Coronavirus: Virtual fitness classes, online workouts the new norm for gymgoers

A photo taken on Dec 4, 2018 shows owners of Boom, Ms Victoria Martin-Tay (left) and husband Bryan Tay. The boxing studio is kicking off its online workouts on Monday (March 23) with a session on Instagram Live. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Esther Lee's weekly exercise regimen used to comprise outdoor runs in parks and fitness classes at the gym. But the 37-year-old's gym routine has now been replaced with home workouts due to the coronavirus pandemic.

This is because it is now more difficult for her to secure slots for her regular group fitness classes at Fitness First, which started reducing the capacity of its sessions from March 20 to adhere to recommended social distancing guidelines. Walk-in registrations have been stopped and classes can only be booked via the gym's app.

Lee, who works in manufacturing, does her HIIT home workouts two to three times a week and relies on the Garmin Connect app and fitness videos on YouTube.

"During the haze you could work out indoors but not outdoors, so I did classes in the gym and used apps but now it's the other way around - I run outdoors and use the apps indoors," said Lee, who jogs two to three times a week.

With the coronavirus disrupting the sport and recreation landscape here, people in Singapore are turning to alternative ways to stay fit.

Health and fitness equipment supplier AIBI has seen a 30 per cent increase in the number of customers interested in buying home equipment, though its marketing director Pauline Kwek noted that March is usually a strong period for product sales.

In light of the virus situation, gyms like Fitness First and Boom have also come up with alternatives. The former is collaborating with Celebrity Fitness to launch virtual classes via live streaming, while fitness and boxing studio Boom is kicking off its online workouts on Monday (March 23) with a session on Instagram Live.

The studio, which has two premises at Cecil Street and Anson Road, is voluntarily closing from March 23-April 3 as co-founder Victoria Martin-Tay told The Straits Times: "We don't think it's the socially responsible thing to be open during this time. We've poured money and man hours into disinfecting and cleaning and that might reduce the likelihood of community transmission, but it doesn't eradicate it completely.

"Obviously we have to stomach some losses, but it's for the greater good."

The live workout will be conducted by Martin-Tay's husband and co-founder Bryan Tay, and she added: "People enjoy the sense of community in studio workouts - you share the pain with someone else and you're not alone.

"You still feel you're part of something even though you're so distant from them, and that was important for us in our first move to bringing classes online."

Fitness coach Brian Ho, who runs an online fitness training service, estimates a 30 per cent increase in sign-ups up for his programme from February to March.

The 20-year-old, who posts workout videos and tips on his Instagram page, said the number of views for his videos have gone up and more people are asking him for advice.

"They mostly want to know how to train without equipment, because some of them don't have pull-up bars or dip bars and they want a workout that doesn't have any equipment at all," said Ho, whose clients send him their workout videos so that he can check and correct their form.

He added: "(Coaching fitness online) is almost as effective as guiding them in real life. The key thing is accountability - I can keep them accountable seven days a week through texting platforms and calls instead of just one to two hours a week."

Senior performance marketing executive Olivia Koh, who is working from home on alternate weeks, said following an online workout requires more discipline.

The 24-year-old, who usually visits F45 Tai Seng near her office, last week did two workouts on ClassPass Go, an app by fitness subscription service Class Pass that provides audio workouts.

"It takes a lot of discipline to dedicate an hour and finding a workout that will push you enough... I slacked off for sure," she added.

"There's no one around you and there's no community to push you."

Agreeing, Lee, who first started working out at home 10 years ago when she was in confinement after childbirth, uses online exercise programmes in her hotel room when she is overseas on business trips.

Her advice to those considering virtual fitness classes and online videos is to persevere and push on.

"Keep fit because you need to build immunity - if you just keep refreshing your news feed and eating, it's not going to help," she added.

"It gets lonely sometimes. When I first started it was easy to just not do it, but now it's a habit and part of my routine."

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