Gyms take training sessions outdoors to protest COVID-19 closures

OTTAWA — Gyms and fitness facilities across Quebec changed their approach Thursday, in an ongoing battle to reopen their facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

A group of gyms set to defy provincial orders and reopen instead opted to protest.

“We’re not opening today because we don’t want to defy what the government is saying, we want to work with the government to make sure we can have a healthy opening,” said Jeff Christison, owner of Anytime Fitness.

Anytime Fitness in Gatineau is part of a coalition of hundreds of gyms pushing to reopen. They’re calling the decision to close their facilities “arbitrary” and asking for proof they’ve caused outbreaks.

“We’ve worked with the Gatineau police department today to ensure we’re doing what we’re doing properly to make sure we can provide a mental and physical outlet for members of the community for at least today from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.,” said Christison.

On Thursday, staff set up outdoor workout stations and personal training sessions as part of the one day protest.

Across the border in Ontario, other gyms are also taking their training outdoors, but with a different stance.

“Instead of doing the protests I’ve decided to put all my energy into focusing on our members and doing what I can control,” said Adam Bracken, founder of The Fitness Lab.

For weeks now, The Fitness Lab in Manotick has been running outdoor classes rain or shine.

Classes are capped at 24 people and equipment is cleaned at every station in between use.

“It’s the community, the socializing, and obviously for their mental earth, that’s the biggest piece we’ve gotten from people,” said Bracken.

“I hope this doesn’t last too much longer, but if it does and people keep showing up, we’ll be here.”

Whether it be in Manotick or in Gatineau, members are stressing the importance of spending time at the gym.

“This is the way I release stress and I really need things like this during this very difficult pandemic situation,” said Graeme Gordon, who took part in an outdoor workout in Manotick Thursday morning.

“I hope it’s going to be open really soon, because for my mental health it’s really important,” said Emily Fournier. who trained outside in Gatineau.

“It’s crucial right, it’s part of our lifestyle, it’s part of our daily habits, it keeps our mental health checked,” added Alberto Aguilar, working out at Anything Fitness.

Quebec has extended lock down measures, affecting gyms in the province, until November 23.

Ottawa remains in a modified stage 2 restrictions until at least Nov. 7.

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