The Government prohibits strength training under the new COVID-19 measures, allowing indoor gyms and fitness studios to open only if they offer “low-intensity physical activities”, yet it allows contact-sporting activities like martial arts and combat sports, said personal trainer Daphne Maia Loo on Saturday (8 May) in a Facebook post.
Sport Singapore (SportSG) had stated on Friday that indoor gyms and fitness studios would be allowed to remain open only if they offer “low-intensity physical activities, sport and exercises where all participants and instructors are wearing masks at all times”.
This came about after the Government’s announcement that indoor gyms and fitness studios such as yoga and pilates studios will be closed from 8 May to 30 May to curb the local transmissions of COVID-19, as these premises were identified as higher-risk settings.
In an updated advisory however, SportSG said indoor gyms and fitness studios, as well as those operated by commercial enterprises, country clubs, golf clubs, private apartments, condominiums and charities, will be allowed to remain open if they offer low-intensity physical activities.
It added that these facilities will not be allowed to offer weight, strength or resistance training of any form, or provide equipment for such training, as these are associated with strenuous activities.
Following that, powerlifting and strength coach Miss Loo took to Facebook to question the authorities’ double standards on martial arts gyms and combat sports, given the nature of these training would involve intense workouts and are often contact sports.
“Talk surfaced amongst gym owners that combat sports and martial arts gyms were to remain open. This update left many of us scratching our heads in confusion as combat sports and martial arts training is known to be intensive and they are often contact-sports,” she said.
Miss Loo added that the Singapore Weightlifting Federation has also been allowed to remain open, even though its training is “expressly disallowed” according to the SportSG’s latest guidelines.
It us understood that the weightlifting federation athletes are allowed to train as they would have been vaccinated by now.
Noting that strength gyms could not even stay operational despite agreeing to all the required COVID-19 safety measures, she asked: “What double standards?”
“It is not my intention to throw any organization or subsector of the fitness industry under the bus, but I fail to see how strength training is more strenuous than any other forms of exercise that have been permitted to continue to be offered,” said Ms Loo.
Indoor gyms, on the other hand, continued to “battle the enormous amount of red tape and government administrative requirements” to move classes outdoors and become registered outdoor fitness instructors, on top of logistics planning and internal administrative changes.
“Excuse us, NParks but asking us to wait 1-2 weeks for approval, for a 3-week gym closure is very frustrating,” she added.
The powerlifting coach at Strength Avenue shared that the gym has been “extremely careful” ever since the country entered Phase Two of its reopening last year.
Miss Loo also noted that her nine months experience of being a COVID-19 swabber have taught her to be more diligent in ensuring that the gym follows the infection prevention and control protocols.
“My colleagues and I have worked together with our little community at the gym to ensure that everyone is able to train in a safe environment, by providing the necessary sanitization sprays for equipment wipedowns, and doing whatever is necessary to ensure safety of all our members and the community at large.
“We feel extremely sad to be targeted, and highly shocked that Sport Singapore does not seem to understand strength training at all,” she asserted.
Ms Loo highlighted that there are many ways to reduce the intensity of exercises and strength training, such as varying tempo, the number of repetitions and sets, rest times between sets, weights used in training and others.
“If only there could be more trust and open conversation between the authorities and the businesses affected, if only there had been an open dialogue to educate and enforce steps required to ensure safe distancing and infection prevention and control between MOH, Sport Singapore, MCCY and the fitness industry business owners, we would not have come to this.
“This confusing closure of some businesses within the same industry, but not others,” she remarked.
It appears that the martial arts classes have been notified by Sport Singapore in an update on Saturday that masks have to be worn at all times during participation.
This article was first published on The Online Citizen Asia.