Excitement, confusion as Alberta gyms reopen for highly-regulated workouts

EDMONTON — Alberta approved more gym activities Monday as part of the provinces Step 2 coronavirus reopening plan – causing both excitement for gym-goers and confusion over what exactly was allowed.

The province closed gyms and many other businesses Dec. 12 due to spiking coronavirus cases. Gyms were later reopened but for one-on-one personal training only.

New rules were posted online Monday, with 17 bullet points including mandatory spacing and masking, an appointment-only system, and a remaining ban on “high intensity” workouts.

“We’re excited to reopen. Whatever the restrictions will be, we’re happy to comply just to get all of our members back and working out again, and ourselves working out too,” Shelley Kelso said outside of a west Edmonton GoodLife Fitness she manages.

Anticipating a morning announcement, GoodLife booked time slots for members starting at 12:15 p.m. Monday, but had to cancel while waiting for the 4:30 provincial announcement.

By 6 p.m. Kelso was still postponing appointments as they worked to clarify the new rules.

“Currently we’re getting a lot of confusion. Our phone has been ringing off the hook since 4:30. Our members are really eager to get back,” she said.

Kelso would have liked more notice from the government so she could plan her reopening, but said she’s just happy to have more clients back, and was committed to doing it safely.

“More notice, the better. But the sooner we open the sooner we can get members back, and that’s what we’re here to do,” she said.

2020 and 2021 have been rough for Kelso and her employees, many of whom have been laid off twice since the start of the pandemic.

‘FANTASTIC’: GYM-USERS EXCITED

Rudy Roeder had just finished a workout with his trainer when CTV News Edmonton told him about the rule changes.

“It’s fantastic. Working out is boosting your immune system and like helping with mental health, getting your endorphins and hormones going again, I think it’s fantastic,” he said.

Kelso admitted she was a little unsure about exactly what the government considered a “high intensity workout”, but said she would clarify with her bosses and AHS officials.

The governments website gave some examples but said gym operators could use their “best judgement” on that.

“We relied on recommendations from the fitness sector in making these decisions. And that includes how we defined low intensity. We also wanted to offer more flexibility, while keeping safety,” Health Minister Tyler Shandro said during the 4:30 p.m. announcement.

“I know that many Albertans are eager to get back to other activities like running on the treadmill. High Intensity activities like that are still only allowed on a one on one basis with a trainer or for a household and one trainer,” he added.

While walking in to GoodLife to buy a membership, Nick Troung said he was also confused, and a little disappointed here’s still so many restrictions on gyms.

“No high intensity workouts and only low intensity workouts…? I don’t know what that means,” he said.

“Every piece of equipment you touched was sanitized and I think that’s a lot safer than shopping malls now, so I have no clue why they’re still closed (for walk-ins),” Troung said.

Shandro said the risks of coronavirus still exist and he asked Albertans to keep following the rules.

A complete list of updated restrictions is posted online.

GoodLife sent the following statement to members on Monday night:

GoodLife reopening statement

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