New gym studios in Singapore have opened despite COVID-19 and here's how Ritual, Be.Pilates, and Yoga Movement have managed
Against the odds
It's hard to fathom that just last year in March, notifications awashed my screen as a couple of my favourite gyms announced indefinite closures when Singapore officially went into the circuit breaker. It was a strange time where many relied on virtual sweat sessions and home-gym starter kits (you know it, Decathlon) to keep their bodies taut and trim. The necessary adjustment did ease the home fatigue but I was in a constant state of reverie to when my next physical session in my favourite studio could actually happen. In my opinion, no amount of free Youtube tutorials could replicate the full experience in a group class — with mutual spurring, the perfect uplifting playlist, and a myriad of equipment at your disposal. It was the ultimate playground for adults.
It was uncertain at the very least to how the fitness industry in Singapore, which was blossoming before world destruction hit, would play out even after our country's lockdown. How would group activities ever be the same? Would people feel safe? I mean, despite the apprehension, I was eager to get out, but I was certain that waiting it out till daily COVID-19 cases were lowered to zilch was the wiser thing to do. And even in the disquietude, a couple of gyms were getting busy for a new opening. Plans were made, leases were signed, and right now, all of them are up and running, alongside the rest of the fitness industry. Which seem to be healing up quite nicely present day, albeit at a lowered capacity.
Yoga Movement recently debuted their new Orchard studio in its biggest space ever and according to director and co-founder Alicia Pan, the decision was an easy one. "We had been searching for our dream space to replace our Orchard 22 location way before the pandemic hit. It had been our best performing location and when we finally saw that the space at Luxe Museum was available, we jumped on the opportunity right away. Even at the start of Phase 2, our classes were full and we could see the number of people itching to get back to their favourite gyms and studios to work out. I think most people would have still preferred to separate daily activities from their rest and work spaces, considering work from home is going to be a thing for a while," says Pan.
While it did seem like the most timorous time to open a new flagship, Yoga Movement pulled it off — with a strong notion to incorporate lifestyle concepts into the mix, including a coffee bar as well as an outdoor patio where members could also work and hang out.
Ritual also stands as a glowing testament to braving the crisis. Not only did they work tirelessly to develop a game-changing fitness app, Ritual FIT — in response to members working out from home — fitted with guided audio cues, they opened the Orchard outlet not too long after circuit breaker was lifted in Singapore. "We've always had an "innovate or die" culture and this is exactly what each team member [of Ritual] embodied. Despite the pandemic, we were confident that our model was perfect for this new normal and Orchard has since become our fastest growing outlet in the history of the company. Our concept was incidentally socially distanced prior to the pandemic — with a maximum of ten people per class, where members are coached in their own personal 40sqft 'pod' equipped with their own equipment. I think this was instrumental in instilling confidence in our clients to come back to the training floor. Further to that, we were extremely transparent with the steps we had taken to further ensure their safety with detailed communications on our Covid Safety Plan," remarked Brad Robinson, CEO of Ritual Gym.
The location also revealed to be an accidental wise pick, with many offices in the CBD on the lull, traffic in residential areas and the bustling Orchard Road eventually panned out well for Ritual's latest outlet. The wildly successful gym is on its way for more expansion: with another spot in East Coast secured as well as more outlets to be announced down the line.
With the repercussions of the pandemic, it could only be the survival of the fittest. To which, Pan comments, "I believe those who survived were businesses that had a solid footing in their respective industries. These were the businesses that had, prior to the pandemic, established their place in the market for their community to want to stick around, and go back to where they feel they belong. In short, these are businesses that people couldn't simply just 'find a replacement for'."
Well apart from the established names with studios peppered across our city, COVID-19 didn't manage to thwart the plans of 27-year-old Eugena Bey, who had opened her very own personal venture — BE.Pilates. She stands as a one-woman team, who had been eagerly awaiting approval on securing a studio on Keong Saik, right after the circuit breaker. In contrary to a business thriving on numbers, BE. Pilates leans into its niche of private class structures. The intimate space at one of Keong Saik's shophouses allows for a maximum of 2 pax per class — all taught by Bey herself. "It has always been the plan to offer only private classes as I find that clients are able to benefit more from the sessions which can be curated to suit their lifestyle. It doesn't matter if they have any fitness background previously, as they will be guided through the use of each piece of equipment as well as learning the importance of alignment," says Bey. After years of teaching at Options Pilates, BE.Pilates stands as her first personal move to founding her own brand, with her at the helm (backend and frontend), taking care of logistics, tech development, as well as teaching.
"There were doubts for sure going into this at a time like this. It's me, myself, and all my savings. But one thing I did assure myself with before making the decision to sign the lease, was a financial forecast of being able to afford this space for two years." Now with the studio seven months in, Bey is content with how people are responding to private sessions, despite them being more pricey than the typical group-based structure. "I think it can be intimidating going into a group-based pilates class for a beginner. They are also a bit more fast paced. I really wanted to offer private classes so that I can better explain the benefits of pilates and maintain the integrity and essence behind the method, " adds Bey.
Albeit small, her studio is fitted out with top-of-the-line equipment. A Reformer, another Reformer with virtual Cadillac, a Stability chair, and a newly added number called the Cardio tramp rebounder — just to make the exercises more challenging and less static. Having these on board also gives her the flexibility of switching up the classes, based off the individual. She adds: "The equipment can either regress the exercise or to challenge the client — it's highly dependable on how the programming is done for each individual as some of them have injuries or other special needs."
A year of crisis was indeed a challenging time for fitness brands and entrepreneurs, but it also posed the perfect storm for those who were willed enough to ride it out — while pulling out all the stops in order to maintain and even escalate their businesses despite the odds and restrictions. And it's pretty heartening to see how far Singapore's active community is shaping up to be, especially with more good news to hopefully come through this year.