A few weeks before the Covid-19 pandemic broke out, Azrul Rahman decided it was time to sign up for a gym membership and personal workout as he was getting taller around the waist.
He worked out diligently in the gym three times a week and managed to lose weight.
Then the Movement Control Ordinance went into effect, which thwarted the bill as fitness studios had to close their doors.
While he was adhering to the MCO, Azrul accidentally regained the weight he had lost. To make progress, he invested in exercise equipment to continue his exercise routine at home and looked for fitness training videos online.
“I lost some weight again, but not as much as I had hoped.
“It is a work in progress but I am confident that if I hold out I will make it,” said the 30-year-old.
Restrictions on movement did not prevent gym goers from sticking to their fitness regimen during lockdown.
Fitness enthusiast Amira Hakmal, 39, on social media with her homemade. Promotes jumping and training of the entire body
Videos, encourages people to keep moving in order to stay fit.
“I go to the gym almost every day, but now that they are closed during the MCO, I need to find other ways to keep moving.
“So skipping rope and jumping jack are the two exercises I do at home every day,” she said, adding that the exercises had to be done consistently to get results.
When the MCO was launched last year, 29-year-old cloud engineer Alvin Chen went online and invested in a couple of dumbbells and weight plates.
“I bought the plates with a weight of 5 kg for 35 RM each. I also bought a yoga mat for stretching.
“I bought the equipment to exercise at home as I have no idea how long the gyms will be closed or how long the pandemic will last,” he said.
He added that even after they were open for a short time before the lockdown, he added that he was concerned about contracting Covid-19.
However, Chen acknowledged that exercising at home doesn’t offer the same experience as exercising at the gym.
While he used to be in the gym at least four times a week, today he only manages to train twice or three times a week. “I had access to heavy equipment in the gym.
“Some of the exercises are not feasible at home,” he said, adding that there is also the problem of space constraints in his home.
Amirul Arif Ahmad Norizan, 29, of Kelana Jaya, said he found it difficult to schedule as much time as he did when training at the gym.
“I’ve been working from home for about a year now. People tend to work longer at home and are too tired to exercise afterwards.
“I also have to take care of my daughter, as she often wants to play and cuddle,” he said, referring to his eight-month-old baby.
Amirul Arif went to the gym four times a week.
To maintain his fitness, he now relies on dumbbells, skipping rope and a pull-up bar, which are integrated into his everyday life twice a week.
“It’s important to exercise regularly, especially as you get older,” he said, adding that he looks forward to going back to the gym when it’s allowed to reopen.
Jeffrey Mohd Johan Ng, 29, said that exercising at home lacked the friendly and competitive atmosphere of the gym.
“There is less motivation at home because I don’t feel the pressure from my colleagues.
“It’s also difficult to keep a regular training schedule due to the lack of the right equipment.
“Exercise is much easier when you have a lot of equipment to choose from in the gym. It doesn’t feel the same when you train at home with limited equipment, ”he said.
Jeffery used a resistance band with adjustable weights ranging from 5kg to 25kg that he bought from a seller on social media.
“Sport is not just about staying fit.
“It is also a therapy that has become more important now that we are working from home,” he noted.
Hiking enthusiast Rita Chan, 50, turns to exercise videos online to help maintain her fitness level, although it’s not the same as being outdoors.
“I miss being able to breathe the fresh morning air in the woods, but right now I rely on dumbbells, kettlebell, and skipping rope to burn calories,” she said.
Get creative, improvise
The intermittent closure of gyms across the country since last year has forced many owners to cut their payrolls to save costs.
Elavarasan Ponnan, 44, was previously the general manager of a popular fitness chain before being fired in February.
Equipped with 19 years of experience in the industry, he is now a virtual fitness trainer.
“Many gym goers have become addicted to physical equipment. They rarely explore other forms of exercise.
“The lack of fitness equipment doesn’t have to be a limitation if you know how to use your body weight to exercise, which can be a good experience,” said Elavarasan, who teaches from his home in Subang Jaya.
He specializes in basic body conditioning and joint activation, and said discipline is key to exercising at home.
“Having large machines is not a must for good training.
“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 and allows you to set your own pace,” he said.
However, virtual training is not without its drawbacks, as it lacks direct interaction and the human touch, said Elavarasan.
“It was also difficult to get people to sign up at first as most of them were used to physical exercise.
“Since then, more people have expressed an interest in virtual training sessions,” he said.
Sports Direct Malaysia chief executive Paul Gibbons said although exercise equipment sales were encouraging last year, there has been a decline this year as consumers became more cautious about spending.
He also said that selling through online platforms could not compete with selling in traditional brick-and-mortar business premises.
“It’s in the nature of people that they prefer to go to malls and stores to see the products before they buy.
“People also tend to buy a product online unless they get a feel for it in the store,” he said.
Yoga mats, small weights, and skipping ropes were among the pieces of equipment people bought because they were easy to store at home, Gibbons noted.
He said the surge in device sales was due to people spending more time at home.
“Many are taking proactive steps to do something healthy,” he added.
Datuk Radha Krishnan, Managing Director of Universal Fitness and Leisure Sdn Bhd, observed a significant increase in sales of exercise bikes, especially after the introduction of the MCO last year.
“Household appliances are those that are priced below RM5,000. These include cross trainers, treadmills, bike trainers and dumbbells, ”he explained.
He said the introduction of the first MCO surprised many and that this has contributed to the surge in demand for exercise equipment.
“The sale of recreational bicycles, for example, shot through the roof last year and peaked in August.
“The demand was so great that some stores were sold out,” he said.
Radha added that sales fell towards the end of last year as gyms gradually reopened, but picked up slightly earlier this year.
Charinn Au Yong, chief executive officer of Fitness Concept, said sales have remained high throughout the various stages of the MCO.
“Although the gyms reopened in the second half of last year, many still preferred to work out at home so as not to go out.
“Many gyms have also implemented an advanced booking system to regulate crowds, which has been inconvenient for some gym-goers,” she said.
She said spinning bikes and treadmills were among the most popular pieces of equipment sold.
“Many gyms have rescheduled their workouts online, so a lot of people bought equipment to keep up with their home exercise regimen,” she added.
Au Yong said many stores are also struggling to keep up with rising demand.
“The device manufacturers were unable to cope with the worldwide surge in orders.
“There was also a problem with the shortage of containers in the ports, which further disrupted the supply chain,” she said.
Implementing a statewide lockdown had an impact on sales as fitness stores could not be operated because they were not viewed as an essential business.
“We can only sell through online shopping platforms. But the personal touch that only a saleswoman can offer is missing.
“Although home appliance sales have increased, there are other setbacks,” said Au Yong.