By: Clive Msomi

Well the time to do just that, is now!!! Go ahead and run on that treadmill, even for another 20 minutes more, no one will complain its winter remember? Most fitness institutions record an all time low during the winter season. There are fewer participants visiting the gym and making use of the gym equipment. While the numbers may vary from one gym to the next, most gyms are at a low during this time of the year. And we all know how much of a workout it is to stand in that queue waiting for your turn to step into that treadmill for a prescribed 20 minutes minimum for all participants. On top of that you have to deal with some people hogging that equipment for longer which can cause tensions to rise.

It is easier to know better on how winter affects the fitness environment and the best place to make our investigation was to look at group fitness training, personal training and the sales department. These are the main areas where we can have a clear understanding of the number of participants who make that trip to the gym or training environment.

Group training is one activity where women and men who have slowly increased their presence in this class orientated sessions, attend instructor led movement. This is one department that has more number of participants in one session. In some session cases you find that in one session there are more than 50 participants going at it for an hour.  Personal training on the other hand presents that one on one session, a personal trainer sees one person at a time but may also see not more than 5 people in a session depending on the group. Whilst the sales department has statistics on the new sign up, renewal contracts to say the least, it is for this reason that we had to look close at how these departments perform during this time of the year.

It is not only the gym environment that is affected even the roads are just as deserted during this time. if you start  running after 4am the likelihood that you will meet any fellow runner are reduced to 1 to 2 runners after 5km, whereas during this time in summer the road is abuzz with those who have just started running to those who have become accustomed to this fad. You will be lucky if you met more than 5 participants. You only start to witness some figures running at around 6am compared to that same time few months ago, pavement was full of running enthusiasts and also those who are on a mission to start a healthy lifestyle now it has gone quiet. The numbers on the roads significantly drop during this time of the season. It is understandable that safety also play a role, no one wants to put themselves in harms way.

 Like frogs and snakes they hibernate, human beings also seem to go through that process. For some the results might not be desirable after munching on those carb for two or three weeks with no movement, “will wait for spring time for the results.”

Winter chills of short daytime and long dark night sends a number of people into fright mode. So people stay indoors also for safety reasons and who doesn’t want to be safe.  The outdoor sessions that are conducted in the parks, school grounds also experience significant drop in participants. It is interesting to note that these sessions are mostly conducted for free or at a very minimal rate.

 A little change in the weather will give people a reason why they need to remain indoors. Remaining in doors for some will mean indulging and as time accumulates and before you know it that weight had accumulated in some areas. The disadvantage of staying indoors is that all of a sudden you are more taken by what the silver screen presents and you can now also comment about it when your friends post something about it on social media. The next thing the time you use to spend moving is now spent   clicking likes and comment on every item that comes up. Yaaah, neehh that is winter for you.

Posing this question to Luyanda Mkhize who is a personal trainer at one of the Virgin Active gyms he explains… “During this time of the year we also experience a drop in the number of people who require our services, even those who have been training with me for a long time, lack of consistency and more session cancellation at this time of the year then anytime during the year. This compounded with school holidays and most families going away, has contributing factors to the number of people being low.

Michel who is a sales consultant at Planet Fitness agrees stated, “The number of people who sign up to join gym or begin a healthy lifestyle is very low during this time of the year. Instead of two to four sign ups per day, we are down to signing one or in some instances none at all.”  She further said she believe that it is not affordability or being affected by the economic challenges that they find themselves ourselves in such situation, but it is about the time of the year.

Gym goers start picking up during the beginning of the spring and the sign –ups increases. Just like me, Michelle also strongly believes to the notion of “summer bodies are made in winter”, as we sang it to each other, as if we were reading each others mind.