'People will lose hope' - gym-goers weigh in on decision to close venues during second lockdown

As the nation enters a second lockdown, fitness fans are questioning the government’s decision to exclude gyms from the list of ‘essential’ businesses allowed to remain open.

Faced with at least four weeks of closure, owners and members are concerned for their health and for the future of gyms.

With many still running at reduced capacity over the summer, another closure will be a huge blow to the town’s large fitness community.

Craig Swinton is a paramedic but also runs Apex Fitness Coaching as a personal trainer.

Crossfit 17 has small group workouts which are socially-distanced. Owner Julia says she is worried for her members.

His clients struggled through the previous closure and he is concerned that a second lockdown may be worse, especially with the darker nights and colder weather.

He explains: “People need to be able to train – for most of my clients, as well as it being about their physical transformations, it’s the impact on their mental health which is just as important.

"I do weekly check-ins with my clients, and the general tone this week has been ‘what am I going to do?’ they are really worried.”

Some have stressful jobs and use their training as a release, and some are isolated at home, unable to see their families.

Daniel Maher in his happy place' Anytime Fitness in Sutton-in-Ashfield

He continued: "It’s a real concern that their mental health will deteriorate, especially as the opportunity to get out to exercise will be much more limited than it was during the warmer months.

"Add to the fact that obesity and ill-health has an effect on a person’s ability to overcome the virus, and it just doesn’t make sense to close gyms.”

Mitchel Hunt is a regular gym-goer and explains his views: “I honestly don’t get the obsession with closing the gyms.

“If it’s to eradicate the virus and bring the R-rate right down then surely they need to close schools and universities?

Kevin Johnson has admitted that he is really concerned about the gyms closing, especially during winter months while outdoor exercise is limited.

"Gyms are very safe with social distancing and hygiene in place.

“This is a major part of people’s lives – many have been in their routine for years – there needs to be a balance between the risk and mental stability.

“People who are lacking in mobility simply aren't able to train outside, especially during winter.

“We need the government to revisit this.”

Despite gyms working hard to ensure workouts are socially-distanced, gyms are still set to close their doors. The new workout studio at Oak Tree Leisure Centre has been allowing socially-distanced classes to take place for the past few weeks.

Daniel Maher has suffered with depression since the birth of his son in May, and uses the gym to improve his mental health.

He explains: “So for me the gyms have been my safe place throughout this whole thing.

"My wife gave birth, and I was only able to accompany her after she had been on the ward for six hours, alone, and in pain.

“We've both had postnatal depression since and, for me, the gym has been my way of coping.

"The gyms are clean, never crowded and everyone has their own section to work out in.

"Members wipe down equipment and the staff clean all day.

“With there being no cure for COVID-19 we need to be fit and healthy if we're going to stand a chance of beating this virus.

“People are going to be depressed and, like me, feeling like they want to give up.

“There is no downside to a gym and the repercussions are going to be dire – I fear for gyms going bust, staff losing their jobs and people will lose hope.”

With the news that DW Fitness First closed earlier this year, gyms are worried about the financial impact of another closure, as many had just begun to regain members after the previous lockdown.

Julia Crone-Oswald runs Crossfit 17 in Mansfield and admits she is worried about the future of her business.

Crossfit workouts take place in a large unit with workout areas marked out to ensure social distancing.

Shutters on the side of the building can be opened to increase airflow, and equipment is cleaned after every use.

Julia, 41, explains: “Our workouts are socially-distanced, we have full track and trace for every person who enters, and everything is kept sanitised throughout the day.

"This gym is a lifeline for some – we have our ‘Platinum’ crew who are in their sixties and, for some, it’s their only social interaction.

"You can hear their laughter during their session, it really lifts their spirits, as it does for all of our members.

"If this goes on for another six months, we don’t know how we are going to survive – it is devastating after working hard to build our little community.”

Kevin Johnson has trained for all of his adult life and is devastated that gyms will be closing once more.

The 47-year-old explains; “It absolutely destroyed me when the gym shut in the first lockdown.

"My anxiety is through the roof knowing they are closing again, especially with the dark nights as well - who's going to exercise after work outside?

"I've worked throughout this pandemic and the gym is a huge escape – it’s ridiculous to even contemplate it again with what it provides for health and well-being.

"Gyms are clean, and training will help your immune system – I hope they reconsider.”

MP for Mansfield, Ben Bradley has been campaigning for the government to reconsider the decision.

He explains: “I’ve raised the potential to keep sport and exercise facilities open this time, and asked the Prime Minister about exemptions for sport in the Commons this week.

"Unfortunately the Government has decided that if you make these exemptions for one group of businesses, then other sectors will come forward looking for similar exemptions.“I do understand that, in truth; the premise that if you exempt lots of things then you are not really ‘locking down’ at all, but I have urged Government to consider this again very carefully because we know that exercise is hugely important for both mental and physical health, and there are lots of low-risk environments where it could take place.”

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