The fitness industry continues to suffer as gyms remain shut under government orders. The prolonged closure has led to gym owners incurring heavy financial losses while trainers are unable to afford protein-rich diets and are thinking of joining other professions
On 27 January, Delhi Disaster Management Authority eased restrictions for shops, malls, and markets. Cinemas, bars and restaurants were permitted to reopen with half capacity. Amid this general reopening, Delhi gyms were specifically excluded.
To show their displeasure about DDMA’s decision, Delhi Gym Association members held a protest outside the residences of Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal and Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.
Around 200 gym owners, trainers and staff members gathered to demand immediate reopening of gyms in the capital. They also submitted a memorandum to the DDMA, L-G and CM requesting them to quickly reopen gyms at least with 50 per cent capacity.
For the last two years, every business around the nation has been adversely affected and some had to close down. Gyms are one of those segments which are witnessing long effects of lockdown. To understand how this lockdown has broken the backbone of the industry, which used to give employment to lakhs of people but is now facing an existential crisis, Patriot spoke to a few gym owners.
Aksh Dutta, who is in this industry for more than ten years, explained to us how this opening and closing of gyms have brought huge losses for the industry, “Most of the gyms are on rental properties and space is a big part of the expenditure. Many gym owners are paying in lakhs for the rental spaces to run their business and the closing of gyms brought their income to a halt. Amid this situation, it is becoming hard to pay rent and other expenses like electricity and salary of the employees, which increases the burden.
“Today gyms are a necessity for physical health as well as mental health of the society. It increases the social connect in the people which is needed after this long lockdown but I don’t know why gyms are targeted first”.
When we asked him what are the long effects this lockdown has caused he revealed, “About a thousand gyms around the capital are now closed and because of coronavirus, footfall of customers also decreased in the last two years. We were thinking of an increase in customer base after the vaccination and we were hoping for membership growth this new year but because of the third wave, Omicron and lockdown, everything went down”.
“Majority of the gyms are in financial stress, not only because of lockdown but after-effects of the lockdown. Many customers who paid in advance are asking for a refund, while gyms were closed because of lockdown and many decline to renew membership and ask to adjust money paid in advance. This is how a chain of loss started after Covid”, he added.
When asked how this is impacting employment generated by the fitness sector, he said, “A gym employs 10-15 people; trainers and maintenance staff are also facing hardships along with us. As I have mentioned earlier, many gyms have closed permanently, staff working there have opted for odd jobs for survival”.
Sagar Das, who is from West Bengal and works as a trainer at a gym, is also witnessing a hard time. Late salary, burden of family and loss of motivation are some of the reasons which are haunting him. “We trainers are the most vulnerable. During the long stretches of closure of gyms, we were affected physically, mentally and financially. We have to keep ourselves fit so that we can guide others but the closing of gyms breaks our routine and also brings our work to a standstill. Amid this closure, our salaries are slashed but how can we argue with our owners because we know even they are suffering losses. Many of the trainers have started working as Zomato delivery boys and some have started exploring other options”.
When we asked him how much of his income was slashed after the pandemic, he said, “I used to earn around Rs 50,000-60,000 per month before coronavirus. The main source of earning was from gym salary plus personal training but because of virus and lockdown, I have lost 70-80 per cent of my income. Before the pandemic, personal training was a good source to generate money but now many people have shifted to online mode and because of the virus, many are scared to come to the gym or call us home for training. Above all this, I have a family of five members to feed back home. I have two brothers – one is a special child and the other has lost his job in the second lockdown – and in this situation my burden has increased. Even my father who was resting in his old age has started working again in the village to support the family. Even paying room rent here has become hard for me”.
“This Covid mess has brought our diet to a minimal level. We bodybuilders need a protein-rich diet, which is costly and this string of lockdowns has dented our pockets. In this hard time, it has become difficult to feed my family. Amid this financial crisis, how I can think of a substantial meal”, he adds.