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Gym owner looks ahead to a muscular recovery

By Li Peixuan and Peng Yining | China Daily | Updated: 2023-03-21 08:49

Zheng Wei coaches a member of his gym in Dunhua, Jilin province, to help him achieve his fitness goals. CHINA DAILY

"People here don't have much drive to do exercise," Zheng Wei said. The 35-year-old owns a gym in Dunhua city, an underdeveloped area in Jilin province, but sports and fitness enthusiasts are predominantly based in first-tier cities such as Beijing and Shanghai, according to the General Administration of Sport of China.

In economically disadvantaged areas, there are far fewer such enthusiasts.

"The people care a lot about food, clothes or cosmetics, but not about bodybuilding," Zheng said, adding that his business entered a trough after the COVID-19 regulations were optimized in December.

Zheng was caught off-guard and the gym nearly folded. Clearly, breathing heavily in a confined space with lots of other people doing the same thing was an easy way to catch the illness.

Gyms were among the first businesses to close when a new variant of COVID-19 popped up and spread widely. After the restrictions were lifted, almost everyone in the gym, from employees to members, tested positive. They needed two weeks to recover. For Zheng, though, no new members meant no income.

"I still needed to pay rent, water and electricity charges, and other things. In order to cut costs, I turned off the lights to save electricity when no members were in the gym," he said. Although the approach delivered paltry results, it was all that Zheng could do to lower costs.

After Lantern Festival — the last day of the Spring Festival break — business picked up, but only slightly. To boost footfall in the gym, Zheng rolled out a new discounted monthly membership, aimed specifically at students, who enjoy long breaks. However, the number of new members is still limited.

"Hopefully, more new customers will arrive as activity in the city starts up again," he said.

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