Gym owner ready to meet challenge of reopening under pandemic protocols
Tsawwassen Springs Fitness one of many gyms that have adapted their operations in order to reopen
Mike Hamill, 64, has endured his share of adversity. Three years ago, he says, he was left paraplegic after an accident at sea, when his fishing boat collided with a humpback whale near Haida Gwaii.
During the nine months he spent in hospital recovering from the collision, Hamill had to give up on several businesses he either owned or co-owned, including two fitness clubs in B.C.'s Lower Mainland.
Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit, forcing him to close his remaining businesses in March due to public health orders, and leading to the permanent closure of a gym he co-owned in Maple Ridge.
But with several types of business now allowed to reopen across the province, Hamill has risen to the challenge of saving his last surviving gym by retrofitting it to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Hamill says the changes he's made to Tsawwassen Springs Fitness should be enough for the business to stay afloat, while keeping gym members safe. It's one of many fitness centres that have adapted their operations in order to reopen.
"A lot of us have to get tough and make the decisions that are best for the club and the members we have so they're safe and they feel good," said Hamill, who's worked in the fitness industry for more than 40 years.
As part of Phase 2 of the B.C. government's restart plan, fitness centres are now safe to open if they have developed a safety plan to reduce the risk of transmitting the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
WorkSafeBC recommends a number of protocols for fitness and recreational facilities, including establishing occupancy limits, organizing spaces and activities with physical distancing in mind, and establishing hand-washing policies.
Tsawwassen Springs Fitness, which reopens Monday, has installed Plexiglas partitions, cleared out some equipment to create space, limited the number of people inside, and will require all staff to wear masks and gloves, as well as take the temperature of everyone entering using infrared thermometers.
Equipment will be cleaned before it is used by the next person, Hamill adds.
He says if the gym doesn't reopen now, it will fold.
"We're not really gonna make any profit, we just want to keep the doors open and follow the rules," he said.
"We have to get started, because you leave a business dormant too long and you're forgotten."
Staff, patrons pumped to return
At only 5,400 square feet, Hamill's business is described as a boutique gym. But while it's small in size, its reopening will have a large impact for some.
Former staff member Shay Lytle had been working as a hair stylist before she was laid off during the pandemic. She's now returning to the gym as manager.
"It is nice to come back to work and get back to a regular lifestyle," she said.
Lytle admits all the new safety standards and procedures can be daunting, but she is confident the gym is in good shape.
"We're prepared for what we have to do, and it's the new way of life so you just have to do what's best for everybody," she said.
Meanwhile, former regulars are looking forward to get back to their fitness routines.
Phil Yee has been a member since it opened five years ago and says he'll be there on Day 1 of the reopening.
He says he's grown tired of creating workouts at home.
"It's been a challenging time for many people, trying to maintain and stay healthy," said Yee. "But I'm very excited to hear that the gym is opening.
"I really feel that the owners are really diligent and I'm sure they're going to make sure everybody is healthy and safe while they're in there."
Hamill says he's working out again himself, and has outfitted his gym with adaptive sports equipment for others who are differently abled.
"We have some great equipment for upper body that we put in the club that you can wheel your chair right up to," he said.