COVID-19: Fitness, training companies warn new rules put them on the ropes


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Every day, Andrea Merucci makes sure that pregnant women and new mothers feel good about themselves.

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“One of the great things about our studio was that you could bring your baby or children with you,” said the owner of ANDFIT fitness, whose classes for women at different stages of life have become a local hit. “We had a huge community and had our best year (in 2019).

“We really started to pick up our pace.

The COVID-19 pandemic and its current restrictions, of course, have besieged the community health and wellness sector. In July, Merucci made the difficult decision to keep his cozy brick and mortar space on Simcoe Street closed.

“I was able to get out of my lease because I was in a sublease,” she said. “If I didn’t, I would go bankrupt. My heart goes out to the studios locked up for 10 years that have these massive loans. I know that I was not a candidate for any government subsidy and that I did not get any rent relief. We’re in this industry to keep people safe and healthy, but no one can operate by renting a facility for more than $ 100 an hour with less than nine people in a classroom.

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Merucci managed to keep three employees on board, sold his equipment, and reverted to his original model of running classes at Springbank Park. She has two weeks left for the stroller bootcamp and it’s the last on the calendar where she’s been outside for a workout routine.

In the meantime, she has managed to keep others engaged through online workouts at https://andfitonline.uscreen.io/ and attracted new followers from out of town.

“Last year I had the foresight to go online and what I had there was very minimal,” she said, “but when we closed (in March) I I got into performing like crazy and it’s a full-ask studio online now. I was able to keep a good base of missing women and there are blessings in it.

“As a business owner, that was one of those things you had to adapt to. I also do personal training online and landed a social media marketing contract (to survive the financial fallout).

Capacity restrictions and fear are the main factors pushing the local fitness industry to the brink. Owners are still trying to clarify how many people are allowed in their specific space after last week’s revised order from the Middlesex-London Health Unit.

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Chris Mackie, the Middlesex and London medical officer of health, issued new regulations for local gyms and recreation facilities on October 21. But the regulations were revised before going into effect last Saturday following criticism from gym owners and officials who run youth sports leagues. .

According to the decree, the maximum number of people who can participate in a course is 12. Participants must be at least three meters from others.

Mackie said the new rules were introduced to prevent an outbreak in London similar to a spin course in Hamilton that led to 80 people contracting COVID-19.

But the new rules are another blow to an industry that has been hit hard by the pandemic, says Tommy Caldwell, owner of Hybrid Fitness.

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“We have reopened to less than 40% of our members, which is clearly a big success,” he said. “Our population is 35 to 55 years old and the people are teachers, nurses and doctors. They have parents between the ages of 70 and 80 and they are very worried. We’re a high-end gym and that’s a bill people have to pay at a time when they’re financially conscious.

At the same time, Hybrid has a 17,000 square foot facility at 530 Oxford Street West and most of it is open space. Caldwell still only allows 20-24 people there, even with instructors running classes to ensure social distancing and proper cleaning techniques.

“If we had only been allowed to have nine people (before Friday’s order reviews) this would have been the end of our business,” he said. “It’s not an industry where you can say there is a set of rules for everyone. I have the impression that the people who were already struggling closed down right away. Much bigger places have the private money to support a little while, but how long can they support that when they don’t have the income coming in? “

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Caldwell is vowed to fight until the virus restrictions end and come out strong on the other side.

“We can absolutely support it,” he said, “but what does the future hold? Whenever something like this happens, people’s attitudes towards being inside gyms change. So will that lag be six months, three years, or even five when people feel comfortable going back to what they were doing before? “

And it’s not just independent operators putting pressure on health officials and politicians to help save the industry. London-based GoodLife Fitness emailed more than 175,000 members in Ontario urging them to pressure the provincial government to reopen gyms in the GTA and Ottawa that were closed due to an increase in COVID-19 cases.

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Karl Robb encountered a considerable obstacle when ice hockey training was allowed to resume this season. The Snipe Academy Hockey Skills Operator found that traffic was down not only due to social distancing restrictions and cliff-falling team parties, but the kids were getting a lot of development from. exercises through ice training sessions.

“There are no games so there is so much time for skill work,” he said. “There isn’t a lot of time for the system to unfold and play and the combat drills. We had to modify our business a bit to adapt and stay up to date. It took creative management and due to the demographics of our (young) customers we need to be extremely secure. But we are working to fight and if we get through it sooner rather than later, everything will be fine. “

Robb was also part of last week’s successful campaign to push the health unit to change its latest restrictions.

“It was about the children,” he said. “I could see how devastated they would be if they weren’t allowed to play games. As parents, we are there to educate our children, ensure their physical and mental well-being and keep them safe.

“They needed a voice in this discussion.”

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