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Forced to close their physical doors, Oamaru gyms have taken to Facebook to keep their members engaged and fit in lockdown. Rebecca Ryan reports.

SNAP FITNESS

For Snap Fitness Oamaru, supporting members’ mental wellbeing has been just as important as helping them remain physically fit in lockdown.

In a members-only Facebook group, managers Andrew Allardice and Samantha Johnston have been posting content including pre-recorded workouts, live Zumba classes, cooking videos, “Motivational Monday” videos and “Quarantips” for surviving lockdown.

“We have also been doing service calls to check how our members are personally going with lockdown,” Allardice said.

“A surprising majority of members have managed to remain active, setting up home gyms or going for lots of walks and bike rides.

“We have one member who has lost 6.1kg since lockdown and is the lightest she has been in 23 years, because she finally has time to plan her meals during lockdown – and there’s no morning tea shouts at the office.”

Personal trainers had also “embraced the challenge”, interacting with clients online, setting them at-home challenges, training them via video calls and creating new programmes for them to follow at home.

Everyone was looking forward to the gym reopening in Level 2, he said.

“We are going to have restrictions .. but we will do everything we can to create a safe environment for members,” he said.

Online classes would continue in Level 2.

“The plan, at this stage, is to keeping doing live group classes so members can do them from home if they wish, but the gym will be open for them to train as well individually,” he said.

Allardice was grateful for the community’s loyalty and support during lockdown.

“We have had lots of positive feedback from our Snap community about what we are doing,” he said.

“We feel like a big online family, all supporting each other.”

FITNESS24

For small family owned and operated businesses like Fitness24, lockdown has not been easy, co-owner Mel Lewis says.

As well as looking after three teenagers, Lewis has been uploading workouts and doing live classes on Facebook for gym-goers to do at home and checking in with members individually.

A lot of Fitness24’s members had been running, walking, biking and using whatever equipment they had at home to stay fit, she said.

“The ones I have spoken to are now ready to get out, come back to the gym and get back into normal life,” she said.

Fitness24 planned to reopen in Level 2, and staff had been busy cleaning and preparing to reopen with social distancing measures in place.

Lewis hoped life would get back to normal soon.

“It has been extremely hard for us being a small independently-owned gym,” she said.

“I believe we will retain most of our clients and hope to pick up a few more [who] are ready to get back on the fitness train.”

WAITAKI COMMUNITY RECREATION CENTRE

The Waitaki Community Recreation Centre was forced to shut its doors when New Zealand moved to Alert Level 4, but it has remained open virtually, offering online classes to keep members fit and healthy over the past six weeks.

It had been a steep learning curve for manager Diane Talanoa to move classes online, but she had enjoyed being able to connect with members during lockdown.

“It’s been pretty full-on,” Talanoa said.

“Our goal has been to stay connected to as many of our members and regulars as possible throughout this time.

“A positive spinoff has been people trying and having success at new things that they may not otherwise have had a go at.”

As well as Les Mills and “Senior Strong” classes, Talanoa has been running online boot camp sessions five times a week, with the 6.30am class being the most popular time slot.

A lot of members had told Talanoa it had been motivating to do workouts with the gym’s “virtual community”.

Talanoa plans to reopen the doors and resume group fitness classes at Level 2, with some restrictions in place.

“We’re busy doing a deep clean and setting up our equipment, areas and operational policies and procedures so that as soon as we get the go-ahead we can open knowing that we can operate safely and effectively.”

It was hard to know what the fitness industry would look like post-lockdown, Talanoa said.

“We do know that there are a lot of people keen to get back to the Rec Centre as soon as it is allowed – I’ve been hearing a lot of ‘can’t wait’ comments,” she said.

Depending on demand, Talanoa could continue to offer some online classes after lockdown.

“There will be some people who may initially be reluctant to physically attend the Rec Centre due to age or underlying health conditions, or just simply personal preference.

“We’re looking to continue to cater for those people into the future.”