Toronto fitness and yoga studios grapple with closures and changing rules
Just as fitness and yoga studios made plans to restart classes this weekend, the rules changed yet again.
As of Nov. 14, Toronto officially moved into a revised version of the Red-Control phase of Ontario's new colour-coded reopening framework rather than Orange-Restrict, meaning that precautions are now more stringent than anticipated.
Instead of the 50-person capacity that Orange would have enabled, gyms are only permitted 10 people inside at any given time (or 25 outside) for general workouts, while indoor group classes are completely banned for at least 28 days.
For small fitness studio owners, while they understand the need for safety during the pandemic, the yoyo back and forth has left some spinning.
"I think the big problem for us is not so much the closures but it is the open, close and the open, close that has happened because it really continually stunts our ability to progress and be consistent," Jacob Saphra, manager of Yoga Village told blogTO.
Saphra, like many studios, thought Ontario would be permitting group fitness classes again this weekend, and had prepared the studio for reopening, he said.
"The whole thing about running a fitness space is you need momentum and we don't have any because we keep getting closed down," he said.
He added that it seems odd that meanwhile, dance studios and gyms can be open with limits on the number of people.
"I think that is one of the most frustrating things for the community, there is no nuance the policy-making," he said.
Other small studios feel the same.
"It's heartbreaking and infuriating,” Kelly Taphouse, owner of MOVE Fitness in Leslieville, told blogTO.
Like Yoga Village, she had to change plans suddenly.
"We have, once again, had to shift gears and recreate our business plan," Taphouse said.
After cancelling the restart of classes, Taphouse designed supervised open gym time sessions with a suggested workout plan and equipment pod starting this weekend, which will be capped at eight participants.
She also runs youth programs and personal training, and is looking at renting her space out.
"If I want to survive the next year, I have to fill my space with other things, I have to get creative," she said.
For another boutique fitness owner, MJ Shaw of Soul Fuel Fitness near High Park, creativity is how they are holding on.
Shaw is planning outdoor classes for January including a snowshoe bootcamp and snow flow yoga.
Although there has been some Zoom fatigue, the online classes have grown in popularity with people joining from the U.S. and Europe.
"The online has been a silver lining," she said.
She added that she understands the need to stay safe, and has "deep concerns about the health risks."
However, she feels the fitness industry has been unfairly targeted. She believes there could be more nuance in the rules — some types of fitness are risky but others such as Pilates are not, she said.
Hopefully, things will get better in the new year. For now, at least, some small fitness studios are holding on.
"I am not ready to call it quits," said Taphouse.
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