Gymgoers welcome return to mask-off, high-intensity activities

Gyms and fitness studios were allowed to resume mask-off, high-intensity activities in groups of five on Aug 10 after Covid-19 measures were eased. ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

SINGAPORE - There were happy, sweaty faces at gyms and fitness studios on Tuesday (Aug 10) as these facilities were allowed to resume mask-off, high-intensity activities in groups of five after Covid-19 measures were eased.

As strenuous indoor exercise classes and activities were suspended when phase two (heightened alert) measures kicked in on July 22, marketing manager Teo Zhi Xian had to seek alternative workout options.

While the 30-year-old enjoyed home workouts during previous gym closures, she found them "quite dreadful" this time due to a lack of variety.

When the Government announced last week that fully vaccinated persons would be allowed to participate in such activities in groups of five from Tuesday, she quickly secured a class slot at Division Athletics gym, which specialises in strength and conditioning.

"It all boils down to the community... it's a very no-airs atmosphere and we try to help each other as much as possible," said Teo, who exercises six days a week.

The gym's co-director Alexandrew B David said it has been "a bit of a roller coaster" as the outlet opened on June 28 but had to shut four weeks later owing to the measures. He added: "It's unfortunate but we just took it and rolled with it."

Another fitness enthusiast who made a quick return to her regular haunt, the TFX gym at Pacific Plaza, was Alvina Jouw, who does weight training four to five times a week.

Jouw, who is self-employed, said: "It's better now because it is hard to breathe when you're doing weights training with masks. Not a lot of people have access to home workout equipment so it might be a setback for them and they'll take more time to get back on track with fitness."

Unvaccinated individuals who produce a negative test result and recovered patients can also take part in high-intensity activities. The pre-event test (PET) has to be taken in the past 24 hours before the class ends at a Ministry of Health (MOH)-approved medical service provider.

Staff members of the gyms that The Straits Times visited on Tuesday were seen checking with members for proof of full vaccination or negative PET before they were allowed to engage in mask-off activities.

True Group chief executive officer Ken Mok said the company, which operates 10 True Fitness and TFX gyms, will allow mask-off classes and activities from Aug 15 instead of Tuesday as members had already purchased passes for its classes with mask-on exercises.

It will continue offering mask-on options for members who are unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated until measures are further relaxed.

Mok, 51, said: "The new measures are a good start and I believe with more people getting vaccinated, the measures will be relaxed more so we're moving in the right direction."

But there was a slight hurdle for Body Fit Training Outram co-owner Farij Samsudi as he found out that unvaccinated instructors also have to take daily PETs at MOH-approved clinics before they are allowed to conduct classes in high-risk settings.

Out of its eight full-time and freelance instructors, five are fully vaccinated and he had thought that the rest could do daily fast and easy testing (FET) using self-test kits.

He said: "We had to adjust the roster a bit at the last minute because some people who were supposed to work this week can't anymore so we have to cover for them. And if someone teaches a class that ends at 10pm, they have to get tested at 10pm the night before - that's something that needs to be addressed."

Farij added that the gym will keep their online classes going till Oct 1 for people who cannot attend the sessions.

The 33-year-old said: "It's been hectic but what's more important is that we're able to open and get the business going. We're still getting used to the new norm and at the end of the day, although it might just be 10 or 20 per cent of people, we still have to think about those who are unvaccinated."

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