gyms reopening toronto

Toronto gym will require proof of vaccination if you want to workout after reopening

It's been more than half a year since gyms were forced to close down in Toronto amid a resurgence in cases of COVID-19, and many fitness fans can say that they're getting bored of running around the same damn block again, and again, and again.

Ditto for virtual workouts which, while a nice option for some, are not an appropriate replacement for people living in tiny downtown condos where "home" already now serves as "office" in addition to everything else.

Fortunately, there's an end in sight to these dark days of gymless agony: Indoor fitness centres will be permitted to resume operations under Step 3 of Ontario's new "Road to Reopening" plan.

The provincial government revealed last week that sports and recreational fitness facilities can be open "with some restrictions" (yet to be determined) once 70 to 80 per cent of all Ontario adults have had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 25 per cent have recieved at least two doses.

While we're not even in Step 1 yet and must stay, as a province, in each step for at least 21 days, the reopening of IRL gyms should now only be a few months away.

Most gyms will likely have their own health and safety protocols in place, just like they did upon reopening last summer before the second wave, in addition to any gathering and time limits imposed by the province.

No rules have even been suggested by the government to date, but a few fitness facilities have jumped the gun by announcing their own controversial policies — policies that go beyond anything the government has mandated in the past, and that some people believe may be discriminatory.

Sweat and Tonic, a massive fitness studio and wellness complex in downtown Toronto, sent out an email to clients over the weekend stating that all members will have to be vaccinated if they want to make use of the facility once Ontario allows it to reopen.

"At Sweat and Tonic, our mission from the start of the pandemic has always been to provide the safest fitness facility in Canada. To uphold this promise, we have made the important decision to establish Sweat and Tonic as a vaccination-required facility," reads the email.

"When Ontario enters Stage 3 of Ontario’s Roadmap to Reopen plan, which will likely come late July/August, we will require all guests and employees to have at least one dose. Full vaccination with a second dose will be required upon Ontario moving into full capacity reopening."

The business, which did not respond to a request for comment, explains in the email that staff will verify the vaccination status of members through its booking system.

"When you sign up for an in-person class, you will be prompted to verify that you've been vaccinated at least two weeks prior to attending your first in-person class," reads the email.

"Proof of vaccination will be required at reception during your first visit. You will only need to go through this process once upon first visit back."

The gym will also continue on with all of its existing COVID protocols, including the sanitization of hands and shoes, temperature scans upon entry, mask use, social distancing, and the use of plexiglass dividers and medical-grade HVAC systems.

sweat and tonicSweat and Tonic announced its mandatory vaccine policy to clients in an email on Saturday, May 22. Image via blogTO.

Azin Heydari, a Toronto-based psychotherapist in training who just finished grad school, was disheartened by and concerned about the email from Sweat and Tonic.

"As a person living with a debilitating mental health condition myself, it's dehumanizing," said Heydari to blogTO of the policy. "It just further makes one feel excluded and attacks one's self-esteem."

"Some of us also may have had a turbulent relationship with the medical community, or know someone who has, so this level of discrimination and rule-making, without being forced by governing bodies is very frightening," Heydari continued.

"It only looks like a power trip to embed one's own ideology onto others."

And Heydari isn't alone in that sentiment — the founder of another fitness studio in downtown Toronto, BeHot Yoga, actually rescinded a similar policy yesterday in response to feedback from its clients.

"The large majority of our clients were on board for the policy, but hearing from the ones who are not made us reconsider," said BeHot's Paul McQuillan to blogTO, noting that the move was made in an effort to be mitigatory, not discriminatory.

"We are trying to mitigate as much risk as possible for the protection of our community. Naturally, we would never want to turn away anyone, as it's been a difficult year in which we have been
closed for all but two months out of the last 14," he continued.

"If we knew what the absolute 'right' thing to do was, we would do it, but naturally, it's a very divisive and difficult issue."

BeHot's original message to members stated that it would become a "vaccination-required facility" upon reopening, once Ontario hits Step 3.

"In addition to the assurance that all our staff and teachers have been vaccinated, clients will be required to show proof of at least one vaccination dose before practicing in our establishment," read the email.

The business put a pause on the policy yesterday and and apologized to anyone who had been offended by the initial email.

"We have had a great deal of engagement surrounding our recent proposed vaccine policy. We have heard from our clients and staff, and a large majority feel safer being able to practice with such a policy," reads an update sent out to clients on Thursday.

"However, we have also heard from many who have concerns with such a policy and we want you to know that we hear you as well. We in no way intended to discriminate or segregate. This was never our intention and, for that, we sincerely apologize."

"We have always maintained that everyone has a right and freedom to make their own choices with regards to their bodies, including whether to get vaccinated," reads the statement, penned by founder Pat McQuillan.

"We are in no way forcing this upon anyone as it is not our right to do so. It has never been our right and we would never want this to be the case."

Following the publication of this story on Friday night, Sweat and Tonic rescinded its mandatory vaccination policy, apologizing to customers for what they called a "premature and divisive" rule change.

Lead photo by

Hector Vasquez

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