COVID-19 effect: Gymming in the new normal

Parimal Manjrekar, a fitness trainer, had been looking forward to the opening of the gym he works at. He says if everything else, for example, restaurants, bars, and malls are open, then why not the gym ? “We had a meeting, at our workplace, and have decided to allow only a limited number of people into the gym at one time, say around 25 people. Entry will be given to clients and members on first come first served basis.”

Dhanesh Chheda, another fitness enthusiast, believes there can be no place safer than a gym, because of the extra caution that will be exercised to keep them clean. Shares Chheda, “I know almost everyone in the gym fraternity, and we have spoken about the precautions that will be put into effect. There will be sanitation at every level, from the treadmills to the other equipment, and therefore gyms are likely to be the safest places. If you look at shops, people forget social distancing there, but that won’t be the case at a gym.”

Gyms like Anytime Fitness, a US brand, with around 4500 branches worldwide, want to ensure a good amount of distance between gym-goers. The owner of the franchise in Kemps Corner, Mrudang Goradia tells us that as per government guidelines, each person will have a four sq. mt. space for themselves. At Anytime Fitness, clients are urged to reserve their time at an outlet of their choosing beforehand, so that that their entries and exits are well organized and timed. Such that the necessary distance is maintained between them, and they are not bumping into each other or crowding the space. “Each workout will be around 75 minutes. Then we will spend time cleaning the space for about 15 minutes, and then the next batch comes in,” explains Goradia.

Chheda is often invited to work out at gyms, to inspire the crowds with his regime. He also models for the men’s fashion brand he is the director of. “People are tired of stay-at-home. Now even the government has left it to individuals to decide what’s best for them. There are politicians doing elections rallies for thousands of people, who aren’t even masked. Going to a gym is definitely safer than that.”

Building one’s immunity is one of the chief reasons for going to a gym, gym owners argue. Says trainer Manjrekar, “Establishments like gyms which should have been opened first, are opening up last. There is nothing to fear since temperatures will be checked using the temperature gun at the entrance, along with taking other necessary precautions to maintain hygiene in the premises. At our gym, we have been asked to start giving time to our respective clients. I personally also lost a lot of weight during the pandemic, since I wasn’t working out like I used to at the gym. It’s time to start body-building again.”

Trainer Om Veer, who before the lockdown took functional and strength training classes in the open air, along with personal training classes for individual clients, advises caution. “A lot of trainers I speak to continually spread myths about COVID. That drinking cow urine, or drinking kadha, and eating tulsi and desi ghee will protect you and solve the issue. But that’s surely not enough. You have to take important precautions while training, in or outside the gym. I suggest people start with light workouts where masks can be worn, at the gym. For high intensity workouts, masks will have to be removed. Therefore, they should start slow. During weight training, if you are a generally healthy individual with no asthma, heart disease or blood pressure problems, masks can be worn. While going uphill, the heart rate increases, and therefore, one should ideally remove their mask during that time.”

Rohan Goradia, the son of the owner of Kemps Corner’s Anytime Fitness, who is also a certified personal trainer, tells us about the complex procedures that will be followed in his gym. From fogging, to sanitising dumbbell racks. “COVID or no COVID, we want to keep our premises clean and sanitised. It’s a family business and we aren’t concerned about the extra costs that will be incurred. The safety of our clients is much more important. Fogging when done, involves the settling of a mist on the equipment and the entire gym, everywhere. Sanitising the surfaces in the process. Floors will also we regularly swept and mopped.”

Both Om and Rohan agree that sitting at home all day can cause those unnecessary bouts of sadness and depression, so to speak. Physical activity will help release the endorphins and happy hormones, crucial for us to get through off days. Om adds that if you are comfortable with them, masks can be worn (depending on your personal health parameters and the kind of exercise you are indulging in). While warming up and cooling down, if your pulmonary and cardiovascular health is good, you may wear your mask, during gym sessions. Manjrekar, who is absolutely gung-ho about resuming work says his company will allow its clients to remove their masks while working out, but they will have to put them back on in the end, before leaving the building.

Enlightening us about other protocols in place at freshly opened gyms, Rohan Goradia shares, “We have asked our trainers to refrain from touching clients. Communication is key. We have tried to choose trainers who have better communication skills so that the need to touch clients (to demonstrate a form or a posture while working out) doesn’t arise that much.”

Adds Chheda, “I plan to start my workouts again in four or five days, at Nitrro Fitness in Breach Candy. So far I had been working out at my building gym. We in the building were given specific slots and timings and that’s where we continued our gym workouts during lockdown. But I plan to venture out again. While working out, if I see someone coming close, I will pull up my mask again. It’s high time gyms opened up because the sector has faced huge losses.”

Like restaurants, the concern is whether these establishments, where a fewer number of people will be allowed in at a time, will be profitable or not. However, owners like the Goradias are only mainly concerned about their clients’ safety. “Even though our gym is around 4500 sq feet, and can house almost 93 people even after all SOPs are followed, we plan to take in only about 23 people per slot.”

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