Gym industry in China sees recovery from pandemic with professionalism
With the current positive momentum in COVID-19 control, Lanzhou, the capital city of northwest China's Gansu province, has reopened its sports venues. While sports lovers return to fields and courts around the country, local gyms are struggling to recover the loss from the lockdown.
"For the sake of the prevention and control of COVID-19, we saw a bleak turnout in our gym, less than half that of last year. Pressure is mounting on many gyms," said Peng Yidong, runner of a local gym in downtown Lanzhou. "How to rebound from a record low is what every gym, or even the whole sports industry, had better figure out."
When the pandemic first hit and forced the closure of public places, many gyms in China chose to stream exercise lessons, in the hope that once an online fitness community was built, customers, as well as their membership fees, would stay.
Peng and his colleagues also created a WeChat group for online tutoring. "At first merely one or two customers 'clocked in' every day. As time went on, the numbers grew. Quite a lot of exercisers would ask questions about the moves, which is nice to see," Peng said. "During the pandemic, the number of indoor workouts showed a sign of rising professionalism."
Amid the virus outbreak, it alerted the public to the importance of physical health, as the less athletic expressed less resistance and gym lovers pursued a higher degree of professionalism.
"After the gym reopened, I found myself a personal trainer to guide my anaerobic exercise and diet choices," Zhang Peng, a sports fan, told Xinhua at the downtown gym.
He used to be not very disciplined with his exercises schedule, but now wanted them to be more customized and systematic. "Hopefully I will have the perfect body shape and be healthier through training."
"Professionalism is among the factors that could save gyms from collapsing," said Peng. "Good quality equipment, experienced teachers for group fitness classes, and highly qualified coaches are the key factors in the recovery of gyms. We should keep this in mind and take a step further."
Every week, Li Ming, an office worker living near the downtown gym, took the dance fitness class. "I love dancing in the gym. At home there's not the relaxing and enjoyable atmosphere as there is during the class. Dance exercise not only strengthens my body, but helps me unwind with music," she said. "It's a healthy, efficient and delightful way of exercising."
So far, the gym has opened more than 15 different kinds of group fitness classes, including yoga, kickboxing and Pilates, for various needs.
"They are of a very high standard," Peng said. "Take the dance fitness class for example, teachers must be certified. Qualifiers are few and far between, and much more so for ones with the charm to kindle enthusiasm."
As the industry embraces professionalism, under-qualified coaches may well be weeded out. Xu Qi, a personal trainer in the gym, told Xinhua that with the spread of fitness knowledge and higher customer expectation, coaches ought to meet a higher standard for work performance.
"Now people come to gyms not only for fitness and to slim their physiques," Xu said. "They vary in goals. Teenagers, for example, long for losing weight while mothers need recovery from having a baby. It calls for broad knowledge and highly experienced coaches, who otherwise may well fall behind."