Coronavirus: Gyms increase precautionary measures, patrons make more effort to keep equipment clean

Patrons at F45 Holland Village sanitising equipment between sets. At least 10 local gyms have issued notices via e-mail or social media informing members of current and updated hygiene measures at their respective premises and urging members to pract
Patrons at F45 Holland Village sanitising equipment between sets. At least 10 local gyms have issued notices via e-mail or social media informing members of current and updated hygiene measures at their respective premises and urging members to practise social responsibility.ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO

SINGAPORE - The usually convivial Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp did not mince his words when scolding fans who tried to high-five him at a football match earlier this month, telling them to "put your hands away you f*****g idiots!".

In light of the coronavirus pandemic, gyms and fitness studios here are adopting the same mantra - albeit more politely.

Sports facilities in Singapore have seen a number of users testing positive for Covid-19 in the past two weeks. Last week, climbing gyms Boulder+Climbing and Climb Central confirmed that a climber who visited their premises had contracted the disease, with five cases now linked to the former.

On Thursday, Virgin Active Singapore said in a press statement that it would be shutting its Tanjong Pagar outlet for four days after two members who visited the fitness gym tested positive for the virus.

NOT TOO CLOSE

At least 10 local gyms have this week issued notices via e-mail or social media informing members of current and updated hygiene measures at their respective premises and urging members to practise social responsibility.

These measures include temperature taking, health and travel declarations, increasing the frequency of cleaning at premises and, in the case of some, introducing guidelines and policies to limit or eliminate physical touch.

Staff at all 19 Fitness First gyms here will be "advised to avoid physical contact with members and guests unless necessary, and the correction of movement and/or posture will be done verbally or through demonstrations", said Fitness First Singapore country manager Anil Chugani.

The gym chain has also reduced the capacity of its group fitness classes from Friday (March 20), closed its steam rooms and saunas, and will stop providing boxing gloves and aerial yoga hammocks from April 1.

There are no plans for now to restrict members' access to clubs, said Mr Chugani, expressing confidence in the current precautionary measures that are in place.

 
 
 
 

Fitness First Asia has collaborated with Celebrity Fitness to launch virtual classes via live streaming to cater to those issued quarantine orders or stay-home notices.

Trainers at Level gym, which has two branches, in Telok Ayer and Robinson Road, also rely on verbal cues and video demonstrations for its HIIT, strength and conditioning classes, while F45's branch in Holland Village has also moved to reduce physical contact.

In addition to replacing high-fives with toe taps and virtual high-fives, F45 has ramped up other precautionary measures.

It has changed the circuit-style, time-based workouts so that there are longer breaks between workouts for patrons to clean the stations. Equipment like sand bags and resistance bands that are more likely to absorb sweat have been removed.

Studio manager Anna Lloyd told The Straits Times that the recent measures are based on a three-tier action plan from the F45 headquarters in Australia. This plan has been disseminated to all franchise outlets worldwide, including the 27 in Singapore.

"Making sure the studio is as clean as it can be is the main defence that we've got," said Ms Lloyd. "The other thing is just to really educate all the trainers on what to look out for... Often in a gym, we have people who say they don't feel very well and it's usually exercise-related, but we've just been much stricter about it and if you're not feeling well, we'll ask you to leave."

GYM NUMBERS DOWN

Mr Chugani and Ms Lloyd acknowledged that some may be uncertain about visiting gyms now, but the latter said: "There's a lot of negativity around gyms in the media at the moment, but the best defence you've got against this virus is staying fit and healthy."

While about 10 per cent of Lloyd's estimated 500 clients have suspended their memberships as they live with babies or elderly parents, she noted that attendance is still healthy.

 
 
 
 

Other gyms here made similar observations, though Platinum Yoga Suntec City instructor Kristen Chong estimates a 30 to 35 per cent drop in the number of students during her peak hour classes.

Fitness First saw a 17 per cent drop in club visits last month - in comparison to the annual trends for the same time period a year ago - but there has been an 8 per cent rise in club attendance this month, said Chugani.

At Haus Athletics' two venues, in Cross Street Exchange and OUE Downtown Gallery, operations manager Natalie Wong estimated a 5 per cent decrease in attendance when the disease outbreak response system condition (Dorscon) level was raised to orange on Feb 7.

The 27-year-old said: "In the first few days (after that), we saw a drop in numbers when people were working from home, but subsequently they came back. Our classes are still quite full, especially at OUE."

The maximum capacity at Haus' two studios at Cross Street and OUE are 22 and 38 people, and there are no plans to reduce class sizes yet, as Ms Wong explained that each person is assigned a spot that is about 1.5m to 2m away from the next person - in line with the latest social-distancing guidelines.

Class sizes at F45 Holland Village range between 24 and 30 people, and though there are no plans to reduce them yet, Ms Lloyd acknowledged that it is a possibility if the situation here worsens. "If we have to cut down the class sizes, then we will probably try and increase the number of the classes that we have," added the 40-year-old.

CORONAVIRUS? NO SWEAT

Gym goers and staff alike observed that users have so far been cooperative in following guidelines and are more careful in the gym.

Level founder and head coach Alex Salihin, 39, has observed clients wiping down equipment "every hour of the day".

Digital product director Han Goh, who works out at the Anytime Fitness branch at Marine Parade twice a week, now wipes down equipment more conscientiously.

"Before that, I would just put a towel down but now if I know that a lot of people are using the machine and the wipes are there, I make an effort to clean it," said the 42-year-old.

Pure Yoga member Wong Woei Tyng, who attends classes thrice a week, admitted to feeling a little worried initially, but has been assured by the preventive steps taken by the studio, which include spacing out yoga mats.

Explaining that her classmates have also always practised good etiquette by wiping down their mats, the 34-year-old freelance yoga instructor said: "The people who come here are fairly disciplined and are generally more aware and conscious (of personal hygiene), so it's actually okay."

• Additional reporting by Neo Yee Pung