TORONTO — Gyms across Ontario are making changes to the way they operate as they prepare to reopen on Friday.
The fitness facilities, which have been shuttered for months due to the pandemic, will be allowed to resume indoor operations at 50 per cent capacity as the province moves into Step 3 of its reopening plan. The government has said masking is not mandatory during workouts but is required for staff and when clients are moving through the facility between stations or in lobby areas.
Several facilities say clients need to prepare for a slightly different experience.
In addition to capacity limits, customers can expect to answer health screening questions before working out, some gyms will require masks to be worn during workouts, others won’t accept walk-ins, and certain facilities will keep their lockers rooms closed.
GoodLife Fitness, which operates gyms across the province, said it plans to open almost all its locations on Friday. Clients will have to answer screening questions and keep masks on in locker rooms and lobby areas but can remove them while working out, it said.
The organization said it has also trained staff to sanitize all equipment after it has been used.
Tim Cadeny, GoodLife Fitness’s GTA Divisional Manager, said he wants customers to take the new safety measures seriously.
“We’re still in the pandemic, and COVID-19 is still a reality. I want to make sure everybody’s doing what they need to do and keeping safe so that we can keep our doors open and keep up with workouts,” he said.
Cadeny added that bringing staff back has been a challenge because many former employees found other opportunities.
Stacy Irvine, co-founder of Totum Life Science, a Toronto-based fitness chain, said her facilities will allow clients to work out by appointment-only and masks will have to be worn throughout their sessions. The chain will also not offer locker room or shower services, but trainers will be available for clients, she said.
Irvine said gyms will also have to deal with the fact that some clients’ workout preferences may have changed over the course of the pandemic.
“I definitely think that there’s going to be a hybrid,” she said.
“People will be doing some things in person … like weightlifting, or doing exercises that they might need more help with, maybe with a trainer helping you. But when they’re doing something they already know how to do like yoga or cardio, I think they’re going to keep doing that at home.”
Robert Przybylski, the owner of The Den Athletics in Whitby, Ont., said his facility will be operating at 30 per cent capacity, for members only, to allow for physical distancing between clients. Customers will also need to wipe clean the equipment they use, he said.
Przybylski said gyms offer an important social element that he hopes will return.
“I think people are screaming to get in right now, to see other people and be around people,” he said. “I think that once the stigma of getting sick goes away and, when we’re kind of given the green light to live life again – the gym will be overflowing with customers.”
Przybylski said one of the main reasons his gym remained afloat during the pandemic was because many long-time clients kept their memberships alive, and those are the people he wants to target first as his operation gets back on its feet.
Nicki Pachis, a fitness enthusiast and frequent client at The Den Athletics, said she was looking forward to returning to the gym.
“I’m willing to adjust to whatever changes they make as long as they let us back in there. Working out alone is tough, but being in a group environment takes your workout to a whole new level,” Pachis said. “That surge of adrenaline just can’t be replaced anywhere else.”
Rhythm Sachdeva, The Canadian Press