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How has the pandemic affected people’s reliance and interest in gyms? We speak to four people from across our industry to explore this topic.

You would have read in our how has 2020 changed the fitness trends piece trends that this pandemic has had a large impact on the types of exercise we take part in, but has it also had a long-term effect on where we train? Before, many people would only go to the gym and wouldn’t consider outdoor exercise or other training options. However, people have been forced to buy their own equipment and either work out at home or outdoors.

Below is what a selection of people from across our industry had to say on this topic.

Louise de Menthon – founder of Loup Yoga

When COVID-19 hit and gyms had to close their doors, I was distraught. I thought the incredible momentum of the movement industry may well grind to a halt as people were drawn to lying on the sofa. I assumed, rather, mustering the motivation to get exercising all on their own without the gym environment would just be too much.

I am so happy to say I was wrong. It has been one of the silver linings of this terrible pandemic to see the parks swarming with runners and friends getting together to do HIIT sessions. We have a park at the back of our flat and see people out there with kettlebells and suspension training gear. I got so excited I tried to order my own kettlebells but, alas, they had sold out nationwide!

As a yoga teacher, I feared for my profession. I had never in my life taught an online class before and honestly couldn’t see how it would work. Again, what a fabulously pleasant surprise to realise MORE people attend classes online with me; people are less intimidated by the group setting, are more willing to try challenging postures, more committed and more consistent. Plus, I make far more money, rather than giving the gym a big cut.

I always questioned the notion of taking ourselves out of nature and into an air-conditioned space, often without natural light, in order to move our bodies and promote our health. I think this shift towards exercising outside is fantastic and will continue long into the post-COVID (bring it on) future. It’s free and scientifically proven to be better for you. I’m sorry gyms, you’ve served many of us for a long time but I think it might be time (for me anyway) to wave goodbye.

Edgaras Lindinas – Health & Fitness Manager at YMCA

‘In the middle of chaos lies opportunity’ was once said by Bruce Lee. The post-COVID period can be a great chance to get back to the game for those gyms that can be creative, dynamic and organised. For the last five years, traditional membership-based fitness centres have been challenged to compete with low-cost/non-membership gyms as well as high-end boutique studios that specialise in group exercise. The COVID-19 pandemic put an enormous strain on all of the leisure sector, with rapidly changing restrictions and closures around the country.

Over the last 12 months, we saw a rat race between fitness professionals and gyms, on who can offer a better virtual experience and gain more followers. From online personal training sessions and virtual group exercise classes to social coffee chats, COVID turned the industry upside down. Returning to operational business will be a great opportunity to show what we gained over the last year. Hybrid membership modules or no-strings-attached memberships will now dominate in leisure centres to attract more potential users, who are still working from home or are not able to commit to a long-term plan. It will also be our goal to put in an extra effort and show creativity for getting those members back to the gyms who already got used to exercise outdoors and have their own equipment at home.

Without a doubt, the next phase of reopening will be very exciting and I am confident that many people will return to their favourite fitness venues for better health, wellbeing and social aspects of it, as we are more than just a gym.

Graeme Hinde – Founder of the LFX Network

Gyms or structured exercise sessions have been around since the Egyptians were building pyramids and, up until the start of the pandemic, they were growing in popularity. Gyms and workouts were also fuelling a surge in the sale of gym wear, with leggings, trainers, hoodies, supplements and other items seeing a huge surge in growth.

In my opinion, the best way to predict what people are going to do in the future is to look at what they have done in the past, and I have absolutely no doubt that gyms will be as popular as ever in the near future.

Obviously, there are two key factors, one being the management of the pandemic and the other the weather. If the government’s roadmap works, consumers will feel safer when returning to the gym but, if it’s sunny and warm, people may take a little longer to return to training indoors.

Well-managed gyms will return to normal and be as popular as ever once the pandemic is under control and online workouts will supplement everything that is going on in clubs.

Holly Lynch – Sport and fitness manager at Fitness Evolution and MOSSA Instructor

March 2020 became more significant to gyms and the fitness industry than any of us would ever have imagined.

Thousands of instructors set up online fitness classes, people bought their own kit to train at home and online communities expanded and thrived. With gyms reopening on the 12th April, it begs the question will it be the same?

I personally know many instructors who are remaining on their online platforms supporting clients from the comfort of their own home and clients seem more open than ever to try these alternative methods of training and exercising.

I for one couldn’t wait to get back to training in person (albeit outside) and the outside fitness classes have been an amazing reunion of people with a shared goal.

What do you think? Have gyms lost some of their importance or do you see them bouncing back once they properly reopen?

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