The closed doors, empty space and lack of noise from the bar hitting the irons, as well as other noises characteristic of a gym in activity, make us guess a club that had to close doors indefinitely. 4U Studio in Vila Nova de Gaia opened to the public in November 2020 amid the 19 covid pandemic, and the reality there changed with a little over two months of work. Personal trainers (PT) Marco Duarte and Cristiano Marinho, managing partners of space, received news of a second detention in Portugal as “a bucket of cold water”.
On January 15, the gyms, sports facilities and pavilions were closed again to implement one of the extraordinary measures to combat the Covid-19 pandemic. According to the President of the Association of Gyms and Academies of Portugal (AGAP), José Carlos Reis, around 300 clubs have closed since the pandemic began, almost a third of the fitness areas in Portugal.
AGAP also notes that fitness sales fell 50% in 2020 and around 5,000 jobs were lost, from 17,000 direct jobs at the end of 2019 to nearly 12,000. Having a good financial cushion, drawing on government support, or stepping up online surveillance are some of the solutions PTs have used to circumvent the drop in income.
Online monitoring was a training option for PT Nelson Garrido
Those who have savings end up using them
Cristiano Marinho doesn’t think the Portuguese economy can withstand this second constraint. In the specific case of fitness, professionals in the field have been inactive for a long time because their jobs are not working and therefore “the situation becomes more complicated for those who have no savings,” he told P3.
“Our quality of life is falling and we don’t just have to use our savings,” adds Marco Duarte. “In the first phase we were still working on a large fitness studio chain, and that’s why we had support,” says the managing partner of 4U Studio. Help that has not yet arrived in this second detention.
For José Carlos Reis of AGAP, the situation the two PTs find themselves in is just one example among many other “extremely serious and worrying situations”. “It is this kind of self-employment that is hardest hit by these crises. There are companies that have invested and created jobs in early 2020 that were not supported, ”he explains.
Although they can follow students online, performance is noticeably lower. For example, Cristiano and Marco charge half the amount compared to face-to-face training. Prices vary depending on the session time and the number of trainings per month. At 4U Studio you will find monthly fees from 50 euros.
The gyms have been closed to the public since January 15th. Nelson Garrido
“You are not entitled to government support”
“These are new rooms, so there is no way to compare the invoicing to 2019 as they didn’t even exist,” says José Carlos Reis. For this reason “they are not entitled to government support”. It is a situation that AGAP has tried to report back to the government.
Professional colleagues and also friends, Marco and Cristiano, agree that this second restriction “served again to postpone a dream and also the return on investment” that they had made so that 4U Studio could open doors.
As a PT studio that has grown internationally and is only now arriving in Portugal, it was an old goal for both of them to have a PT studio. “We were already thinking about opening our own studio, and when we gave birth for the first time we thought a lot about what we really wanted as professionals,” recalls Marco Duarte. “Every professional in the field wants to have their own space, that is the high point of their career,” adds Cristiano Marinho.
PTs now hope that it will be possible to reopen 4U Studio this March. “When that’s all over, we’d like to have two more PTs with us. We’re ambitious and want to open another one after a year or two [estúdio]”They confess, between laughter.
However, José Carlos Reis is not so optimistic, although he states that the gyms should be reopened “in an initial phase of deflation and at the same time as the schools”. However, he doesn’t think it can be done before Easter in April. Both professionals also remember the important role physical exercise plays in human (including mental) health, strengthening the immune system and preventing disease.