Fitness facilities across Newfoundland and Labrador reopened earlier this month after lying dormant for six weeks, giving exercise enthusiasts an indoor space to work out amid a frigid North Atlantic winter.
With Alert Level 2 guidelines in place, gym goers like Tanner Kennie and William Hickey are happy to be getting their reps back in.
"I was honestly ecstatic," Kennie said Tuesday. "It's really tough getting in a good workout at home, and it's really great to see everyone back here and really caring about their health and staying fit."
"First time back here now, so probably going to be sore in a couple days. But definitely glad to be back and looking forward to this continuing," Hickey chimed in.
As part of the updated rules, gyms must clean equipment like dumbbells between each workout session, and keep an eye on the physical distance between guests.
Jonathan Ivey, manager of fitness and student services at The Works in St. John's, said the most recent lockdown also brought small changes, such as increased mask-wearing in certain scenarios.
"We obviously require a mask in the facility, but this time ensuring [in] your transitions from room to room, you were wearing a mask," he said.
The gym asks patrons to keep their masks on during low-intensity workouts, he said.
Ivey described reopening as a quick turnout that gave staff just three days to prepare. On Saturday, though, they were ready to welcome back the regulars.
"Those faces that you see everyday — it becomes a part of your life for someone like myself and a lot of the other managers that have been here for a while. You get that uplift," he said.
"Physical activity is a great way to relieve stress. So for myself to come back to work and have that regular routine, to see those members and to create new relationships and keep old relationships going, it means the world."
'There's definitely a positive energy'
For gym owner and personal trainer Shane Monahan, the resumption of fitness centres serves as a third beginning for his business. He started AgeRight Fitness in January 2020, and has faced the challenge of closing on more than one occasion.
"I figured, 'I'm going to do this now, open up my own spot, and it's going to be great.' And then January 2020 hit, and the rest is history. Got to open for a month … then March of 2020, we all know what went down," he said.
Monahan said he created his idea to cater to an older demographic, often working with people age 50 and over who may face barriers trying to achieve a healthy lifestyle.
Despite the challenge of maintaining a fitness routine over the pandemic, he sees the reopening as positive momentum.
"I compare this business during the pandemic to trying to adopt a lifestyle of healthy living. You know you are going to have your shaky starts, and your bumps in the road and that kind of thing, but you really need to keep going," he said.
"It's been good, I must say. There's definitely a positive energy about for sure."
Hoping for what used to be
For others, like Ashley Power, it's a mixed bag of emotions.
She's the owner of A Fitness on Lemarchant Road in St. John's. It offers a variety of classes for women, including 50-plus, mom and baby, bootcamp and more.
Power says the last year was a rollercoaster. And 2021, so far, has been even more of a white-knuckle ride.
The fitness facility confirmed a possible exposure to COVID-19 in late January. The building closed preemptively, with all staff and members tested negative. They wouldn't reopen again for weeks.
So far in this calendar year, A Fitness has welcomed its members for just one month combined.
Despite vaccines rolling out, Power thinks the last lockdown in February is still fresh in people's minds.
"There is a lot of anxiety out here right now. This shutdown affected people a little more," she said.
Power figures it could even be 2022 before complete consistency returns, and the start-stop nature of closures — which prevent her members from sticking to the steady workout routines her classes offer — are all but gone.
And while she's excited to see members inside, working out and getting stronger, it makes her slightly wistful for the days that were.
"It's a very, very different feel in there than the usual ... our gym is very much about, you do your workout, then you sit down, you have a coffee, you have a chat. It's a very social place to be," she said.
"But we don't really have that right now… it's kind of in and out."