25 October 2016
LCSD gyms have an 80 percent utilization rate but don't let the number fool you. Some bookings are made but never taken. Photo: HK Government
LCSD gyms have an 80 percent utilization rate but don't let the number fool you. Some bookings are made but never taken. Photo: HK Government

Get over it, there’s life after California Fitness

Is there a gym you can trust for the rest of your life?

Indeed. I can think of a big one.

It has 75 outlets all over Hong Kong and it is quite unlikely any one of them will be closed.

Best of all, no one would sell you a three-year plan you don’t need.

Nor would anyone tell you you’re getting fatter or in worse shape than last time (ísn’t this the favorite line of personal trainers?)

And finally, it costs next to nothing — HK$180 a month or HK$14 an hour if you like.

The catch: There’s a long queue to get in. A quota system has been in effect since June 1.

But if you can put up with these small inconveniences, you can have everything else that comes with the package as a card-bearing member of the Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD).

That means access to its various facilities.

LCSD fitness rooms are not as flashy as those of California Fitness but by no means are they shabby.

California Fitness went under this week, taking its 100,000 Hong Kong members down with it.

No one knows exactly how much money they lost but it’s not hard to imagine when you hear people compare the collapse of the fitness chain to the Lehman mini bond fiasco.

Add to that the fact that the price of entry to California Fitness was astronomical and the cost of maintaining your membership even more stratospheric (some members were known to have been on the hook for life).

Now compare that to LCSD gyms.

There might be a bottleneck at the entrance but when you get in, the gyms are not really full. It’s all a matter of crowd control.

It was not until 2014 that the average utilization rate of public sports facilities hit 80 per cent thanks to online booking.

But that does not tell you the actual situation. Some bookings are sometimes made but never taken.

This happens when you outsource reservations to a contractor that is paid per booking made.

Only the annual Sport for All Day held on Aug. 7 each year is fully booked because it is free to all comers.

But if you consider that sports is not in the genes of Hongkongers, you’d see that “fully booked” in this case is relative.

Which is why the government spends money on TV air time to remind the public to limber up at least 30 minutes a day, which at some point was a useless exercise after Leung Chun-ying said sports don’t contribute to the economy. He has since retracted the statement

Of course, it helps to have an LCSD Fitness Gold Card, which gives you access to almost anything you want.

All it takes is a three-hour fitness course, given once or twice a month, that you must pass.

And not to worry. Even I passed it.

Now I know what it’s like not having to wait to get in.

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EJ Insight writer

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