The fitness industry is on the verge of collapse. Last May, Gold’s Gym filed for bankruptcy. With the general community quarantine in place and still no news on when gyms can reopen, the survival of the fittest has already begun.
The chief executive officer (CEO) of Anytime Fitness Asia, Rey M. Bolivar, remains optimistic, despite rumors that it may take two years for gyms to reopen here. He hopes gyms can reopen this month.
“Frankly, I’m hoping that rumors are not going to be the case. We are looking forward to opening our doors very soon and welcoming our members back,” Bolivar told Lifestyle.
Anytime Fitness, the largest gym chain in the Philippines, is among the few in the world to have reopened its doors successfully post-lockdown. Its gyms in Hong Kong, Macau Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and Taiwan have been open for the last 30 or 45 days, he said. Thus far, no new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) infection case has been reported in their gyms.
In its Hong Kong branch, for example, the number of usage from the first week of reopening was the same as before quarantine, he said. Gym membership enrolment even went up.
“The need to go back to the gym drove people back, to the point that our usage numbers were almost the same as pre-COVID,” Bolivar said. “But I knew a lot of it was underpinned by the fact that we kept in contact with members even when our doors were closed. We were emailing, texting, social networking with them to see how they were doing.”
Bolivar said they have been working hard the last few months to ensure that their clubs and staff are prepared. Enhanced safety and sanitation guidelines were drafted to keep the gym environment safe,
“We’ve gotten together and created a COVID Crisis Response Team as early as the beginning of March to handle this pandemic within our gyms,” he said.
Anytime Fitness always follows local government mandates and guidelines, he said.
More importantly, the fitness club invested in educating their staff about COVID—what the virus actually is, how to mitigate and how it is transmitted.
“They need to know how it works. It’s not just, ‘Hey, here’s a towel, go clean the equipment.’ They need to understand, scientifically, what drives this virus, so it gives them a better idea of their job,” Bolivar said.
The next step is to instill a sense of accountability and responsibility in their staff.
“After all, this is very serious, and we’re dealing with the members. So they need to understand how important it is. They need not only to understand guidelines and standard operating procedures; they need also to be able to execute them,” he said.
An Anytime Fitness gym club must pass a compliance test given by the company to reopen. A compliance department puts together measures and checks the accountability points. There’s also a capacity management system to manage the number of people who go in and out of the gym.
Social distancing in the facilities is strictly imposed. A safety office ensures that this is observed.
Used equipment, like dumbbells, are placed in the “used” bins and disinfected before being placed in the “clean” container.“Memberships in our big branches are over 1,000. There may be 1,400 people who are members, but on a daily usage, the big gyms see around 300, and our normal-sized gyms will see anywhere between 65 and 90 people throughout the day. So, it’s a manageable number,” Bolivar said.
The Philippine government has not yet released guidelines for gym reopenings.
Social media presence
Electric Studio, the country’s first indoor cycling boutique, is the brainchild of Kris Sy, a Boston-educated Filipina. Electric Studio (www.electricstudio.ph) held online classes since day 1 of the lockdown. Classes were offered free for the first three weeks, but they started charging so the studio could keep its trainers.
“As soon as the lockdown happened, we were the first fitness studio in Manila to offer free daily IG (Instagram) live workouts, providing the community with off-bike, at-home workouts with minimal to no equipment needed,” Sy told Lifestyle.
Off-bike classes include boxing, strength training, high-intensity interval training, Pilates and barre.
Enrollment soared, not just from Manila but from all over the country. The studio’s social media presence also increased as fitness buffs readily embraced the online platform.
By April, the studio launched an initiative to give back, where a portion of the proceeds went to helping communities. Sy said they were able to purchase 432 packs of milk, 720 pieces of canned goods and 137 packs of diapers for communities in Quezon City.
It’s newest offering, Electric Studio Rhythm Boxing, also debuted online in March, giving viewers complimentary 30-minute shadowbox and floorwork exercises.
In time, the studio offered on-bike classes. Members had a choice to rent or purchase bikes.
“As soon as transportation was allowed to move, we quickly rented out our indoor cycling bikes and sold brand-new ones, so that our riders could enjoy the cycling classes they love and miss in the comfort of their own home,” Sy said.
Sy discovered a new market: shy people who would rather work out in the comfort of their homes.
So, from a fitness studio, it branched out into a logistics studio. Sy found herself jotting down people’s addresses, calling suppliers abroad, and arranging for the bikes to get into the country.
“The biggest lesson for us is, you just have to do it and think along the way in times like this,” she said. “It’s nice seeing people investing in fitness.”
Electric Studio now has over 60 live on-bike and off-bike classes per week. Trainers get to keep their jobs, and riders are getting their adrenaline fix.
Lifestyle also talked to the new kid on the block, the homegrown Hype 24/7 Fitness, a fitness center that opened only in 2018.
“Our advantage is we don’t pay a franchise fee,” said Alexis Noel Mariano, chief financial officer of Hype 24/7 Fitness. “The majority of our expenses goes to rent, but we were able to resolve that because malls weren’t charging during the lockdown. We were able to give a one-month extra salary to our trainers.”
At the moment, the gym does not offer online classes, but its thousand-strong members can download the Mywellness app and follow exercise routines in their homes.
Mariano also hopes gyms will reopen soon. Like every gym operator, he is in the dark as to when exactly gyms will be allowed to reopen. While that remains uncertain, the gym has already drafted safety measures for when it reopens. All members, he said, will be informed of the guidelines, and social distancing will be observed.
“We maintain a 50-percent capacity of the facility to ensure that the possibility of transmission is lessened,” he said. “Members will have to book their training sessions through the Mywellness app, which Technogym has developed for this pandemic. The app will also feature consultation sessions with fitness experts.” Technogym is the Italian brand of the gym equipment of Hype 24/7 Fitness.
The booking is programmed so that at any given time, only 50 percent of their facility could be occupied.
“Maximum training session is set at 90 minutes, with 10-minute intervals each. That means a slot will be free every 10 minutes so our members don’t have to wait for an entire hour before they could get in,” he said.
The staff will disinfect the hands and footwear of each member before entry. A mandatory temperature check applies, as well. The gym will also impose a strict “no mask and towel, no entry” policy.
“We do recognize that it might be a bit difficult for some people to work out with their masks on, so we’ll also have face shields available to lessen the restriction of airflow,” Mariano said.
Shower and locker rooms will be closed. Only the sink will be open so members can wash their hands.
“Markers are placed around the facility to guide them. We have also installed dividers between equipment areas,” he said. INQ