Your Views: Gyms & Coronavirus Lockdown
Following the First Minister's announcement on 30 July advising that gyms in Scotland likely won't open for another few weeks, I was curious to know how people in my local area were experiencing 'lockdown fitness'.
We had been told that usual gym business (whatever that might look like) may not resume until potentially 14 September - on the basis of course that the virus remains under a level of control. We have already seen u-turns on further easing of lockdown in England due to localised spikes in infection rates.. which of course is the correct thing to do.. but I remain hopeful that the fitness industry doesn't have to be the one left out in the cold.
Anyway, as I say, I was curious to know how the last few months have been for people in my area. As you might know I am still fairly new to this city, so most of the connections on my social media are in other places and I can see how they feel about it.
I created a SurveyMonkey questionnaire, super short with just ten questions, just to get a glimpse of the picture here in Perth. All questions were mandatory and were mainly closed questions, with opportunity to leave more detail in a couple of open-ended questions.
For context, Perth is a relatively small city and has a few fitness venues. There are the public-sector centres spread across the local authority area, a Bannatyne, Curves, Claymore CrossFit, two or three private-run gyms and a handful of smaller studios for yoga/MMA etc. A Fit4Less recently closed, and I believe there is planning permission for (at least) one other gym. There's one or two swimming pools and golf/ bowling greens, so I'm generalising when I use the term 'gym'; namely where one would frequent to tend to their exercising needs.
I'll jot through the questions and what I found...
1) Up until the Coronavirus 'lockdown', were you a member at a gym or leisure centre in the Perth area?
Yes, in Perth (92%)
Yes, elsewhere in Perth & Kinross
Yes, but nearby (Dundee/ Fife)
No, I am not a member (8%)
No, I am from another area
I was keen to know the geographic location of the respondents. Although anonymous, I did not wish to know where people were members at specific venues as there was no commercial intent behind this survey.
2) Throughout the Coronavirus 'lockdown', have you retained your gym membership?
This is interesting, with a majority retaining their memberships even with the closure of venues. People may have been impacted financially as a result of lockdown and could no longer maintain expenses such as a gym membership - some venues did 'freeze' membership costs however. Others who benefited from the social aspect of gym-going perhaps cancelled memberships knowing this would be impacted.
I believe that exercise should be available to all.. if some people have sacrificed memberships due to financial hardship then I am reassured in the knowledge that there are still online options available at a lower cost (even for free).
3) Throughout the Coronavirus 'lockdown', have you been satisfied with your gym's offering of online classes / home workouts?
Very satisfied (40%)
Somewhat satisfied (40%)
A majority of respondents were generally satisfied with their gym's offering of alternative workouts through lockdown. This is a subjective answer though as one person's needs will generally differ to the next, depending on the type of activity you did in the gym pre-lockdown. It is reassuring to know that some gyms are meeting the expectations of their customer base. I have seen various venues offering live stream classes, or links to other channels for workout inspiration (or a combination of both). Les Mills On Demand was a key feature offered to gym members, which I hope has been helpful to those who enjoyed the live classes pre-COVID.
4) Prior to the Coronavirus 'lockdown', what activities did you mainly engage in at your gym? Please select all that apply.
Specialist classes (yoga, active ageing, zumba gold, mobility or rehab, etc) (12%)
Fitness classes (BodyPump BodyCombat, circuits, bums & tums, Zumba, etc) (68%)
Personal Training sessions (12%)
Gym floor - weights only (free weights, resistance machines etc) (24%)
Gym floor - cardio only (treadmill, bikes etc) (16%)
Mixture of gym floor uses (32%)
As a multiple selection answer it is difficult to gain an accurate picture of how a single typical respondent would exercise, however there is a clear majority that would use group exercise classes when at the gym.
Group exercise is known to be highly beneficial on several fronts; not only from the physical rewards of exercise, but the feeling of exercising with others has brilliant psychological effects. There is a level of camaraderie and competitiveness that stimulates participants more so than solo workouts. There is a form of 'safety net' where you can follow your fellow participants and the class instructor through the workout; eyeballing technique and being accountable (not skipping reps or walking out).
For exercise to music classes, there's links to music and mood - and it's no wonder why Les Mills workouts are amongst the most popular in the world. Furthermore, choreographed workouts can improve coordination and memory too.
5) How likely are you to return to your gym after the Coronavirus 'lockdown'?
Very likely (48%)
Still not sure (20%)
Understandably, some respondents are still unsure about returning to the gym.
In another blog post I noted how I had observed several threads on different social media forums discuss potentially not returning to the gym, either as a result of safety concerns or due to finding a new normal. It is clear that going to the gym, like many other public places, will look and feel much different for some time in a post-lockdown Scotland.
It is very encouraging however to see many respondents confident in their return to a physical gym post-lockdown. and I wonder how we as coaches can accommodate these members in safe manner; perhaps a combination of blended formats between live workouts, outdoor workouts and home workouts?
6) Generally speaking with regards to routine or physical and emotional well-being, how has the closure of your gym affected you?
It has not affected me (12%)
I don't feel strongly either way (12%)
It affected me, but I have adapted (12%)
It has affected me slightly, I liked to go to the gym (28%)
It has affected me greatly, I was a regular gym goer (36%)
I, like the majority of respondents, place myself in the category of 'greatly affected'. Whilst I have adapted to the situation, I do miss the physical setting of a gym and classes. As an instructor, I know that some people would attend classes multiple times a week, or even in a day, and I do hope that those who feel affected are managing well at home.
The survey highlights the importance of the fitness industry in people's health and wellbeing, it really shouldn't be taken lightly.
7) Have you been partaking in home workouts during Coronavirus 'lockdown'?
Yes, in place of regular gym-going (48%)
Yes, occasionally (28%)
I tried it once or twice (8%)
I haven't tried it (16%)
Lots of keen beans have been trying home workouts! Whilst there is a lot on offer there are limitations to working out at home (physical environment, i.e. space, neighbours, family or cohabitants..) - as I say in my blog often, we have to adapt to overcome adversity. Your gym may be supporting you well through this time, but for whatever reason they may be unable to. Nevertheless, there are other resources, whether it be online or real-life coaches, who want to help you.
8) What media have you used for home workouts during the Coronavirus 'lockdown'? Select as many as is applicable.
My gym's online classes (via Zoom, Facebook Live, or similar) (36%)
Les Mills On Demand (24%)
Local fitness instructor's classes (Zoom, Facebook Live..) (12%)
Celebrity/ influencer workouts (24%)
Pre-recorded workouts (YouTube, Instagram..) (28%)
Joe Wick's PE With Joe (32%)
Solo workouts at home (32%)
Running, cycling (44%)
None/ Not Applicable (12%)
Again, as a multiple response answer there are several outcomes of this question.
Running/ cycling is the majority choice here, which surprises me. It is free (bar the cost of a bike and running shoes) and is not time constrained to online classes. Admittedly though I also have been running more during lockdown! Perhaps a subconscious result of being at home all day everyday? If I still used a FitBit, my step count really would be abysmal..
I still think 2020 will be the year of Zoom though! Personally I have been using Zoom to participate in workouts and it is the preferred method by many coaches, along with Facebook or Instagram Live. In my May blog, I highlighted the pros and cons of various online workouts, but Zoom is the prevailing method.
9) Which of these has been your most used/ favourite?
Here are the responses (some have been given multiple times):
Strength and conditioning including sprints and long-distance running
Zoom classes with instructors
Fair play sports
Run or bike nearly every day, class 2/3 days a week
Celebrity workouts. Been working out to Nile Wilson’s body bible programs
Les Mills On Demand
Lots and lots of different activities going on! A lot of Les Mills On Demand responses, and also Zoom classes. Many options which do not utilise much equipment ..
10) I would like to know what feedback you have about home workouts and online classes in general...What are the barriers? What do you enjoy about them?What could be better?What types of workout are you missing?
Here are some of the responses:
I miss the accountability of a class teacher and peers
Lack motivation and effort without people around me. It’s lonely working out at home. I missed not having access to weights.
I don't feel like I push myself with workout videos. They are at times that aren't doable now with going back to work
Motivation is a big barrier. When going with friends to classes you don't want to let them down and is also a time to socialise
Actually really enjoyed PE with Joe and have found I can do HIIT at home, so do I need the gym?
Love the flexibility, miss the swimming pool
Can’t do home workouts in a flat and completely demotivated without attending a gym physically
Just isn’t the same as the gym. I miss the classes so much.
Doing classes at home is ok. They do they job but you miss the other gym goers to motivate and help you along! It’s been good doing the routines that you know but it takes a lot of self motivation to get up and do it alone. I wouldn’t want to learn a new release without an instructor.
I couldn't populate every answer provided. Many answers overlapped in certain themes, specifically a great fondness for social aspects of gym/ classes and also accountability in general - for example effort or dedication to workouts. One thing I was quite pleased to read in answers was the preference of a live coach in classes too, whilst the chances of these respondents having attended my classes are slim it is nice to know that instructors are valued by the members.
Hopefully all of us here in Scotland don't need to wait longer than necessary to get back to our much-loved exercise venues. The findings show that these gyms are much more than a place to exercise though, with social and psychological benefits apparent. Home workouts have served us well in recent months and may integrate themselves into our 'new normal', but it's clear to me through these results, and anecdotally, that it doesn't beat 'the real thing'.
Well done to all the coaches offering their participants a solution through lockdown, either via live-streamed or pre-recorded workouts. I for one have depended on these in combination with my own workouts to retain some form of my pre-COVID routine.
Do any of these responses resonate with you? Do you find yourself siding with the majority of respondents, or do you feel your experience has been different? Tell me about it on Instagram!