gyms in toronto

This is how gyms are trying to survive the lockdown and what comes next

Toronto gym owners trying to manage the lockdown regulations have found ways to keep going but a long winter stretches ahead.

The rules for gyms during this second lockdown have been unclear at times. It seemed like outdoor fitness classes of 10 people could help struggling gyms but those rules changed.

A few fitness clubs have closed during the pandemic, some with little notice to members. Other clubs just decided to open anyway, despite the rules. But many gyms are persevering and looking for new ways to help members.

MJ Shaw, owner of Soul Fuel Fitness, has plans for innovative outdoor classes in January.

The club plans to offer a snowshoe boot camp where people can rent snowshoes for the classes, which will be a circuit training style. A walk, talk and squat will be an interval-style class.

gyms in toronto

MJ Shaw, owner of Soul Fuel Fitness plans outdoor classes for the winter. Photo by Soul Fuel Fitness

A snow flow yoga class will have participants putting on a snowsuit or warm clothing for yoga outdoors.

"It is an opportunity for people to get out, be together but distanced."

For now, the online classes are going well but it is tough, said Shaw.

"The margins are really tight," she said. "I have faith that we will get through but it will be a year of sheer work horsing to keep this thing alive."

She expects the next four months to be challenging.

"I think the winter is going to be rough for people," she said. "My goal is just to keep people mentally healthy."

gyms in toronto

Careful distancing with workout stations could be one way to workout inside. Fit Factory Fitness photo

Ivan Ho, founder of Fit Factory Fitness has added to the live online class schedule and launched video-on-demand classes.

"We are solely focused on online training," said Ho. "That is something we have been doing since the start of COVID."

People are still participating but it is hard to motivate people.

"It is definitely a different business model," he said.

Ho planned some fitness challenges to help motivate people including a 21-day fat burn challenge and a six-week new year program.

"We are getting creative, we are trying to do the best we can," Ho said.

He hopes to re-launch outdoor classes in January even if it is freezing.

"We have the most hard-core clients — when we say drop, they drop," he said.

After the pandemic, Ho plans to continue to offer online classes.

"The blessing in disguise is our business-model has gotten better. That is something we will continue to offer, to innovate and be creative with," he said.

Like most gyms, Fuel Training Club has also moved workouts online, said Greg Hetherington, owner.

"We just have just been increasing the variety of our classes," Hetherington said.

But he is noticing fewer people joining classes as is often the case around the holidays.

"We definitely seeing a big drop off," he said. "A lot of people are tired of working out from home."

When allowed, Fuel Training Club will go back to an open gym model by appointment.

With new year's resolutions, gyms often see their biggest boom in January and Hetherington hopes they will be able to run at some capacity by then.

"If we can’t, as an industry be allowed to open up and run classes and if the online services can't take off, then I think that is when a lot of businesses are going to be in even bigger trouble."

Lead photo by

Fit Factory Fitness


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