PETALING JAYA: Shoplot and community gym owners are calling for separate requirements for their reopening, saying that most of their premises are already well ventilated.
They feel that they should not be subjected to the same conditions as those for larger commercial gyms.
Gymnasium Entrepreneurs Association Malaysia president Krishnakumar Kalimuthu said 80% of gyms in Malaysia were the shoplot or community types and were ready to reopen.
“If ventilation systems are the main concern, our gyms have been equipped with open windows for fresh air, ceiling and exhaust fans even before the pandemic.
“For commercial gyms that rely on air-conditioning for ventilation, the Health Ministry can continue to work on a solution for them, but in the meantime, we cannot afford to wait any longer,” said Krishnakumar, who is also president of the Kuala Lumpur Bodybuilding Federation.
Last week, Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin tweeted that his ministry was working with the National Security Council to develop ventilation guidelines for the reopening of gymnasiums.
Krishnakumar proposed that separate requirements be set for commercial and shoplot gyms under the standard operating procedure being drawn up for the sector.
Apart from ventilation, it should also include the distancing of equipment, he said.
“Commercial gyms are bigger and have more space to distance their equipment but it’s harder for smaller gyms at shoplots.
“What we can do is cross out the equipment and leave a gap between the equipment or remove the plugs.
“Separating them with barriers or moving them out is an additional cost for us,” he explained.
He added that many local gyms had to close down or were struggling to cover rental and maintenance costs due to the prolonged closure because of Covid-19.
“Some owners can’t even close down even if they want to, as they will end up in debt while still needing funds to rent a place to store their equipment.
“We are upset because outdoor and commercial sports are allowed but not gyms,” he added.
Krishnakumar also said that many local shoplot gym owners were ex-athletes who were in the business out of passion, not profit.
“Just yesterday, a longtime friend threw in the towel. He is well- regarded among athletes and had always supported our competitions.
“It’s heartbreaking news, especially because he had motivated us (gym owners) to keep going,” said Krishnakumar.
The owner of the Enrich Fitness gym outlets also spoke of how the community was very supportive of each other.
“Many community gyms only charge patrons a small entry fee as we strive to serve our community of students, fitness buffs and even the disabled and elderly folk,” he said.
Gym-goers are also speaking up for these small establishments.
One of them, who wished to be known only as Gerard, 25, said he was sympathetic towards the owners’ plight.
“We are all part of a close-knit community, and both owners and patrons will definitely play our part in ensuring the safe reopening of gyms,” he added.
Lim Jian Hung, co-owner of Savage Gears, an all-inclusive gym here, said that with the highly transmissible Delta variant, they would need to invest more to meet the current ventilation requirements for indoor facilities, which may include the installation of fans and CO2 monitors.
Wayne Wong, owner of FitBar KL Studio, a contemporary fitness studio, said they would continue to host online classes while waiting for the new SOP.
He was confident that gyms would not be rendered redundant although many people had resorted to other free forms of exercise such as jogging or home workout videos.
“Many people may still make mistakes that lead to injuries without professional guidance,” the trainer added.
Jonnath Tan, an assistant manager of an Anytime Fitness outlet here, said that as a fully air-conditioned commercial gym, they would make changes to their ventilation system.