Fitness centres take a beating in the wake of COVID-19

Syazwani Hj Rosli

The recent announcement on the temporary closure of fitness centres/gyms across the nation in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak has impacted the local fitness business establishments and many fitness enthusiasts.

The Bulletin caught up with several fitness centre owners to get their opinion on the closure, as well as the alternative measures implemented to adjust to the sudden change.

Hybrid Movement owner Darren Chai said, “Ever since the closure, things have been changing on a daily basis. We have our challenges as a business as we depend on memberships and walk-ins. Currently, we are reaching out to stakeholders and landlords on how we can overcome this.”

With regards to memberships, he said they are offering a ‘freeze period’ to a time when they are able to reopen the gym and resume operations.

Discussing alternative plans, Darren said they have started conducting daily home workouts through their Instagram account. He encourages everyone to join in and post their workout. For him, it is a way to keep everyone connected, while lifting their moods and keeping physically active.

Asked about the importance of fitness to mental health (considering almost everyone is cooped up at home), he explained that mental health is significant at the moment, because a lot of people are afraid of the uncertainty of the future.

“However, we need to take it one day at a time, and take small steps to reduce our anxiety by staying home, working-out and just do our part to get through this together,” Darren said.

“I hope we can work together to fight this crisis by taking steps to control its spread, by means of social distancing, practicing good hygiene and listening to the authorities who are working hard to keep us all safe. In this hardship, I hope we can all learn to be kinder to one another, and realise how important it is to be healthy and fit.”

Meanwhile, Dudgym Fitness owner Muhammad Saadi @ Wadud bin Haji Abu Bakar, who has been in the business for nine years, is conducting online classes.

The closure of gyms and fitness centres in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak has impacted the local fitness business establishments and many fitness enthusiasts. PHOTO: RAHWANI ZAHARI

“The closure does not mean everything has to stop for our clients and other fitness enthusiasts,” he said, adding that he offers free live stream classes on both his Instagram and Facebook accounts as part of his contribution to the community.

“If you do not know what to do while cooped up at home, join us for a live workout. We want to share with the community, so they can stay healthy and active at home,” he said.

While the closure will spell significant losses to gym owners, Wadud believed that there is no other option when it comes to ensuring the safety of the community.

“If possible, once everything returns to normal, we would like to request support from the government to help remain operational and get back on track, because I believe the fitness business is important to national health and in combatting obesity.

He called on all Bruneians to never give up, keep praying and Tawakkal, and to cooperate with the government in fighting the outbreak.

One fitness enthusiast who chose to remain anonymous, said the gym closure order is necessary.

The closure has affected her daily routine, leaving her feeling “weird.”

“Keeping fit keeps me sane; it is like an avenue to release stress. When I’m at the gym, I can forget my worries for an hour. Being there at a pre-determined time makes it easier to plan your week and motivate you to set time to exercise (for me at least). A big motivating factor of working out at the gym is having people around you – the coaches and other people in the class. I usually go to the gym at the end of my working day, but now, to not be able to, is just weird,” she shared.

She now does her workouts at home or heads out for a run.

Asked about the difficulty in coping with the sudden change to her fitness routine, she responded, “I’m struggling to maintain my fitness. I do have workout equipment at home, like a mat, jumping rope and dumb bells. I want to lift weights, but I do not have barbells and plates to do so. So basically, I can’t do gymnastics work at the moment.

“The fitness community is amazing. I hope the motivation will rub off on me soon. I appreciate the coaches and gym members even more now.”

Another gym-goer, Zulfadly, said that closure order is a good move as it allows gyms and other fitness centres to rethink about hygiene and keep their equipment clean for clients.

“I know some gyms are taking this opportunity to do much needed renovation to their space, and that’s going to be a nice and welcome change once all this goes back to normal.”

Responding to how the closure has affected him, he said, “Mentally, it is difficult because it means I have to forego any fitness goals I had initially planned.”

His fitness routine now includes working-out at home. “At home, I come up with my own workout or join workout challenges (posted on Instagram) by friends and other gyms,” he added.

“Staying at home doesn’t mean you can’t workout. There is a Brunei Instagram community that shares workouts on their IG stories and posts. Let’s try to do what we can, listen and practice what His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam and the government is asking of us, and pray that our country can stand united to ensure #BruneiTogetherWeCanDoIt.”