual and in-person workout classes will be the direction of the fitness industry,” she noted.