Gyms and recreation facilities are some of the businesses that are getting the green light to reopen in Hamilton as part of Stage 3, but not everyone will be opening their doors right away.
Fitness clubs have been closed since the pandemic was declared back in March. While some gyms have remained closed altogether, others have found different ways to operate in a physically distanced way.
Tyler Ouwendyk, owner of Momentum Fitness in Dundas and downtown Hamilton, said his business chose to adapt and offer virtual sessions beginning early on in the pandemic.
“The main goal of doing the virtual services was to keep providing members with value to keep memberships active,” said Ouwendyk, adding that they were able to add a new ‘virtual-only’ type of membership to keep some revenue trickling in.
Still, he said he was “very grateful” on Monday to get the news that he would finally be able to reopen, even if things were going to look a bit different.
Some of the measures that will be in place include enhanced cleaning, personal protective equipment available at the entrance, and a lower capacity of people permitted to work out at each location at one time.
Based on each location’s square footage, Ouwendyk said they’re allowed to have 12 people at a time, but he’s capping the number at eight.
“Just so that everyone feels a little safer and more comfortable, because that’s our number one priority when people return to the gym. Because we do know that a lot of people will have hesitations.”
Do you need a mask to exercise indoors?
Members will also be required to book their workouts online ahead of time and fill out a COVID-19 screening form before coming into the gym. Everyone must also sign a new agreement with the gym that includes physical distancing and hygiene rules.
“We can put every measure in place, but if people aren’t following the rules, then that’s not very helpful,” said Ouwendyk.
The situation is a little more complicated for larger facilities, including the YMCA Hamilton Burlington Brantford (HBB).
Genevieve Hladysh, senior regional manager of Health Fitness and Aquatics for the organization, said their five locations across those municipalities will be closed until at least late August or early September.
Part of that is so the organization can seek clarity about some of the provincial guidelines, including the 50-person limit and how that will impact the different kinds of programming the YMCA can offer, as well as how the mandatory mask bylaws vary in different municipalities.
“Because the bylaw ages for children – so under which age children don’t have to wear mask – are actually different in all three communities,” said Hladysh. “So there are times that we may need to modify things to align with whatever a municipality practices.”
There are also exemptions made under mask bylaws for those who are engaging in an athletic or fitness activity, which will impact when and where members will have to wear a mask inside those facilities.
“If people are in a common space and say, coming into a big lobby area where there’s shared space, they may have to wear a mask at those points, but when they actually get into do their physical workout, not have to wear one.”
Although Momentum Fitness has multiple locations as well, they’re both within Hamilton and fall under the city’s indoor mask bylaw.
Ouwendyk said masks will be mandatory in common spaces like the lobby and bathrooms, but optional while people are working out.
“We’re definitely suggesting to clients that they should wear it, but in the rules for that bylaw, it says that you don’t have to wear it if you’re partaking in physical or athletic fitness training.”
Not everyone is ready to go back to a gym, even with safety precautions in place, and Ouwendyk said he definitely understands their reluctance.
“Because the fitness industry has always been known to be dirty and overcrowded and intimidating, things like that. So I feel like this whole pandemic is really going to help the fitness industry raise their standards so that no matter what gym you’re at, you’re going to have a cleaner, safer, and less crowded environment.”
The possibility of a second wave of COVID-19 being caused by people letting their guard down and relaxing hygiene practices is something Hladysh and her colleagues at the YMCA HBB are mindful of.
“That’s one of the benefits of working with YMCAs across the country that are ahead of us in terms of their phasing,” said Hladysh.
“The advice we were given was just to proceed cautiously. To take the time to make sure people are … you know, saying you want to come back and then the intention of actually showing up and coming back may be slightly different. So we really want to do a thoughtful approach into when is the right time to come back.”
For those who are still planning to avoid gyms for the foreseeable future, Hladysh said the YMCA BB is offering a variety of free online programming as well that will remain in place, even once their physical locations are back up and running.
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