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The New Reality: Fitness studios prepare to reopen as COVID-19 restrictions ease

Fitness studios prepare to reopen as COVID-19 restrictions ease
WATCH: Gyms and fitness studios are slowly reopening as part of our new normal. But as Ashley Field reports, there are questions about whether people will be ready to return to their workout routines, or if they'll be more comfortable with the convenience of virtual classes at home.

This is the eighth in a series of stories looking at the new reality of life during the COVID-19 pandemic in the Maritimes. You can find the full series here.

With fitness studios and gyms allowed to get back to business in Nova Scotia by June 5, many local spots are now preparing to reopen to a new reality.

Spinco owner Taye Landry said the doors to both her Halifax and Bedford locations will be open June 5, but COVID-19 took a “massive hit” on her business.

“It was heartbreaking, but I’ve learned so much through this process that I know I will be a better business owner,” said Landry.

READ MORE: The gym will be one of the toughest spaces to reopen, experts say

Soon after closing March 15, Spinco began offering virtual classes on-demand and rented out their bikes in minutes.

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“We actually have a 200-person waitlist for both studios. It’s crazy, the demand is really high,” said Landry.

But Landry said riders are also eager to get back into the studio, a space that will look different than just a couple months ago.

Landry said with physical distancing rules, riders can expect to see reduced class sizes and increased cleaning. Spinco has also implemented mandatory training programs for staff.

They will have markers on the floor, only certain lockers are going to be used and showers won’t be available.

“Everything’s going to be mapped out. We just want to make sure that from the moment you book your bike online to the moment you leave the studio after your class it’s a seamless process,” said Landry.

“I think that the fitness industry is changing, and we’re just going to pivot with it and change with it.”

How online workouts have changed the face of fitness
How online workouts have changed the face of fitness

Joanna Thurlow has owned Halifax’s Modo Yoga for 12 years and said she hasn’t had to close the studio’s doors for more than a day or two.

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“I truly believed we’d be back in a matter of two weeks, I had no idea it would go on this long,” she said.

The past few weeks have been focused on reopening but Thurlow said that they’re unlikely to open by week’s end.

“The most important piece of the puzzle that’s still missing is that really clear public health directive on what we will need,” she said.

Thurlow said she’s been communicating with other yoga studios and her members to see what changes they’re looking for.

“I’m already anticipating plexiglass barriers at the front desk, social distancing within the yoga room, reduced class sizes, more time between classes to clean and sanitize,” she said

“We’re very conscious of trying to make it still a relaxing and comfortable space.”

Even though the studio’s doors will be open, class sizes will be cut in half and it will still be a struggle financially.

READ MORE: COVID-19 produces drive-in revival

“There definitely is a challenge in keeping everything as safe as possible and making it a viable business,” Thurlow said.

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“I think we can do that, it’s certainly not going to be a booming business, probably not for some time, but that’s okay.

“A small business, that’s the nature of it.”

One possible new revenue stream for Modo Yoga is online classes, which have become popular since their doors closed more than two months ago.

Depending on demand, they could become a permanent business fixture, Thurlow said.

“I know some folks just won’t be comfortable coming out right away, or that are immuno-compromised or that just enjoy practicing from home.”

READ MORE: Nova Scotia wineries, tourism sector grapple with uncertain future

Orangetheory Fitness franchise owner Mark Dacey said while there has been a strong appetite for his gym’s online workouts, there’s no replacing in-person training.

“People have learned to do more from home, but you still can’t replace that human to human interaction,” he said

Orangetheory Fitness has more than 1,300 locations worldwide, with more than 110 in Canada, so Dacey has been getting a lot of guidance from head office on what things will look like when his doors re-open.

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“Staff in masks, extra cleaning measures, extra time between classes so we can sanitize the studio thoroughly and all the contact points, allowing one group to leave the studio completely before the next group comes in,” Dacey said.

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“We’re a big family and a big team and we’ve got all kinds of support and we’re getting guidance and they’re working with us on a reopening plan.”

Dacey also doesn’t think his Halifax and Bedford locations will be open by June 5 but said he’s excited to get back to business.

“There’s a lot of factors and play and we need to review all them and make sure that we make the right decisions in the interest of health and safety of both our members and our staff,” he said

“2020 is a year of survival and New Year’s Eve 2020 going into 2021 will be a really happy one.”