Alberta fitness industry still feels weight of pandemic restrictions


Even though the last of Alberta’s remaining COVID-19 public health measures will be removed on Wednesday, some gym and fitness operators are straining to find creative ways to encourage clients to return to in-class workouts.


“Next to restaurants, we were the hardest hit industry and relative to the damage done we got little to no support financially or (response) from our government leaders,” said Adrianna Britton, owner of Barre West and member of the advocacy group Save Fitness AB.


“It’s a one day at a time marathon over a sprint,” she said.


Britton says beyond offering promotions and discounts to her customer base, her facility also now has separate rooms for individual training and red light therapy treatment.


“Just another extension of what we do for health and wellness that helps to diversify what we offer,” she said.


The co-founder of indoor cycling franchise YYC Cycle has begun offering incentives to fill the spin studio.


“We actually dropped a free guest pass on every single person’s account. We have over 1,000 (new people) that came through,” said Andrew Obrecht, a partner at YYC & YEG Cycle Studio.


“People are excited to get back into it, its just that kick in the butt people are looking for, to do it.”


However, Obrecht says it could take years before membership returns to pre-pandemic levels.


ONLINE SHIFT


Obrecht says while many businesses did pivot to online classes, his did not in order to keep focus on community building at studio locations. The doors to Stax Cycle Club in Inglewood remained shut through two years of the pandemic, as owners shifted to streaming spin classes to members with indoor bikes at home.


After four months in a temporary location earlier this year, co-founder Emily Paton decided to keep in-person classes closed to focus on online spin workouts over the summer.


“I think going into fall, things will start to rebound but I really do think its going to be about finding a way to work into and lean into the hybrid (model),” said Paton.


She also said the province hurt the fitness industry with frequent closures, capacity limits and the Restrictions Exemptions Program or vaccine passport system.


“We were labelled as non-essential which was quite confusing. Regular fitness helps support cardiac health … it reduces depression,” she said.


HIGH INTENSITY FITNESS AT HOME


High intensity workouts faced more restrictions than other workouts that didn’t cause users to feel short of breath.


Many group fitness providers pivoted to offer online classes which are now competing with the comfort of home.


“People kinda fell into their own little groove at home with online fitness. It was a kick-start to our on-demand fitness for High Fitness,” said Eden Schell, an instructor with High Fitness.


Schell says the company also offers an app for virtual workouts, and she plans on offering some outdoor workouts over the course of the summer.


She says the fitness industry typically sees a slowdown over the summer as people take vacation or explore the outdoors, so they are hoping for momentum to build by September.


“Come the fall, we are hoping to bring that energy back.”

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