Building exercise momentum


Radha: Sales of recreational bicycles shot through the roof last year and peaked around August.

A FEW weeks before the Covid-19 pandemic hit, Azrul Rahman decided it was time to sign up for a gym membership and personal training as he was getting larger around the waist.

He trained diligently, three times a week at the gym and managed to shed weight.

Then the movement control order came into force, throwing a spanner in the works, as gyms had to shut their doors.

While adhering to the MCO, Azrul inadvertently regained the weight he had lost.Eager to make progress, he invested in exercise equipment to continue his workout routine at home and sourced for fitness training videos online.

“I have lost some weight again but not as much as I had hoped for.

“It is work in progress but I am confident I will get there if I persevere,” the 30-year-old said.

Staying fit

Restrictions on movement has not deterred gym-goers from keeping to their fitness regime during the lockdown.

Fitness enthusiast Amira Hakmal, 39, who promotes skipping and overall body workout on social media through her home-made

videos, encourages people to keep moving to stay fit.

“I am at the gym almost every day but now with them closed during the MCO, I have to find other ways to keep moving.

“So, jumping rope and jumping jack are the two exercises I do at home daily,” she said, adding that the exercises had to be done consistently to yield results.

When the MCO was introduced last year, 29-year-old cloud engineer Alvin Chen went online and invested in a few dumb-bells as well as weight plates.

“I bought the plates, weighing 5kg, for RM35 each. I also bought a yoga mat for stretching exercises.

“I bought the equipment to exercise at home as I have no idea how long the gyms will remain closed or how long the pandemic will last,” he said.

He added that he stopped going to the gym even when they were open for a short period before the lockdown, as he was worried about contracting Covid-19.

However, Chen acknowledged that working out at home did not offer the same experience as being in the gym.

While he used to spend at least four times a week at the gym, now he only manages to work out twice or thrice weekly.“I had access to heavy equipment at the gym.

“Some of the exercises are not doable at home,” he said, adding that there was also the problem of space constraints in his home.

Amirul Arif Ahmad Norizan, 29, from Kelana Jaya, said he found it difficult to allocate as much time as he did when exercising at the gym.

“I have been working from home for about a year now. People tend to work longer hours at home, and after that they are too tired to exercise.

“I also have to look after my daughter as she often wants to play and cuddle,” he said, referring to his eight-month-old baby.

Amirul Arif used to visit the gym four times a week.

Now, he relies on dumb-bells, skipping rope and a pull-up bar to maintain his fitness, with the exercise routine incorporated into his daily life twice a week.

“It is important to exercise regularly especially as you get older,” he said, adding that he looked forward to exercising in the gym again when it is allowed to reopen.

Jeffrey Mohd Johan Ng, 29, said working out at home lacked the friendly and competitive vibe at the gym.

“There is less motivation at home as I don’t feel the push from my peers.

“It is also tough to maintain a regular workout schedule due to the lack of proper equipment.

“Exercises are a lot easier when you have plenty of equipment to choose from at the gym. It does not feel the same when working out with limited equipment at home,” he said.

Jeffery has been using a resistance band with adjustable weights ranging from 5kg to 25kg, which he bought from a seller on social media.

“Exercising is not just about keeping fit.

“It is also a therapy which has become more important now that we are working from home,” he noted.

Hiking enthusiast Rita Chan, 50, turns to exercise videos online to maintain her fitness level although it is not the same as being outdoors.

“I miss being able to take in the fresh morning air in the forest but for now, the dumb-bells, kettlebell and skipping rope are what I rely on to burn calories,” she said.

Get creative, improvise

The intermittent closure of gyms nationwide since last year has forced many proprietors to trim their payroll to cut cost.

Elavarasan Ponnan, 44, was formerly a general manager at a popular fitness chain before he was let go in February.

Armed with 19 years of experience in the industry, he is now a virtual fitness trainer.

“Many gym-goers have become dependent on physical machines. They seldom explore other forms of exercise.

“Lack of gym equipment does not have to be a limitation if one knows how to use their body weight to exercise, which can create a good experience,” said Elavarasan who teaches from his Subang Jaya home.

Specialising in basic body conditioning and joint activation, he said discipline was key to working out at home.

“It is not a must to have big equipment for a good workout.

“You can get creative and use hardcover books and bottled water as tools.

“Working out at home also gives you flexibility in terms of time management, allowing you to set your own pace,” he said.

But virtual training was not without drawbacks as it lacked direct interaction and the human touch, said Elavarasan.

“It was also initially tough to get people to sign up as most were used to physical training.

“Since then, more people have expressed interest in virtual training sessions,” he said.

Online demand

Sports Direct Malaysia managing director Paul Gibbons said although sales for exercise equipment was encouraging last year, there was a decline this year as consumers were more cautious with spending.

He also said that the sales via online platforms could not compete with the sales at conventional brick-and-mortar premises.

“It is in people’s nature that they prefer to go to the malls and stores to look at the products before buying.

“People also tend to be more hesitant to buy a product online unless they have a feel of it in the store,” he said.

Yoga mats, small weights and skipping rope were among equipment that people shopped for as these could easily be stored at home, noted Gibbons.

He said the rise in equipment sales was due to people spending more time at home.

“Many are taking proactive measures to do something healthy,” he added.

Universal Fitness and Leisure Sdn Bhd managing director Datuk Radha Krishnan observed a significant increase in the sales of home-range equipment, especially after the MCO was implemented last year.

“Home-range equipment are those that are priced below RM5,000. These include cross-trainer, treadmill, bicycle-trainer and dumb-bells,” he elaborated.

He said the implementation of the first MCO caught many off-guard, and this contributed to the surge in demand for exercise equipment.

“For example, the sales of recreational bicycles shot through the roof last year and peaked around August.

“Demand was so high that some stores ran out of stock,” he said.

Radha added that sales tapered down towards the end of last year when gyms gradually reopened but picked up slightly early this year.

Fitness Concept chief executive officer Charinn Au Yong said sales remained high throughout the various phases of MCO.

“Although gyms reopened in the second half of last year, many still preferred to exercise at home to avoid going out.

“Many gyms also implemented an advanced booking system to regulate crowds, which was inconvenient for some gym-goers,” she pointed out.

She said spinning bikes and treadmill were among the most popular equipment sold.

“Many fitness centres moved their training sessions online, so many people were buying equipment to keep up with their exercise routine at home,” she added.

Au Yong said many stores, too, struggled to keep up with the increase in demand.

“Equipment manufacturers could not cope with the surge in orders worldwide.

“There was also an issue with shortage of containers at ports, which further disrupted the supply chain,” she said.

The implementation of a nationwide lockdown, she added, affected sales as fitness stores could not operate because they were not considered essential business.

“We can only sell via online shopping platforms. But this lacks the personal touch that only a store assistant can provide.

“So, although there has been an increase in home-range equipment sales, there are other setbacks to deal with,” said Au Yong.

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