When one door closes, another opens. At least, that’s what members of Curves will be hoping for now that the female-focused gym is closing its doors.
As the Grimsby outpost of the women’s gym chain closes its doors this month after 20 years, women in the area are left reflecting on the community that was built around the gym and where they can head next.
There were tears when Connie Eisinga, owner of Curves in Grimsby, announced to her members she was closing the gym. Lena Nielson, who attended Curves for nearly 10 years, said after hearing the news, she cried in the car on her way home. “This is a huge loss to the area,” she said.
For Nielson, she said her fitness journey is a typical story: she didn’t do a lot of exercise prior to Curves, but eventually made the commitment and signed up for the gym. Over time, she grew more flexible, her physical well-being improved and she started looking forward to visits.
But it wasn’t just her physical health that benefited. Her mental health improved, and she developed a more positive outlook, helping her cope with the demands of a stressful job. And a lot of that improvement, she said, was because of Eisinga’s support. “She really cares,” explained Nielson. “Connie will indeed be missed by her members. She has always been there for us: caring, supporting, sharing a laugh or a tear.”
And for Eisinga herself, the closure of the gym she’s owned for more than a decade will be bittersweet. Before she purchased the gym 12 years ago, she was looking for something to do to help others. Then the opportunity to buy the gym came up and she jumped at the chance. “This is something I can do to help other women and help myself at the same time,” she said.
And help her it did. “This literally saved my life,” she explained. “(The members) were a support to me. They’d know if I was having a bad day.”
That’s partly due to the community built around the gym. A core membership of around 60 to 70 women shared more than just a workout session. They shared their lives. When someone’s spouse passed away, or got an injury, the community shared the sadness and helped them cope. And when there was cause for celebration, like an 80-year-old member getting married, they would celebrate together.
It was also a space where the women could share their feelings, good or bad, and support each other.
But the pandemic was hard on the fitness industry as gyms and studios were forced to close their doors for extended periods. Curves wasn’t spared, forcing Eisinga to make the difficult decision to retire and close the gym.
For members, and Eisinga, the question now turns to where else they can work out, and whether that sense of community can be maintained. For now, plans are to do virtual workouts through the MyCurves On Demand service and to stay in touch through a private Facebook group.
But, sure enough, as one door closes, another opens. Plans are underway to create female-focused classes at Lakeside Athletics, which recently moved to Robinson Street North. The classes are planned to start on Aug. 15, with two classes a day on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
And for owner Lep Wilcocks, creating a positive, inclusive atmosphere is one of his top priorities. “We create that environment,” he said. “It starts from the top … Our coaches are able to make everyone feel welcome.”
And for Wilcocks, building community around fitness is also important, holding regular events through the gym. And classes are about gaining confidence while working on building strength and bone density.
But whatever happens, one thing is for sure: when Eisinga closes the doors at Curves, she'll do so in the knowledge that she’s left behind a legacy of fitness and community in Grimsby.
Chris Pickles, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Grimsby Lincoln News