British Columbia

Gyms, dance studios adapt to new curbs on indoor fitness classes in Metro Vancouver due to COVID

Group fitness classes can resume in the Vancouver Coastal and Fraser Health regions once safety plans have been approved by health officials. But no one knows when that will be.

Group activities like yoga and spin are suspended for two weeks

Ilan Cumberbirch, owner of Yard Athletics, sprays a sanitizing solution on gym equipment in Vancouver, B.C., on Tuesday. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

As almost three million people in the Vancouver Coastal Health and Fraser Health regions get used to new COVID-19 restrictions over the next two weeks, gyms and fitness studios are trying to  find a safe path forward despite uncertainty.

As part of new restrictions introduced Saturday, businesses and recreation centres that operate indoor group physical activities have been told to suspend them. That includes spin classes, yoga, group fitness, dance classes and other group indoor activities that increase respiratory rates.

Indoor sports where physical distancing cannot be maintained are also suspended. That includes boxing, martial arts, hockey, volleyball and basketball.

Ilan Cumberbirch, owner of Yard Athletics in downtown Vancouver, says staff will continue to enforce strict COVID-19 protocols. 

"No showers, no lockers, no change rooms. Come in as little as you need, wear a mask, do your work out, cleaning and sanitation and then everyone clears out after that," Cumberbirch said. 

He said that every client is spaced more than six feet apart, and no equipment is used without sanitization. 

Still, all group classes have been cancelled, and most gym-goers are here for one-on-one or semi-private sessions. 

Clients work out at a distance at Yard Athletics in Vancouver on Tuesday. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Still, there is confusion for many studios around what protocols need to be implemented to adequately comply with safety orders. 

On Monday, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said health officials are still developing new guidelines to allow indoor group fitness activities to resume, and once those are ready, business owners and other operators will need to have new safety plans approved.

Vanessa Lalonde, who owns Luminesque Dance in Vancouver's West End, has switched to virtual classes for the two-week period. 

She is frustrated that her business and others are forced to close down temporarily after a COVID-19 outbreak at Capella Dance Academy in Chilliwack.

 "If all businesses were operating under the same protocols and the same safety plans, then we wouldn't be here with one studio with a massive outbreak and studios like ours with absolutely no [cases]," Lalonde said. 

Ryan Diaz is the owner Diaz Combat Sports in Vancouver, B.C. (CBC)

For Ryan Diaz, owner of Diaz Combat Sports in Chinatown, the timing of the new restrictions is particularly difficult. 

"It's very frustrating because not only do we not know the new guidelines, this is what happened last time — 'Yeah, you're going to shut down for two weeks' and [it] ended up being three months," Diaz said. 

He had recently opened up a new facility for his nearly 1,280 members. 

"We just opened up this brand new facility and our bills are racking and racking [up] right now ... It's very scary."

With files from Tina Lovgreen