Gyms and trainers swamped during the first week back into indoor facilities

Many Victorian gym-goers have rushed back into fitness studios and facilities since they reopened last Monday.

Oakleigh based personal trainer Krista Antoniou has had trouble fitting all her clients into a new in-person schedule, with restrictions still placed on private home studios.

“I had a rush of clients, but it didn’t make it easier because you can only have so many people at any one time in your home gym,” she said.

As personal trainers are in high demand, Vision Personal Training director James Nearchou and his team are pleased to be back in the studio and welcoming clients.

“This first week has been awesome. I think more so mentally for myself and the team it’s been a big relief. The energy has been fantastic and for the clients it’s been much better as well,” he said.

Alongside venue capacity caps, there are procedures in place to make sure fitness facilities, much like may other businesses are as COVID safe as possible.

Posters adorn the mirrors and machines reminding members to wipe down the equipment and continue to keep their distance from other patrons.

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Floor stickers remind patrons to keep their distance when working out Photo: Supplied

Mr Nearchou predicts these limits may continue well into the future

“I can’t see a time where cleaning protocols that are in place now, not that we didn’t have them before but it’s definitely a higher attention to detail now, I don’t see that going away anytime soon. Nor do I think it’s actually a bad thing, because what we’ve seen is a lot less people getting sick due to being quite pedantic about santising our hands,” he said.

Former Fitness First trainer Ms Antoniou predicts that perhaps people will be turning to more personalised programs and even a general decrease in gym attendance.

“In my experience a fair few of my clients have gone and bought their own equipment and are maybe contemplating not going to the gyms that are in the higher bracket. When some of my clients found I was leaving, they said ‘okay cool, I’ll come train with you and leave Fitness First’,” she explained.

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Both trainers hoped that the gyms would have opened sooner for those who wished to continue attending, pointing to the data that illustrated very little to no community transmissions in these spaces.

“I think our industry on the whole was forgotten throughout the lockdown period in terms of, we were the first to close and the last to reopen both times, even though we probably had the best cleaning protocols out of all businesses and probably the best contract tracing as well. We know when everyone’s been in here because it’s appointment based,” Mr Nearchou said.

“On the physical and mental health side of things, we’re trying to keep everyone healthy and safe and we took away one of the biggest outlets and solutions to help people’s health and wellbeing.”

James Nearchou (centre) surrounded by his team pre-covid Photo: Supplied

Ms Antoniou also notes that the government should have focused more on the overall health benefits of opening up fitness facilities.

“By restricting people from exercising, it can also impact their mental health. It doesn’t seem as though our government held that as a high priority…The gyms needed to remain open. Is our physical health less important than the opening of restaurants?” she said.

“They should have opened at a larger capacity. Those people who wanted to go to the gym, can’t. Going for a walk isn’t enough exercise.”

Indoor gyms and fitness studios are currently permitted a total of 20 people in each venue, meaning many businesses have had to creating online booking timetables for their members.

Many of these sessions are booked out within minutes, which Ms Antoniou notes may be more of a deterrent.

“I don’t like working under the condition that ‘quickly you’ve got to book in otherwise you’ll miss out’. People already struggle to get motivated, so you’re adding an extra step for them to remember to do. It’s just another deterrent in a way,” she said.

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Whether people are waiting eagerly for more sessions to open up or getting back in touch with their personal trainers, what has definitely been noticed is how important the industry is in contributing to overall health and wellbeing.

“I think this year it’s highlighted how important it is to people. By being one of the most adversely affected industries, the silver lining is that it’s shown how important as an industry we are and how important our role is in the community,” Mr Nearchou said.

The next step will see indoor physical recreation venues allow up to 100 patrons, given the distancing of one person per four square metres. This will take effect from 22 November, 11:59pm.