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Is it time to go back to the gym yet?

Dumbbell storage Kettlebells Home Gym

Is it time to go back to the gym yet?

Working out during COVID-19, starting a home gym, and some of the best fitness facilities in the GTA

While daily recorded cases in Canada have decreased by 89.7% since peaking at 2,760 in May, COVID-19 is still very much a reality. There are currently 6,365 active cases – and the day-to-day effects of it are likely to be felt even long after it’s declared safe to return to “normal.”

As a public facility, the gym is no exception. For those of us who, before its spread, were regular gym-goers or even athletes-in-training, making due and finding new and creative ways to carry on with our workout regime has become the status quo.

We may have become used to working out from home, maybe even discovering some of the advantages of the situation, so it begs the question: do we need to go back to the gym?

We get the struggle and we’re here to help.

Months have gone by since the beginning of the lockdown, and you might be raring to get back to lifting at the gym.

The Facts

Since the beginning of June - or even as early as May 19 - gyms nation-wide, from PEI to New Brunswick, have been given the go-ahead to open up again. While some, like Toronto General Hospital’s infectious disease specialist Isaac Bogoch, remain sceptical about the efficacy of reopening gyms during the epidemic, plenty of measures have been put in place to make returning as safe as possible, including but not limited to:

  • reduced equipment
  • six-foot or more distancing
  • closed-off shower rooms
  • COVID-trained gym staff
  • frequent sanitization of equipment
  • temperature checks at the door
  • electrostatic sprayers
  • readily available hand sanitizers and sanitizing stations

If your home gym is still under-equipped or non-existent, if you’re dying to link up with your gym buddy, or if you simply want to make the most of a pre-existing membership, this may be your best option. 

However, as Jennifer Ferreira of CTV News rightly notes, “The very nature of gyms, from their shared use of equipment to enclosed spaces full of droplets, can potentially make them a hotspot for the spread of COVID-19”.

There’s no denying that, although the return to gyms may well be possible, it simply won’t be the same as before. While it’s possible to adjust to the new look and feel of post-COVID gym measures, there are several significant setbacks.

For instance, the freedom and autonomy of being able to show up at any given hour in what were previously 24-hour gyms is now limited to 16 hours of the day, with slots having to be booked in advance, sometimes only on the same or following day. Moreover, the slots themselves are usually time-sensitive – 60 to 75 minutes – thus putting a damper on anyone planning to spend multiple hours making gains. For lifters especially, this time restriction can weigh heavy.

For many, the very appeal of attending the gym lay in the communal element, in engaging with fellow athletes in friendly competition or simply enjoying a stress-busting workout with a gym buddy. Under COVID, this experience that we have all grown to love and look forward to, has been put on hold.

You may be tired of the online classes over Zoom, or constantly refreshing your gym’s website / Instagram page for updates on reopening and new COVID measures.

Or maybe you miss working out with your gym family, a chance to spend time and make some gains together. 

Maybe you’ve finally started to accept that your 2020 New Year’s resolution isn’t going to happen the way you pictured it.

So, what does this mean? Should you just workout at home?

The Options

Well, that's definitely a viable option but it's definitely not the only one. Read on to find out how you can continue to make those gains and get a few steps closer to your goal everyday.

We have compiled a list of ways you can add more excitement to your workouts, whether it’s at home or the gym.

Option #1: Build your own home gym

If you haven't already, putting together a little workout space at home is a great option. You can workout as long as you want, whenever you want and without the anxiety of getting sick or spreading viruses to others.

If you’re looking to try your hand at powerlifting, or just incorporating a barbell into your routine, the WOLF Power bar is a versatile barbell perfect for beginners and veterans alike.

Or, if you’re a seasoned powerlifter and missing the feel of the barbells at the gym when you were getting ready for meets, our OX Power bar (coming soon) is designed to meet IPF Competition-level specifications.

Option #2: Consider a privately-owned commercial facility

While social contact at the gym still comes with its risks, if you’re finding that you’re still missing the vibe of working out at a gym, here are some facilities that are doing it right:

Guelph’s Vault Barbell Club and Band of Barbells offer 90 minute and 3-hour slots respectively, and Toronto-based Fortis Fitness / Fortis West and Forge Performance & Fitness continue to provide 24h access. As Fortis Fitness’ Sean Kelly passionately states, the pandemic is no sweat for smaller, independent gyms: “[For our gyms,] which are filled primarily with 7-foot Olympic barbells, racks and platforms, “social distancing” has [long been a constant]. These structural differences in concept and business strategy mean that we will have no need to burden our already “COVID-fatigued” members with similar harsh new rules.”

At Fortis Fitness, their goal is to introduce the best forms of training to anyone who wishes to improve physically. They pride themselves on creating a safe, friendly, and positive environment with the best information, instruction and equipment at their two locations in the GTA.

The Vault Barbell Club is a supportive and purpose-driven community of weightlifters, powerlifters, and athletes who train to compete in their respective sports. The layout of their facility and equipment provided for safe physical distancing prior to the pandemic. The online platform reservation system and deep cleaning ensures a safe place to train. Feedback from members is they like being able to reserve their platform and having a safe, clean, well-equipped training space waiting for their arrival.

Band of Barbells is a strength training facility founded on quality and community. Their founders have combined their years of experience and passion for strength training to create Toronto’s first dedicated powerlifting and weightlifting facility. Much like us at Iron House, Band of Barbells is founded by lifters for lifters.

Forge Performance & Fitness prides themselves as a community first above all else - a community of like-minded fitness enthusiasts all with a common goal of not only achieving the best version of themselves, but doing so with respect for each other when they enter our facility. No egos, no pretentiousness. As such, while they have imposed safety protocols for their members, they have no doubts their members will respect them not only for their own safety, but for the safety of everyone else in their close knit community.

Along with accommodating safety protocols, these are some of the best gyms in the GTA, priding themselves on community and high-quality strength training equipment for their members to use.

Ultimately, things are not the way they were, and there’s no telling whether they ever will be again. All we can do is roll with the punches and do what makes it easiest for us to keep pursuing our goals.

You never know, you might come to prefer having more options, whether it be purchasing your own squat rack and some weights or signing up to a specialty training facility like the ones we mentioned above. 

This could be your chance to finally buckle down and figure out a workout plan made for you, by you. Finding one tailored to your goals isn’t difficult – we even have a few suggestions when you’re ready to begin.

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