Monday , 17 January 2022

Local fitness club plans to open despite restrictions

The owner of at least one local fitness centre plans to stay open despite yesterday’s announcement of renewed COVID-19 restrictions by Alberta Premier Jason Kenney.

As of 11:59 p.m. April 6, indoor adult fitness activities are once again limited to one-on-one training, with no drop in activities, no unsupervised individual fitness, and no group fitness activities permitted.

“It’s not right to close our doors again. The cry for mental health is louder than ever,” said Danika Chevalier, the owner of Wheel Fit Co. in Cold Lake.

“I’m also a registered nurse so I am very familiar and very well versed with the healthcare system and disease processes. The decision was not made lightly, and it was not made without a lot of education on my end,” said Chevalier.

Wheel Fit Co is an indoor cycling studio which has franchise locations in Bonnyville and St. Paul. According to Chevalier, they’ve been closed for seven out of the past 12 months, but during the times they’ve been allowed to open there hasn’t been a single case of COVID-19 linked to the business.

“And I just don’t feel it’s ethically or morally deserving when the data does not support that we are contributing to the spread of the virus,” said Chevalier, noting they’ve had more than 5,000 people through the doors for classes since June and are following all Alberta Health Services guidelines.

Those include limiting activity to low intensity work outs, reduced class sizes, and social distancing within the facility.

“These measures are in place and I think they’re doing the job because we’ve had zero cases of transmission. So I’ve completely enforced and I support the measures that are in place but at some point, something’s got to give.”

According to Chevalier, part of the challenge is that even with the grants and loans available to support small businesses through the pandemic, “we have to pay this back at some point.”

She said she’s operating at less than 50 per cent capacity when they are open, but just doesn’t know anyone who can make a go of things on 40 per cent of their income.

“I am doing this in hopes that the higher ups evaluate the situation with a little bit more data and science than just continuing to blanket these same industries, over and over and over again.”

“As an industry we’ve been waiting for the data that shows that we were contributing industries since the end of January and they still have not provided us with that data. I know that my data states, zero cases,” she said.

Asked what she’ll do if the health inspectors come calling or if she receives a fine for remaining open, Chevalier said she’s prepared to answer their calls and proceed in a respectful manner.

“I will continue to stand up for my business and continue to stand up for my community and take the measures that are required, so if that means getting legal assistance for furthering the matter then I’m prepared to do that,” said Chevalier.

Since announcing her plans to stay open on social media, Chevalier said the feedback she’s received from the community has been entirely positive, with an outpouring of support for the decision.

“People are being vulnerable and sharing with me how much our spaces have contributed positively to their mental health and to their well being,” said Chevalier.

Alexandra Piquette owns the St. Paul location. While she didn’t make a public statement about plans to stay open like Chevalier did, she said she plans to stay open as well.

She said it’s something she really struggles with because she doesn’t think COVID is a hoax and has a lot of anxiety about the virus, but also can’t afford to ride the roller coaster of provincial restrictions.

“At this point if I close again it’s probably going to be for good,” said Piquette.

Publicly owned fitness facilities like the Bonnyville and District Centennial Centre, Lac La Biche Bold Centre, and Energy Centre in Cold Lake have all put out statements indicating next steps with the provincial restrictions.

In a Facebook post the C2 said they will be available “for individual or household one-on-one fitness training and youth group physical activities” and that the wellness centre will be by appointment only “with a C2 certified personal trainer.”

The Bold Centre released a statement saying it and Portage Pool are both closed to the general public.

“Effective immediately, this means that individual fitness and cohort bookings will no longer be permitted. We sincerely apologize to all our patrons for the inconvenience.”

In a posting to their website, the Cold Lake Energy Centre announced the Cenovus Wellness Centre, CNRL Track and indoor climbing wall are all closed, citing the province’s decision to return to Stage 1.

“Unfortunately, that means we are temporarily unable to offer activity bookings at the Energy Centre/ All reservations previously booked online have been cancelled. The facility remains closed to the public, however Booster Juice curbside pickup is available.”

About Meredith Kerr

Meredith Kerr moved to St. Paul for a career in journalism and morning radio in 2014 expecting to stay for six months to a year. Since then, she has put down roots in the form of a husband, a mortgage, two babies, and a poorly behaved dog. She continues to work as a reporter until such time as she finishes her book and becomes fabulously wealthy from the royalties. Meredith also serves as a member at large on the St. Paul Library Board and volunteers as a Beaver leader for the 1st St. Paul Scout Group.