Edmonton fitness studios and gyms not seeing usual new year's rush

·3 min read
Jelena Mrdjenovich, owner of Champs Boxing Studio, says classes have had low attendance recently with some having more members following along via live streaming. (Travis McEwan/CBC - image credit)
Jelena Mrdjenovich, owner of Champs Boxing Studio, says classes have had low attendance recently with some having more members following along via live streaming. (Travis McEwan/CBC - image credit)

Many Edmontonians start their first step toward their new year's resolution to get in shape in January, but fitness centres and gyms say the usual resolution rush didn't happen this year.

Before the pandemic, the YMCAs in Edmonton experienced an increase of close to 450 memberships in each of January and February, said Michelle Hynes-Dawson, vice-president of community and digital engagement with the YMCA of Northern Alberta.

But so far in the first week of 2022, there's been very little increase in new memberships.

"We've been lucky in that we've been holding some of our membership numbers of what we had in December," Hynes-Dawson said.

"So it hasn't been a big decrease at this point, but we're certainly not seeing any new numbers or big increases this year, which we typically would."

It's a similar situation at Champs Boxing Studio in downtown Edmonton.

Currently, fitness classes where participants take part in striking heavy bags have only been filled to about a third of their usual capacity. Some members have been participating from home via a live stream of classes.

"This is the time of year that most fitness studios and boutique studios really look forward to, and it's been kind of depressing," said Jelena Mrdjenovich, owner of Champs Boxing Studio.

Travis McEwan/CBC
Travis McEwan/CBC

Mrdjenovich isn't sure if the low turnouts are attributed to people being cautious with the current rise in COVID-19 cases or if the cold weather is leading to people staying home.

She's glad the province hasn't imposed any new restrictions on the fitness sector, but hopes cases drop and people start returning to classes as financial stresses mount for her industry.

"This should be our time where we set aside a little nest egg, you know, financially for the slower times," she said.

As a professional boxer, Mrdjenovich is used to taking a hit, but as a fitness business owner, she said she feels beat down after continuously trying to get back on her feet. Her whole reason for starting the gym was to motivate others to take on physical and mental challenges.

"I want to see people overcome adversity. It's something that I've done my whole life with boxing and business now and you want to see people go through and help them go through that," she said.

While some people are avoiding gyms and in-person classes, some personal trainers have been relying solely on virtual classes as a source of income.

Angela deJong, owner of Acacia Fitness in Edmonton, has close to 200 clients in the city and around the world. A personal trainer, she offers training and coaching sessions strictly on digital platforms.

Herschel Supply
Herschel Supply

The closing of gyms during the pandemic led to people getting comfortable with working out from home, and ready to pivot back to it based on their level of comfort in attending facilities, she said.

"They've got equipment in their homes. The weather right now isn't the greatest, and so therefore the excuses are kind of gone because people can work out in their homes," deJong said.

"It makes it a little bit easier for them to access an easy workout for 30 minutes rather than driving to the gym and negotiating all of that."

She said she has reluctantly had to refer about a hundred clients to other personal trainers over the past couple of weeks as demand has been high.

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