Alice Liveing, trainer and Instagram fitness star, on how she think we’ll be exercising post-lockdown.
There are lots of unanswered questions about the future of lockdown. When will we hug our friends again? Are we meant to be going to work or not? When will normal life actually resume? But to the gym goers who were listening patiently to find out when they’ll be able to go back and lift heavy weights again, one thing was very clear: gyms won’t be opening anytime soon.
Johnson’s next lockdown announcement is coming on 1 June, but it’s not known if it will include any updates on the fitness industry. So here we are, left wondering when gyms will reopen, how studios will continue to make money, and what classes and weight rooms will look like.
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In order to find answers some of these questions, I turned to personal trainer and fitness influencer Alice Liveing to share her insight on how thing might look in the future.
“In the short term, it’s going to be quite a complicated task to be able to reopen gyms, especially with social distancing, and in a safe way,” she says. As a coach who works in person with clients, and an online figure who shares her workouts with her digital community, Alice sees both sides of the coin: the demand to return to the gym as well as the huge interest in home workouts.
“I think maybe some people have realised that they don’t need the expensive gym memberships they were paying for, so I do think that in the long run we’ll see a bit of a drop off of people coming to the gym,” she says.
Megan, 23, is in that very camp. She’s already cancelled her gym membership for when we leave lockdown, and explains that she’s realised the impact that home workouts and running can have on her body and her mind.
It seems she’s not alone, either. According to research from Myprotein and YouGov, over a third of the UK population are now exercising daily – nearly 6 million more people than before lockdown, suggesting no gym isn’t really a problem.
You can see how this has happened: in the absence of paying clients walking through their doors, many fitness brands and individuals have begun streaming workouts for free. Alice herself has been leading daily workouts, with some amassing up to 65,000 viewers on some of her live streams.
“I’ve been doing it because it’s all I can do,” she says. But Alice admits that giving things away for free isn’t necessarily sustainable for everyone: “I love teaching live and I think the idea of being able to do that to thousands of people is something that I would actually love to be able to continue, but my passion is coaching people on the gym floor so I will go back to that.”
Presumably, the same will happen with the other studios and trainers who will end the daily onslaught of free workouts, meaning that all of the inspiration and motivation that has got so many people enjoying enjoying exercise at home will disappear. Alice doesn’t think the transition will be that straightforward though: “It will be difficult to transition away from giving things away for free to then being like ‘come and pay for the classes, and oh by the way it’s £25 a go’.”
But she is hopeful that people won’t continue to expect free training at quite the same quantity: “What I hope we’ve gained from this time is people valuing the jobs that people in the fitness industry do, and realising that we really have a place and we bring a lot to society in terms of helping people to feel good about themselves. So once we have done it for free for all this time it would be great if people can see the value in that and embrace paying.”
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That is where I am right now. I’ve always appreciated the gym, but never realised quite how much I relied on it to feel good. My aching back, a product of my weakening glutes, and my brain fogginess, a product of having no real outlet for my pent up frustration, means that I am willing to pay more than I ever would have dreamed of to go back to the gym. Sure, I might be slightly more inclined to swap out a few training sessions for a run or a home HIIT circuit, but I can’t ignore the real value of strength training. Myprotein’s research shows I’m not alone either: despite more people being active, 56% of us are still concerned about their health suffering as a result of not having access to gyms.
So perhaps the large number of people in both my camp and in Megan’s will balance things out, and the industry will be back to normal as soon as it’s allowed. Probably not without digital-first changes, though, as it’s clear that fitness has become part of the social media “content”. “It’s made me rethink how we how content is consumed,” Alice explains. Perhaps that means more options to Zoom into your fitness class on the days you can’t make it.
But most importantly, Alice thinks that this time has reframed exercise for the better. “I think this time has really made us value exercise,” she says. “I’ve really seen a massive shift in people recognising how it’s improving their mood and making them feel more physically fit and strong. And so I do think that coming out of this, it can be something that people prioritise more than they perhaps did before.”
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