Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 6 August 2020

Dubai gym classes fully booked: 'People feel more comfortable now'

Capacity limits for classes mean people must now book ahead

Fitness classes are being booked up days in advance as Dubai residents return to gyms. Ruel Pableo / The National 
Fitness classes are being booked up days in advance as Dubai residents return to gyms. Ruel Pableo / The National 

Gyms across Dubai are reporting fully booked classes, signalling a return to business as usual.

People are ready to get back to normality and have definitely missed the group training and community feel

Gyms and sports centres across the emirate were able to reopen from May 27 and some are now reporting that classes are selling out days in advance.

Fitness centres can operate at 100 per cent capacity in Dubai, however, because of physical distancing guidelines, some have to operate at a lesser capacity.

People must maintain a two-metre distance at all times, which means many classes can't be full. Also, machines need to be spaced out and guests and trainers must wear masks during light or moderate physical activity. Also, no two people can use equipment at the same time and it all must be sanitised between each use.

Classes every hour, selling out days in advance

Some gyms have introduced extra precautions, with boutique cycling studio Crank in Alserkal Avenue erecting clear partitions between bikes.

Holly Drake, marketing manager and instructor at Crank, says the studio has experienced huge demand from reopening day. As such, it now has classes running almost every hour and they are "selling out a few days in advance".

"People are ready to get back to normality and have definitely missed the group training and community feel," she says. "We have noticed that people feel more relaxed now. In the beginning, our clients definitely felt more on edge."

Drake says Crank has even welcomed new clients as people hear about the safety standards. "The [reduced] class capacity has helped more than anything to ensure the comfort of our clients."

The Box in Shimis yoga studio has a dark interior and strip lighting, with the temperature set at 32°C
The Box in Shimis Yoga Center has a dark interior and strip lighting, with the temperature set at 32C

Next door, at Alserkal's Shimis Yoga studio, demand has also grown. Founder Simona Stanton says there has been a definite increase in the number of people returning to the studio as they gain more confidence in going out, and also desire to get moving after staying at home.

"People feel more comfortable after seeing all the precautions we are taking," she says. "Post Covid-19, we have also noticed that there is a spike in people wanting to get healthy and fit."

Most of Shimis's classes are now fully booked days in advance: they've capped their capacity at 13 spots.

Kevin Teixeira, co-founder and manager of The Warehouse Gym, which now has six centres across Dubai, believes the surge in demand at his gyms is a direct result of people feeling physically unfit after staying indoors and at home.

"People were definitely more cautious when we opened, but Covid has made them more aware of their health and fitness and we’ve seen a definite spike in memberships and inquiries since," he says.

He admits the class limits have proven tricky to adjust to. "I think there has been some frustration as people want to book into their favourite classes, but the bigger picture is that people understand the class caps are for their own safety and well-being," he says.

"What we have done to try and combat the disappointment is put more classes on the schedule so people can book."

Also with branches across Dubai, circuit class gym F45 has switched up its format so that all members work out within a fixed station, meaning they will not share equipment or move around the gym.

Class times have been amended to allow for deep cleaning between sessions, with a 30-minute break. The gym is still operating at 50 per cent capacity, while ensuring all staff and members undergo regular temperature checks, wear masks and use hand sanitiser.

F45 offered classes online during the pandemic and these have continued for those not quite ready to work out in communal spaces.

John Britton, manager at F45 Motor City, had expected people to return as soon as the government regulations were lifted, assuming people would have missed the live workout experience. However, that return has been slow, he says, but there has recently been a "steady increase" in existing members returning to the gym.

The gym has added more classes to their schedule to accommodate the class capacity rules.

Helle Bachofen von Echt leads an indoor cycling class at NRG Fitness before Dubai gyms closed in March. NRG Fitness
Helle Bachofen von Echt taking an indoor cycling class at NRG Fitness before the March 2020 closure of Dubai gyms. Courtesy NRG Fitness

Helle Bachofen von Echt, manager and cycle coach at NRG Fitness in Dubai Marina, says they have also been adding new classes to the schedule week by week as more and more people return.

She believes people have lost interest in online workouts, and are now in search of "the real motivation and buzz" that comes from working out as a group. "We have steadily witnessed an increase in footfall. We opened with a smaller selection of classes as we were unsure of the demand," she says.

"Partly, some people had started to hit a plateau or lose motivation working out at home."

And while people initially returned cautiously, von Echt says the misgivings about a return to the gym have mostly worn off. "We have definitely witnessed a change in behaviour around our facilities. While remaining respectful and careful, our members are increasingly becoming more relaxed in their interactions."

Updated: July 20, 2020 05:46 PM

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