Confusion over reopening rules is making a local gym owner question whether the government is really trying to be helpful.
Although gyms will be allowed to reopen on Feb. 8, under the new rules, gyms can open to members only for one-on-one workouts with a personal trainer.
But Jason MacDonald owns Pure Fitness Crossfit, a Red Deer gym with a business model based on offering group fitness classes. MacDonald knows most people who come to his facility do not have, and cannot afford to have, a personal trainer accompanying them.
“We are exploring every option we can, right now, to serve our members,” said MacDonald.
After reopening his gym next Monday, he will try pairing his members up with available instructors for scheduled one-on-one workouts.
But MacDonald realizes having one or two members in at a time will not be viable over the long term.
“There are costs to opening our doors and turning on our lights,” explained MacDonald, who feels allowing gyms to reopen under such tight restrictions is more about the “optics” of the government being seen to do something, than a solid plan to allow facilities to be successful.
People need to exercise at this stressful time, he stressed.
But not all local gyms are in the same boat.
Al Parada owns Red Deer’s Can Pro Athletic Training Centre, which has always focused on personal training. Parada believes the reopening rules “do help us.”
“We do more one-on-one and semi-private training (so) we can make it work” — for now, he added.
With 10,000 square feet of space at his facility, Parada believes the government could have relaxed the restrictions further without creating a health hazard.
The two local gym owners wonder why the province insists on gym members bringing in personal trainers instead of just allowing more people to work out at one time?
“It’s totally bizarre,” said Parada.
Tom McMillan, assistant director of communications for Alberta Health, called the new rules a first step.
“We are moving cautiously to prevent the spread of COVID-19 as we ease restrictions. Allowing fitness activities with a trainer will help many Albertans get back to work while also helping minimize the risk of transmission,” said McMillan.
Each trainer and client will be required to stay three metres away from all other trainers and clients at all times, including in entryways and exits. McMillan said maintaining this distancing necessarily limits the number of people that can be in any facility.
If the province had allowed more clients to work out with each trainer, this would increase the number of people in the facility at once, boosting the risk of virus exposure, he added.
McMillan noted trainers will be accountable for ensuring that measures in place are followed, including masking and distancing. “We must all keep following public health measures and reducing the spread to see our downward trend continue.”
Parada hopes the number of viral cases will continue to decline so that rules can be relaxed further. Meanwhile, MacDonald believes Alberta’s gym owners will have to continue lobbying the province to allow their operations to be viable.
The provincial government has posted the full, four-step framework for easing restrictions on alberta.ca.