The year-long pandemic and frequent lockdowns have badly impacted health enthusiasts, gym owners and instructors. Though innovative ideas like online sessions, workout apps and telephonic guidance have helped, more and more challenges including restricted hours, limited people and the additional precautions have made gyms run at losses.
For martial arts practitioners, physical contact is necessary and this is a challenge for many.
Baqar Haidar, a coach from Oman Kickboxing Club, said, “COVID-19 has dramatically affected the health and fitness business. We operate a martial arts gym and the idea of close contact training is impossible these days because of social distancing norms. We cannot accommodate many students in a given time.
“Most people prefer to train between 5pm and 9pm. Restrictions in number of people and also time limits are adversely affecting us.”
Many clubs have tried out online sessions.
Shan B N, a karate instructor for children, said, “I did online classes during the lockdown and the response was not that great. Karate is a physical contact sport and we need sparring partners for good training. Having a virtual class is very challenging.”
Haidar added, “We did free online classes for more than six months during the first lockdown last year; we were getting up to 70 people logging in for training. It’s a convenient option for some but the training environment is very important. For dedicated students, training at home may work, but those numbers dropped as time went on.”
Restrictions in timing, number of people and no shower facilities have also impacted the gyms.
Mohammad Ayman, an instructor at Millennium Gym, said, “Many of the trainees are office-goers and they travel long distances to work in Ruwi. It is impossible for them to take a break from work and come to the gym. In the past, people used to come here either before or after work. They used the facilities well but now it is indeed tough for them to come after work as there are restrictions in number of people and shower facilities.”
New ideas are being mooted to overcome challenges.
“We are planning at some point to take the classes outdoors,” Haider said.
“Outdoor classes with the correct spacing will allow us to get higher student numbers and also allow us to cover our costs.”