‘Kenney is toying with our lives and livelihood’: Step 2 rollout frustrates Alberta’s fitness industry

CALGARY — Representatives of Alberta’s fitness industry are deeply disappointed with the slight easing of restrictions for gyms and fitness centres. 

Emily Slaneff, CrushCamp CEO and Alberta chair for the fitness industry council of Canada, says the province let the sector down. 

“This announcement essentially picks favourites,” said Slaneff. “The government chose which businesses can survive and which ones can’t. I feel that Premier Kenney is toying with our lives and livelihoods.”

Slaneff represents about 100 fitness facilities across the province. 

Allowed under Step 2 is ‘low-intensity’ individual and group fitness activities, including Pilates, tai chi and indoor climbing.

Running on treadmills is not permitted unless its done part of a one-on-one class with a trainer or with people from your household. 

Drop-in fitness is still banned. 

“Here’s how I interpret it,” explained Health Minister Tyler Shandro. “If you’re out of breath its high-intensity. If you’re not out of breath its low-intensity.”

The province says regardless of the type or intensity of exercise, trainers and clients must observe three metres of separation at all times.

“Its going to be the gym owners who are going to be able to work with their patrons and be able to interpret that,” said Shandro. 

Slaneff says the council pitched the province to open all gyms safely, including to allow high-intensity workouts like boxing and group activities. 

“What we asked was to see a global opening across the industry with three-metre distancing for all activities, but would be inclusive of high intensity group exercise,” said Slaneff. “We have proven (it) can be done really safely.”

Slaneff also criticized Premier Jason Kenney for breaking a promise that targets small businesses. 

“Premier Kenney has gone on record saying the biggest mistake he made in the first lockdown was keeping Walmart open, while he shutdown the small boutiques,” she said. “He’s done exactly that again. He’s let the big box gyms open, maybe with fewer options, but they’re still resuming membership payments.

“In the meantime, smaller boutiques are left with nothing and most of these are small businesses that may very well not survive another month.” 

Other high-intensity workouts that are prohibited include bodybuilding/heavy weightlifting, aerobics, rowing, Zumba, boot camps, circuit training, cross fit, dance fitness, high intensity interval training, kickboxing, spin, power yoga, and swimming. 

On its website, the province says easing further restrictions for the industry would occur in Step 3 which, at the earliest, could arrive March 22. 

Step 3 also would see potential limitations lifted on adult and adolescent sports, banquet halls, hotels, retail, casinos, cinemas, indoor social gatherings, places of worship and conference centres. 

The province also reopened libraries to 15 per cent capacity on Monday.

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