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Quebec gym owners and athletes in coronavirus red zones prepare for 2nd shutdown

Click to play video 'Quebec gym owners, athletes in COVID-19 red zones brace for 2nd shutdown' Quebec gym owners, athletes in COVID-19 red zones brace for 2nd shutdown
Hours away from their second provincially ordered closure due to COVID-19, many gym owners say they’re not sure how they can manage financially.

As of 12 a.m. Thursday, gyms and fitness centres in red zones across the province will be forced to close their doors for the second time this year.

The new restrictions are expected to be in place for at least a 20-day period.

Read more: QMJHL facing serious coronavirus challenges after new restrictions, positive test

Avid gymgoers at the Carrefour Laval multisport complexes are making the most of their last workout as the shutdown deadline looms large.

“I’m going to train the most I can this morning and then I’m going to have to train at home,” Kathy Mark said.

She is one of the 3,000 daily members who break a sweat at the sports complex.

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Normally, Mark trains six times a week. Now, she says, she will do her best to do that at home.

With the record-breaking numbers of cases of COVID-19 being recorded in Quebec, Mark says she understands the need for the shutdown.

“I don’t have control on that but I have control of my emotions. I’m going to keep my mindset right,” Mark said.

Isabelle Charest, the minister responsible for sports, said on Monday that those measures are being implemented to stop community transmission of the coronavirus.

“It’s a temporary measure and we just want to make sure we limit those contacts and have the minimum risk,” she said.

The new rules for schools and sports will only apply to the regions in the highest alert level under the province’s colour-coded ranking system.

Read more: Quebec will use federal coronavirus exposure app amid second wave

“We did everything the government asked us and we are still closing down,” Carrefour Multisports general manager Laurent Denis said.

He, like many, was surprised to hear the government’s announcement. Denis says a 20-day period is manageable but concerning because he fears it will last longer than expected.

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“If it goes to Christmas or it goes to June, I don’t know,” Denis said.

Financially, the gym is on stable ground, according to Denis, “thanks to the loyal clients.”

He says the client attendance hasn’t gone down but the losses in revenue are large, surpassing seven figures.

Tinel Timu, the owner of multiple gyms in the Greater Montreal area, including Carrefour Laval, is calling on the government to reconsider its decision.

“I’m pleading that gyms with very strict conditions stay open,” Timu said.

“Our losses are in the seven figures. That cost is going to have to be covered by the owners,” Timu said.

He says closing down gyms is not the solution to the pandemic crisis and claims it will inflict even more harm.

The current situation has left banks tightening the screws when it comes to financing because gyms have been deemed a dangerous business due to shutdowns, Timu said.

“The revenues are not coming in, they are being harsh on us, charging us more interest because we are becoming a dangerous business that may not be able to pay their debts,” he said.

Read more: Quebec makes masks mandatory for high school students in coronavirus red zones

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Timu worries what closing his doors will mean for clients looking to blow off some steam. He believes the public’s physical and mental health will be affected by this second shutdown.

“Fitness sports are directly related to health,” he said.

Sports scientist Dr. Melissa Hunfalvay agrees, pointing to numerous studies that prove social interaction in gyms is beneficial to adults’ health.

“Exercise increases a lot of good things, including good hormones, reduces stress and mental and physical health problems,” Hunfalvay said.

She says people need to remain fit during the closures, finding quick routines and inexpensive ways to get the blood flowing.

Working out from the confines of her garage at home, personal trainer and Under Armor athlete Jennifer Rochon says she has adapted and enjoyed the process.

“People are reacting strongly — ‘They are taking my gym away again’ — but I grew stronger without my gym in aspects of my fitness journey,” Rochon said.

Using limited and lighter equipment, such as resistance bands and dumbbells, she has shown her ever-growing Instagram following ways to keep in shape during the pandemic.

She says her workouts have been better than before.

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“It was a challenge at first but then I adapted and as humans that’s the fun thing about this experience — it brings you out of your regular (fitness) routine,” Rochon said.

“I’m not saying it’s going to be easy.”

Read more: Call to make Quebec gyms and workout centres ‘essential’ as possible 2nd lockdown looms

The new measures come as Montreal, Quebec City and Chaudière-Appalaches are under a partial lockdown until at Oct. 28 — if all goes well.

Three towns in the Gaspesie area will also turn red Monday night amid a growing number of coronavirus cases.

In red zones, bars, cinemas, libraries and other establishments are closed, while restaurants are limited to takeout. Residents in those regions are also prohibited from inviting people to their homes, with few exceptions.

Quebec is the province hardest hit by the health crisis. Over the last four days, the daily tally of new coronavirus infections has exceeded 1,000.