It’s not easy staying fit. Lord knows I try to hit the gym, and sign up for any spin cycling and yoga classes. But lately, I feel extra restricted in my tights and getting a good workout is proving more difficult than ever.

It’s not that my hips are spreading out of control or my previous night’s club binges are making me winded. It’s because exercising in the city is becoming an exercise in frustration. Classes are now stretched to capacity space and more and more instructors have fewer and fewer damns to give – just so you know, ‘damn’ is not the word I wanted to use.

A couple of high-profile gym closings have consolidated members into the town’s few surviving studios. The result means group classes that once were relaxed and roomy are now packed like a peloton on the Tour de France’s first day. In the yoga sessions, more and more mats are bunched so closely you end up with someone’s foot or butt in your face after every other pose change.

It’s unpleasant enough when instructors force you to partner up and touch a fellow classmate. Having their sweaty body parts hit you in the face when you’re trying to breathe and relax is especially disgusting.

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Outside of quitting the gym and giving in to a life of crisps and chocolates, I’m not sure what’s to be done. Fitness centres obviously want to maximise their income, cramming in as many members as they can. But quantity of members has not resulted in better quality in service.

One of my old haunts went from being a civilised health club to a second-tier Chinese city bus stop. Instead of booking a spin bike or a yoga slot online, they make members queue before each class and there’s no guarantee you will even get in after waiting 20 minutes. My friends at the old club say they feel as degraded as a wet market housewife waiting for a sale on instant noodles and toilet paper – not that I know what that feels like.

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With workouts becoming stressful things on their own, there is even less manner and etiquette on display. People are fighting for space just like, well, everything else in Hong Kong. With all the elbow jostling and door rushing that needs to be done, people might as well do yoga during rush hour in the MTR.

In the past, people used to courteously avoid stepping on each other’s yoga mat. Now, they’ll purposely kick your stuff to another corner to steal your prime spot in a class. Namaste!

So much for trying to shape up in a social setting, I might have to go back to hiring a personal trainer and do downward dog on my private patio next to the infinity pool.


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