Living room workouts now optional, as Montreal fitness centres reopen

Fitness enthusiasts in and around Montreal are hitting gyms, yoga and dance studios as well as martial arts facilities for the first time in nearly six months. The reopening comes amid growing concern over the presence of more transmissible variants of COVID-19.

'I have 12 straight clients until 7 p.m. tonight,' says gym owner

Gyms in and around Montreal are allowed to reopen, starting Friday. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press)

For the first time in nearly six months, fitness enthusiasts in and around Montreal no longer have to settle for working out in their living rooms or basements, as gyms and other indoor training facilities in the province's red zones are allowed to reopen.

They had been closed since Oct. 1.

There are restrictions, however. Owners will need to keep a registry of people who attend in case there are outbreaks. People will only be able to train solo, with one other person, or with multiple people from the same household.

"My phone hasn't stopped ringing since the announcement," said Luis Argumedes, the owner of Centre U Fit in Montreal's  Anjou neighbourhood, who has appointments for hourly training sessions booked for the entire day.

"I have twelve straight clients until 7 p.m. tonight. The next couple days will be very busy. We're planning to work at least 10 to 12 hours per day to make sure we see as many clients as possible and we can make everybody happy."

Luis Argumedes, the owner of Centre U Fit, is looking forward to training clients at his gym. (Facebook/Luis Argumedes)

The reopening of fitness centres is part of a series of changes to health restrictions in red zones that have come into effect, including the reopening of spas and show venues. Gatherings of up to 250 people to gather in places of worship are also allowed, depending on the building's capacity, but that limit shrinks to 25 in the event of a funeral or a wedding.

Cases on the rise?

The loosening of restrictions are happening even as cases of COVID-19 appear to be on the rise once again, with the presence of more transmissible variants of the virus. 

Public health experts have expressed concern that things may be reopening too quickly, exacerbating an expected third wave of infections.

When the government announced the new rules two weeks ago, Dr. Richard Massé, the strategic medical advisor for Quebec Public Health, said gyms and other sports facilities have been the site of outbreaks in the past.

He also said he was confident that operators will follow the conditions that accompany the relaxed rules.

"I'm definitely very excited to finally work out tonight," said Thorin Malaka, a 17-year-old personal trainer.

"I just had a meeting with my gym yesterday and we went over all of the new safety procedures, so we're definitely being pretty safe. We're disinfecting [equipment] all the time. We have limits on how many people we can have. I'd say it's even safer than the first time they opened the gyms back in June."

Argumedes said his fitness centre is different from many others because his clients are always accompanied by a trainer, so he's not worried about outbreaks.

"We don't have an open gym concept, so people just can't come here and train on their own," he said. 

However, Argumedes admits he is worried about having to close down again in the near future if the situation in Montreal deteriorates.

"It's concerning obviously. With what's going on around the world, we really need to be careful, but to be honest I want to take it one day at a time," Argumedes said.

Group outdoor sports and recreational training remain limited to a maximum of eight people in red zones. As of Friday, that limit went up to 12 people in orange zones.

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