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Monster Gym Montreal
Photograph: Courtesy Monster Gym

When will gyms reopen in Montreal and what will workouts look like?

We spoke with local Montreal gym owners about how they plan to reopen—expect extra sanitization, smaller classes and more

By JP Karwacki

As the Quebec government begins to weight its options in the deconfinement of greater Montreal and the province as a whole, Montrealers remain restless at home with a need to workout. So when will Montreal gyms reopen, and what will it look like when they do?

Because gyms are large spaces where people can gather and sweat it out, it's more than likely that will not be included in the province gradual reopening of non-essentials businesses. To date, premier François Legault has only answered questions like when schools will reopen in Montreal, when hair salons and barbers will reopen in Montreal, and when stores will reopen in Montreal—and that last one only includes retail stores with exterior entrances.

It appears that gyms and businesses like it will need to wait until further notice before taking on clients and customers again, but that doesn't mean they aren't currently planning on restructuring to suit the new (and hopefully temporary) reality they face.

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Since closing, gyms and studios needed to get creative with their customer bases, taking their instruction online for free.

The team at b.cycle “immediately started to brainstorm some ways of generating revenue," says Bijan Bolouri, the president and a co-founder of the spinning and barre studios of b.cycle. "We came up with the idea to rent out our bikes. We delivered them to everybody’s house that wanted them, and we started to build our online segment of our studio." That meant opting to rent out 108 of his three studios' 140 bikes on three-month contracts at $50 a week, coupled with posting live sessions on their Instagram page: 

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"When you have six, seven people working full-time on coming up with new solutions, it’s amazing what you can come up with," Bolouri explained, noting that the outreach was large enough that the new arrangements necessitated hiring back 20 instructors. "A lot of people don’t have a job right now and they’re stuck at home, so we decided to offer all of our classes for free. We offer seven classes per day."

Over at Victoria Park Fitness Club in Westmount, they've also rented out the 40 bikes used for its spinning classes in addition to free lessons on their Instagram page. "We have taken this time to really embrace the idea of community and drive home the reality that we are all in this together," says the gym's co-owner Val Desjardins. "We give live Instagram trainings every day of the week, ranging from bodyweight cardio to barre to pilates, sculpt classes, resistance training and spinning," adding that "we created a free library of IGTV videos available 24/7 for frontline workers, but also for everyone who can’t necessarily make it to as specific time for a live training."

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Some are still working on adapting to the new situation. "Currently we don't have an online solution thats up and running. Its still in the works, but clients can expect to see something in the near future where they can follow programs and be coached online by one of
our trainers at the Wellness Centre," says Christopher Michaels of the Wellness Centre studio inside Monster Gym. "Our trainers will be providing guidance for nutrition, workouts that are customized to individuals needs. We will also be offering generic workout programs and nutrition as well at a lower price point."

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Over at Hard Knox in Saint-Henri, owner Herby Whyne's been doing online classes. "People were very appreciative, so they asked how they can contribute to the gym. Our answer was that we weren't charging because we didn't know how long this was gonna last." Whyne in turn started a fundraiser, giving the funds to help buy supplies for the homeless in his neighbourhood. "We bought tons of items and gift certificates that were given to La Maison Benoit Labre, Solidarité Saint-Henri and CEDA."

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As these gyms' limited staff crack on and innovate their offerings to match the current circumstances, the question remains: What will it look like if and when they reopen? The amount of factors these kinds of businesses will need to take into consideration to keep things safe, sanitized and socially distanced is immense when considering the different layouts and offerings that each gym have.

These run the gamut from the obvious increased sanitization procedures and reduced class sizes to temperature tracking and the possibility of requiring customers to come already dressed for a workout and not offering showers out of health concerns.

Some gyms see this as a chance to enhance their current procedures. "Prior to the outbreak our gym has always been one of the cleaner gyms in the island of Montreal," says Michaels of Monster Gym. "It has been well over 5 years that we have had Purell stations on the gym floor and at the entrance of the gym so you can clean your hands coming in or leaving."

What's to be expected from the government is another matter entirely. "We've all heard the rumours of moving equipment 6 feet apart, the dividers separating cardio equipment, less people at the gym where you have to book your gym session by online schedule, mandatory towels, wearing masks, (and more)," Michaels added. "Are there possibilities one of these ideas can be a solution? Absolutely, but we have to understand that every country and
province operates differently when it comes to public safety health

"Overspending on safety and sanitization is the only priority once we return to our space," says Desjardins of Victoria Park. "We’ve already ordered a bunch of plexiglass glass and we plan on having cleaners in our space 24/7—which we already had—but more." She also noted that an adjustment of class sizes is expected "to make our community, staff and clients feel safe will be of utmost importance. Systems for tracking body temperature and health statuses will be implemented for staff and clients (as well)."

For b.cycle, the situation calls for a lot of ongoing research. "There’s a good chance things won’t be the same for 24 months. We have divided it into two strategies: People will only come to the studio if they feel safe; so what do we need to do to make sure people are safe?” says Bolouri. "We have one employee dedicated to research on this, understanding (things like) if you yoga mats for our body classes, can we disinfect them? Can this virus live on the wood? Do we let people use showers? Do we let people change? This is the whole question, asking what is it required to make an environment to feel safe?"

"When we do re-open we will be prepared to handle the new normal and welcome our clients back to Monster Gym," stated Michaels from Monster Gym.

"When we get the OK to open up, it will be on a slow base," explains Hard Knox's Herby Whyne, who was able to provide some policy answers. "No groups classes, privates and semi-privates only. We have a hand sanitizer station on enterance of the gym, we (will) recommend to clients that they wear mask, (that they) must answer questionnaire on health concerning covid-19, we'll explain the rules and set up of the gym, areas that are off limits, and machines that are also off limits." Whyne also added that only one person will be permitted in the locker room at a time, and staff will wipe down equipment before and after it is used—further to that, only certain equipment could be used.

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