People pumped over Manitoba's plan to reopen gyms, fitness centres, pools and spas

Manitoba is lifting some restrictions on gyms, fitness centres, spas and pools, much to the delight of their operators and clients who promise to follow the protocols.

Industry made a case that they could operate safely, province listened

Sean Brown, owner of Impact Performance Centre, looks forward to learning more about the province's plan to reopen safely. (Jaison Empson/CBC)

Manitoba is lifting some restrictions on gyms, fitness centres, spas and pools, much to the delight of their operators and clients who promise to follow the protocols.

Premier Brian Pallister announced Thursday the inclusion of these facilities as part of Phase 2 of the province's reopening plan, with details and dates to be revealed in the coming days.

"Kind of happy because I mean for me, personally I need it. I can't really stay indoors that much anymore," said Betty Servellon, who works in health care. She said she's certain that gyms, like Fit4Less where she goes, and people will be cautious and clean as they reopen.

"All the stress I was going through, I gained 15 pounds these past few months. I feel like I'm ready to go to the gym. I don't know, we'll see how I'll feel when I get there. It works for me mentally, emotionally. It's just good for me."

Betty Servellon said working out is just as important for her mental health as it is for her physical health. (Betty Servellon)

The COVID-19 curve has flattened in Manitoba and new cases are cropping up slowly. The move into Phase 2 is a source of pride, said the premier, but also a time to remain vigilant.

"There are still going to be protocols that have to be followed to make sure that we don't let COVID back in. No COVID comeback in this province," said Pallister. 

The reopening of gyms and fitness facilities had originally been slated for future phases of the province's plan. But the Manitoba Fitness Council — which represents fitness leaders and owners across the province — surveyed 276 gyms and facilities to see if they could follow strict guidelines.

Facilities responded to say they would do "whatever it takes" to reopen, said executive director Stephanie Jeffrey, and the council shared those results and recommendations with the province. 

"I think that they were receptive to that and were able to put us into the queue for Phase 2 which is amazing and exciting all at the same time," she said. 

But it won't be business as usual, she added, with tight restrictions in place for safety. Sites will be using a booking system, limiting the use of showers and lockers, and developing their own reopening plans. 

She said the transition will take time, and some places may offer a blend of online and in-person service, so people can resume their activities when they're comfortable. 

The onus is on guests to stay home if they're sick or at risk of getting sick, she said.

"I'm ecstatic. I can't wait to reopen," said Todd Miller, who owns Studio 26 Yoga and Wellness on Pembina Highway, which closed on March 18. His studio fits 50, but he plans to reopen with only 20 people per class. 

"Opening is exactly what we want to do, as soon as possible, safely. The main thing about all of this is to make sure we can open following all the regulations that are required."

Todd Miller, the owner/director of Studio 26 Yoga and Wellness, will allow far fewer people per class. He says he's ecstatic and nervous over the thought of reopening. (Jaison Empson/CBC)

According to the province's draft plan, facilities will have to keep guests apart by at least two metres, limit capacity by half or keep people 10 square metres apart, adhere to strict cleanliness protocols including hand-washing, regularly clean equipment, develop site-specific reopening plans, screen guests and manage entry ways. 

There should be no towel service, plenty of hand-wash stations, disinfectant for guests and staff, signs and discouraged use of drop-in service. 

"I've been educating myself on that and will make sure people come in safely because if we do it the wrong way, we're going to be right back where we started," said Miller. He's been offering yoga classes online to stay connected, but it's not the same. 

"We have a strong community support here and people socialize. That's what's missing."

Sean Brown, who owns Impact Performance Centre, has also been offering free workouts online since March. He's lost income, 80 clients and looks forward to the return of his "family" when gyms like his can officially reopen.

Manitoba is lifting some restrictions on gyms, fitness centres, spas and pools, much to the delight of their operators and clients who promise to follow the protocols. 2:54

"I'm just thinking it really is about time. It's been unfortunate because they've classified gyms as one entity when there's so many facilities that aren't the same, so you see things when you go to the grocery store and some of the things they've been opening before gyms, I'm sitting there and shaking my head," said Brown. 

Tossing the towel service, cleaning equipment and distancing people won't be tough, he said, but his workouts haven't changed.

"Hopefully they've been doing something instead of sitting on their rear ends while this is going on because I think a lot of people are going to be coming back and going … oh my god am I out of shape."

Sean Brown says more cleaning, hand-washing, social distancing, booking and fun will be in effect. (Jaison Empson/CBC)

Pallister said the province will rely on data and advice from health-care experts to develop plans in the coming days. People can visit to see and have their say on the draft plan, he added.

Servellon knows gyms aren't for everyone. But years ago, she was diagnosed with skin cancer, weighed nearly 200 pounds and had no hope until she got active.

"If a few things are open and there's not too many cases … I think that would work. Everyone works out for different reasons. For me, I want to be healthy, that's all. I wanna stay healthy."


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