Local gyms fighting to stay alive after latest lockdown

‘I am at the point where if there is another announcement for restrictions, because of the layout I have, I won’t conform,’ says local gym owner

People who made a New Year’s resolution to get in shape this year were finally able to hit local gyms when they re-opened on Monday.

Phoenix Health & Fitness owner, Susie Thisdelle, says her gym has been overwhelmed by gym-goers since re-opening. Thisdelle’s classes filled up so quickly she had to add more.

“I’m very happy with how things are going now,” Thisdelle said. “I am at the point where if there is another announcement for restrictions, because of the layout I have, I won’t conform.”

Thisdelle says the lockdowns and their open and closed patters have made things extremely difficult for her. Thisdelle plans on operating at 50 percent capacity (eight people) going forward until she retires.

“Rather than going up and down, back and fourth, on and off…I’ll hopefully be able to maintain a nice steady situation and my clients are all comfortable with that,” she said.

Thisdelle says clients at her Mississaga Street facility have missed the social aspect the most when the gym has been closed.

“All of these restrictions have created a lot of isolation,” she said. “There are people out there who are single, widowed, divorced who use their fitness class as their social connection as well as their fitness.”

Thisdelle says the biggest conversation among clients in the gym is how much everyone has struggled with their physical and mental health during lockdowns and restrictions.

“Quite a few of them were commenting and saying they gained a few pounds,” she said. “But it was the mental side of it that was the big challenge.”

Thisdelle says when the media constantly talks about COVID cases, the shortage of people in the medical profession, and conflicting information, it creates a lot of fear.

“I find that people are scared, anxious, and stressed,” she said. “I’ve dimmed the lights here, I have candles, and I have soft music going. My entire lineup of classes for the month of February is strictly classes that will help with the mental health side of things.”

When it comes to revenue, Phoenix Health & Fitness took a major hit from the latest lockdown. Thisdelle says if it weren’t for her ability to work with clients (who have a doctor’s note) one on one, she would have been forced into early retirement.

Kim Salmon, owner of The Weight Room on Laclie Street, is nervous about the slow start to the week that her gym is experiencing.

“Everybody is afraid of the (COVID case) numbers,” she said. “I’m praying that a lot of people are going to start saying we need to live with this and let’s get on with life.”

Salmon says January would have been her best month of the year thanks to those making New Year’s resolutions. Now she fears that she might have missed out on that busy period, but she won’t know for sure for another week or so.

“There is probably a good chance that we will miss out on that because everybody has this fear of Omicron,” she said. “It’s just so contagious and people are waiting another week or two to wait and see.”

Salmon says once Omicron is in the rear-view mirror, we will be into the spring when many people will want to be outside and not in her gym. 

“I’m hoping things will get better,” she said. “But I don’t know.”

The Weight Room has seen some new customers since the gym opened on Monday, which is hopefully a sign that better days are ahead. For now, the gym is operating at restricted hours due to the lack of clients.

“Our regulars are back, and they are happy to be back,” Salmon said. “But January is really important for a lot of gyms, and it didn’t happen for us.”






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