The Victorian government is being urged to allow Melbourne personal trainers and fitness professionals to access their studios and gyms so they can create digital content for clients and members.
Coronavirus restrictions mean many of the city’s fitness professionals have been left without the means to keep their businesses going, as personal training and exercise classes are not permitted during stage four restrictions.
At the same time, these business owners have not been included on the government’s list of permitted workers, which means they cannot travel to their workspaces, gyms or studios to create online content in the same way they did during the first lockdown earlier this year.
A large number of business owners in the fitness industry are sole traders, which means they also do not qualify for the state government’s $10,000 business support payments.
Fitness Australia chief executive Barrie Elvish says these online personal training sessions, live-streamed classes and fitness videos allowed thousands of Australians to continue exercising during the national lockdown, and the Victorian government should be encouraging the same thing to happen this time around.
“Gyms and personal trainers need to be allowed to safely create digital content for the benefit of their members and the broader community,” Elvish said in a statement this morning.
“People are looking for ways to keep active in isolating and digital workouts are the ideal way for people to keep in touch with their personal trainer or participate in a virtual group class.
“The government is encouraging the community to continue exercising, however, at the same time, it is making it impossible for Melbourne personal trainers to film in a studio that has a professional setup, access to equipment and is engaging for clients or for people to participate in any form of exercise conducted by a qualified professional.”
Speaking to SmartCompany, Elvish said approximately 1,500 Melbourne personal trainers and business owners are being affected by this situation, which has put many operators “between a rock and a hard place”.
Elvish says he’s had calls from his members who are very concerned about the wellbeing of individuals clients who they are not able to offer training to under current circumstances, and while he understands why the government needed to impose such restrictions, the effect has been like a “sledgehammer” on small businesses.
“Everyone in Victoria is suffering,” he says.
Fitness Australia has approximately 3,500 sole traders from Victoria among its members, and according to a recent survey conducted by the association, 90% of these businesses have lost at least 40% of their clients, while 42.5% of businesses say they have lost more than 80% of their clients due to the pandemic.
The majority of these businesses say their revenue is down by at least 40%, while 18% have seen their revenue wiped out completely.
Forty per cent of these businesses believe they would not last four weeks without some form of government support.
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In a statement, Pia Therese, founder of MFW Fitness Studio in South Yarra, questioned why she’s not allowed to use her studio for filming when retail workers can work onsite to fill online orders.
“On one hand, we are being told to keep exercising, yet as a registered personal trainer and business owner, I’m not even allowed to access my own studio to film online training, with no one else present on the premises,” she said.
“How is this fair when retailers are still allowed, under stage four restrictions, to go to their premises to fulfil online orders? What sort of message is the government really sending to the public about what is important right now?”
Business owners in the industry have “invested a lot of time and energy” into building up their practices, says Elvish, who says Fitness Australia has had discussions with the Victorian health department and other government departments about this issue, but “no luck as yet”.
“Many of our Victorian personal trainers are seriously concerned about their ongoing ability to stay in the sector due to these restrictions,” he says.
Elvish also says it is “disappointing” that the government does not appear to make the connection between the need for greater mental health support at the moment and the role of exercise professionals.
“Many people in our community turn to exercise to help with a range of health conditions, including anxiety, rehabilitation, injury recovery, as well as a being a preventative measure for long-term health and wellbeing,” he said in the statement.
“It’s ironic given the state government’s acknowledgement of the increase in anxiety and mental health issues that personal trainers cannot provide safe and effective online programs,” he adds.