Kelvin Fit Thailand
Fit Thailand

Local fitness educator talks how Thai fitness industry tries to survive the pandemic

An active online presence is crucial for the survival of fitness centers

Phavitch Theeraphong
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Motivating individuals to go to their limit or even beyond is what Panuwat "Kelvin" Rongbandit is known for. Not only does he lead gym-goers through excruciating yet fun workouts at some of Bangkok’s most prominent fitness studios but, as a fitness educator at Fit Thailand, Panuwat is also behind the success of many certified personal trainers. But many of his classes and training sessions had to be put on hold when the country went on a lockdown due to COVID-19.

 “Gyms [around the countries] are losing income because they cannot charge membership fees, which is their only money source. And this greatly affects personal trainers,” he explains. Now that gyms have been temporarily shut, trainers are unable to obtain commission fees from one-on-one sessions. In addition, many have been asked to accept a salary cut while other gym staff, such as cleaners and receptionists, have been let go.

“But there’s always an opportunity in every crisis,” Panuwat opines optimistically. Many of his colleagues have taken to social media and online platforms to launch online personal training programs. Through applications like Zoom, Skype and Whatsapp, trainers and customers can engage in virtual training sessions in which the former can examine the body movement of their clients and guide them through a designed program. “For me, online coaching is not as effective as face-to-face sessions but personal trainers have to come up with the most effective ways possible to keep their customers and get paid.”

Kelvin Fit Thailand
Fit Thailand

The lockdown is also an opportunity for Fit Thailand to develop a long overdue online teaching program. “Our online platform is currently on trial and is useful for providing lectures on the theoretical part of the course. But for the practice part, physical presence is necessary. Students may have to wait until the lockdown is over to continue this part,” Panuwat says.

Trainers can also benefit from the surge in on-demand fitness programs produced by sportwear brands, fitness center franchises and even small independent gyms. Panuwat is currently collaborating with Nike for its “You Can’t Stop Us” campaign, wherein subscribers are offered exercise routines and gain access to articles that help guide them through a healthy and fit lifestyle while on self-isolation.

“It’s a great way for people to retain their fitness level while the gyms are closed. Every gym has to retain an online presence…through these on-demand sessions,” the fitness expert adds. “The challenge for gyms now is not to [maintain cash flow] but to keep their customer base and retain their brand presence in the market so people won’t forget about them.”

Despite the viability of online classes, he doubts that these will exceed the need to physically be at the gym. “One crucial thing when exercising is having someone to motivate you. There’s a sense of community when gathering at the gym. So there are a lot of things online platforms cannot provide.”

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