Exercising with masks or face shields, stickers cautioning customers to maintain a six feet distance, hand sanitiser dispensers, booking by slots — it was a completely different experience for people who visited gyms that reopened on Monday after remaining shut for nearly six months due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“I am visiting the gym after six months. This is a new experience for me to exercise with a face shield. These are desperate measures we had to take as it is a new normal now. I am happy with the sanitisation and precautions taken by the management,” Ritika Mehndiratta, a psychologist, who is a member of Anytime Fitness Gym in Malviya Nagar said.
The reopening came as a sigh of relief for gym owners, who are hoping for a revival of the fitness industry after months of closure. Gyms, fitness and yoga centres, spas were closed in the second week of March.
Only a few gymnasiums resumed services on Monday morning because owners either were making sanitisation arrangements or were unaware of the reopening as the order was issued late Sunday night.
Facilities such as sauna, shower, body massage and spas, however, will remain shut until further orders.
Gymnasiums were seen making arrangements to ensure sanitation, hygiene and social distancing as per reopening norms to prevent any spread of the contagious disease.
Chirag Sethi, vice-president of the Delhi Gym Association, said only about 30% gyms and fitness centres resumed services on Monday because the government order came late on Sunday night.
Sethi urged the government to waive off fixed electricity fixed charges for at least six months. “Although reopening was delayed by over 45 days, the decision has come as a relief for a workforce of around 1 lakh. We would like to request the Delhi government to waive off fixed charges on electricity for six months instead of just two (April and May). We are in no position to pay these charges,” Sethi said.
There are more than 6,000 gyms and fitness centres across Delhi that employ around 100,000 people.
In a late-night order on Sunday, the Delhi Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) allowed gymnasiums and yoga institutes to reopen with immediate effect on condition that they strictly follow all Covid-19 safety protocols.
Sethi said the SOPs issued by the Central and Delhi governments will be strictly followed. The gym association also issued guidelines, which include thermal scanning for all clients and slot-based entry. Only asymptomatic clients will be allowed to enter, he said.
“There will be a gap of at least 20 minutes between two batches and sanitisation practices will be carried out every hour. Face mask or face shield will be mandatory for members. They are requested to carry their own water bottles and yoga mats. Social distancing will be maintained. No shower, steam or sauna will be allowed. Gyms will prefer the use of individual AC units over centralised units,” Sethi said.
Sunil Kumar Tonk, owner of Black’s Gym, which has 16 fitness centres across Delhi-NCR, said he will need three days to reopen. “The order came late on Sunday night. On Monday and Tuesday, I will hold meetings with heads of my fitness centres to ensure all safety measures are in place. We will reopen after taking all precautions,” he said.
Spartan’s Gyms and Aerobics centre at Vikaspuri, which reopened at 5 am, saw at least five members trickle in by 8:30 am. Lucky Wasan, owner of the gymnasium, said, “We have sanitised our premises and equipment. Everyone is wearing a mask while working out. However, our changing rooms are shut for now.”
Aditi Rai, a gym enthusiast, said the Delhi government’s decision came as a big relief for her. “Working out is like meditation for me. For all these days, I somehow adjusted with home workouts, but there’s nothing like sweating it out in the gymnasium. However, high-intensity workout gets difficult with wearing masks,” she said.
The SOPs for gyms issued by the Centre on August 3 restrict workout sessions to activities that do not require trainers to touch members. Not more than 10 people per 1,000 square feet of space are allowed.
Face masks are mandatory at all times within gymnasium and yoga centre premises and these institutes must ensure a minimum distance of six feet between individuals.
Nikhil Kakkar, CEO of Gold Gyms India, which has 18 centres in Delhi-NCR, said fitness centres are following guidelines issued by the government. “We are not allowing more than 30 members at a time. Earlier 70-80 members used to work out. Our members can book their slots for a time period between 60 minutes to 75 minutes. We are ensuring a gap of 15-20 minutes between two batches for deep cleaning and sanitisation,” Kakkar said.
The Central government under its unlock 3 guidelines issued on July 29 had allowed gymnasiums and yoga centres to reopen across the country from August 5. But the DDMA, headed by lieutenant- governor Anil Baijal, did not allow these services in the national capital due to a spike Covid-19 cases.
On August 6, the Delhi government had sent a file to the L-G’s office to reopen hotels, weekly markets, gymnasiums and yoga centres in the national capital.