Social Distancing in the Gym
By Terry Boyd
The GYM Trenton
My title is a question because the reality is no one has an answer, and even that sounds cryptic. Initially the belief in late March was businesses, gyms, schools etc., would be closed for two weeks and we could get a handle on flattening the curve and allocating our resources to support those stricken with COVID19, yet here we are closing gyms in “hot spots” across Ontario with a potential Province wide shutdown some six months later after enduring a maze of misinformation and direction. So, in answer to the question – here we close again? Maybe, maybe not, possibly, possibly not. The information flow is compromised by political rankling, media bias and a convoluted group of experts who can’t agree on whether you can hug your family during holidays or not.
So, what does that mean for gyms? For some it’s too late, closing the doors forever is a forgone conclusion, some are on a lifeline which means any hiccup now will be the end. The number of gym members returning to the gym took a sharp decline with people being afraid to return, others finding alternative ways to exercise and others because their work schedule has been changed dramatically. Safety precautions were placed in every gym; masks, washing hands, direction arrows for some, wiping equipment and constant cleaning. According to the information we received – these were solutions to the spread of COVID19. But, as I mentioned in my last article, these protocols are not full proof they only mitigate the circumstances.
I feel terrible for anyone who gets sick, for the people who contracted COVID19 from “Spinco”- Spin Studio, (not a gym) in Hamilton. It stems from 48 patrons and 2 staff members (primary cases) and then 26 (secondary cases ) who were in contact with primary cases, 76 cases in all. It speaks to how easily the virus is transmitted. An article in the Globe and Mail called the Spinco event a “super spreader”, and cited an additional 18 cases linked to a different fitness centre, 21 cases from an adult recreation hockey league, and 40 infections linked to a fitness centre in Calgary. All of these situations are awful and could have been prevented- we just don’t know how. Everything has changed with one person being sick and infecting almost every corner of the world. So here we are, different gyms, different equipment, different classes, different membership types in different places, should all gyms be closed in Ontario as a result of two outbreaks in two major centres? Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown said the Province’s decision to close gyms in his city ( part of Peel ) was unexpected because there was no direct transmission in recreational facilities including yoga and dance studios in his area.
So, the question really is- to close or not to close? On March 13, 2020 (aptly it was Friday the 13th)), I closed the GYM, it was two days before all gyms were required to. There was no question in my mind given the information at the time that this was the right course of action. 6 months later there are hundreds of gyms across Ontario who have had success with re-opening with the added cleaning and sanitizing protocols. There have been an extreme few who have met with issues or problems. People’s wellbeing is often found through exercise, in my opinion it is an essential service. In fact when speaking to my cousin from Northern Ireland, with their resurgence of COVID19 they have closed down the schools, restaurants, barbers etc., but have left the gyms open with no classes. It would appear that in Northern Ireland gyms would be important, not because of the economy associated with a gym, but because of the mental health aspect that gyms provide.
Here we close again? A few years back working at a jail in the yard, I watched a few players as they tried to sort out rules for how the basketball game would be played during “rec up”. The net was fastened directly to the wall with no clear boundaries. What was out of bounds? Do you call your own fouls? Can you play off the wall? With so many differing opinions, it rarely ended up well. Each group had their own sense of what was fair and what was not, and rules would change from one group to another. Some relied on rule books, others on “jailhouse” rules. The same could be said of the Province’s handling of businesses and for our purposes- gyms. Everyone is better off when we all play and have consistent rules. However like each different group of players playing basketball, all gyms are not the same. Sadly, you can not rely 100% on consistent rules for businesses and gyms and their viability until COVID19 is eradicated all we can do is manage our own little part of the world and ensure that somehow, someway we are able to train and exercise for the sake of our bodies and minds. Whatever that looks like will depend largely on you and the boundaries and protocols setup by you for your loved ones,-as we collectively wander into our own game of “basketball”.
421 Dundas St. Trenton