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Quebec gym owners, members eagerly await Feb. 14 reopening

Some said they couldn’t understand why the government didn’t try harder to keep gyms open during the most recent wave of the pandemic.

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Dayna Leiberman said she has a hot date in two weeks: her local Énergie Cardio.

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“I know where I’m going to be spending Valentine’s Day,” an excited Leiberman said Tuesday, just after Premier François Legault announced the reopening of Quebec gyms on Feb. 14, as well as spas, indoor golf facilities and climbing gyms — all at half capacity, so long as everyone inside is wearing a mask and properly distanced. “I’m definitely thrilled.”

Quebec is also scrapping its plan to financially penalize the unvaccinated and will permit indoor sports to resume for adults, with a maximum of 25 people and mandatory masks. Indoor artistic and cultural activities can reopen with a maximum of 25 people.

The news was greeted as bittersweet by gym owners and members who spoke to the Montreal Gazette Tuesday. Most said they’re happy gyms are reopening, but they would have liked the province to try harder to keep them open during the most recent wave of the pandemic.

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“I consider it a need, personally,” said Leiberman, who is a member of Énergie Cardio on Sherbrooke Street in N.D.G. “And I can’t do it at home, really.”

She said working out at home is just not the same.

“It’s so not enjoyable,” she said. “I have this tiny little lane to put my mat down., and it has to be low intensity, because I have downstairs neighbours.”

Elyse Berenbaum said joining Orangetheory Fitness in N.D.G. last year has helped her break the feeling of isolation since she gave birth to her daughter a year ago.

“It lets me get out and see other people, and gets me out to have a little freedom in my life,” Berenbaum said. “With the gym, I feel more confident in myself, I lost weight, my endurance is better, I feel better and my headspace is better.”

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Énergie Cardio N.D.G. owner Matthew Erenyi said the province has overlooked gyms as an outlet for people to improve their mental well-being and prevent serious illness and injuries.

“We need to be open,” he said. “It’s tough to be happy when you’re all opening last. The way the industry is being looked at is hard for me to personally overlook.”

He said Quebec should have figured out a way to keep gyms open while putting in place some additional measures to ensure safety.

Erenyi said shutting down several times since the pandemic struck in March 2020 has been financially difficult. However, things started to pick up just before the most recent shutdown in December.

“For the six months we were open, it was going great,” he said. “A lot of elderly people were coming back. Things were finally starting to pick up; we were finally starting to rehire staff, but this closure really really hurt us.”

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Melanie Shernofsky, co-owner of Orangetheory Fitness, agreed, saying gyms get the bulk of their new members during the cold months, and not being open during New Year’s resolution time has been particularly difficult.

“Usually, January is the strongest month for gyms,” she said. “We need to open in the dead of winter to get people back in. We compete with the weather during the best of times, because some people would rather (exercise) outside.”

Shernofsky bought into the business in January 2020, and said she doesn’t regret the decision, but it has been a difficult time.

“It’s been deflating, and defeating,” said Shernofsky, who as a personal trainer leads the majority of the classes at Orangetheory. “We did everything we were supposed to do, and we ended up (getting shut down) at the end of the day.”

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She said she feels misled by Quebec Premier François Legault, who gave people the impression that vaccination was the key to avoiding shutdowns.

“We were almost promised that if everyone was double vaxxed and followed the rules, we wouldn’t close down,” she said. “He never said those words, but he alluded to it.”

jmagder@postmedia.com

twitter.com/jasonmagder

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