Diving in with Dani: Going to the gym during the pandemic

Here’s what a gym owner and two gym regulars had to say about safety

CAMPUS Athletics in Langley. (Nicole Moore)

There’s nothing quite like the relief of flopping down onto my couch after some sweaty, chest-heaving exercise.

For me, the best part is when that post-workout mental clarity starts to shine through the ever-lingering, thick fog of pandemic burnout. It’s become an important part of taking care of my mental health, and I know I’m not the only one who feels this way.

Roraigh Falkner, a Kwantlen Polytechnic University grad, started with at-home workouts in the earlier days of the pandemic, then transitioned to the gym once fitness centers reopened around May last year.

Since then, he hasn’t looked back.

Currently, gyms are allowed to remain open as long as they have a COVID-19 Safety Plan and are sticking to it, reads the B.C. government’s health orders webpage. Some of the guidelines to be able to exercise in a gym include wearing a mask at all times, sanitizing equipment before and after use, and socially distancing yourself from others.

Yet, Falkner says he sees people breaking these rules quite regularly.

“People love to take off their masks, like even [pulling them] below the nose, which kind of makes me frustrated,” he says.

“If I have to follow the rules, then you have to too – because we’re going to be here forever if you don’t.”

Falkner’s biggest piece of advice is to go to the gym during a time where it’s usually quieter. He usually heads out for a 6:00 am or 7:00 am workout instead of braving the influx of people later in the afternoon who are getting off work or school.

In the back of his mind, though, he worries that fitness centres could get shut down again if fellow gym-goers or owners aren’t paying enough attention to the safety guidelines.

This concern is something that Nicole Moore, co-owner of CAMPUS Athletics and The Trainers Box, regularly has to think about.

Over at CAMPUS, a CrossFit gym in Langley, they have boxes taped onto the floor so that everyone has their individual space to workout in for their session. Each box has its own equipment, a whiteboard for tracking workouts, and some disinfecting supplies.

Making sure that members and trainers follow the guidelines — which Moore emails out whenever there are updates — is an essential part of helping the gym remain open.

Thankfully, she hasn’t had many issues with enforcing rules or provincial health orders at CAMPUS, and she thinks it’s likely because it is a smaller, closer-knit gym.

Her top tip for people starting at or returning to the gym during the pandemic is “finding a space that you feel confident and comfortable going to.”

Despite going to the gym being something that is allowed under the provincial health guidelines, Hayleigh, a student at Douglas College who asked not to share her last name, feels like there is some social shaming towards those who choose to do so.

“A lot of people have a thing that makes them feel good…[I want] for people to just be more conscious of how peoples’ ways of coping with this are different,” she says.

Hayleigh started going to the gym because it felt like one part of her health that she could control during this pandemic. Her advice is to be aware that everyone has different personal boundaries, to get the “lay of the land” at the gym you’re going to, and adapt your workout to still follow the guidelines.

“At this point, wearing a mask is more important than, like, getting super shredded,” she says with a laugh.

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