Ontario gyms desperately weighting province’s go-ahead to reopen

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It is by far the toughest, heaviest lift of her life.

For fitness instructor Ellie Pompeo and her family, getting through the pandemic — with little to no work — has taken its toll.

Ontario’s shutdown of fitness centres and gyms vapourized her job.

And her husband’s job.

“It’s been pretty devastating,” the mother of three said Friday. “I’ve never seen anything like it”

As associates for Goodlife — the Pompeos help people pump iron and get their heart rate up at the chain.

On Friday Goodlife began pushing the Ontario government to allow gyms to open earlier than planned — in Stage Two rather than stage three – at 25% capacity.

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“I can’t wait for Stage Two. I am just praying that the government will look at it,” said Pompeo, a personal training divisional manager with Goodlife for 19 years.

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“We are essential so we need to open now,” said the 40-year-old, who has been laid off a couple of times and had her hours cut in the past year. “If non-essential can open at 25% capacity in Stage Two, then please let everyone get back to their physical activity”

The Pompeo’s are among 8,000 employees laid off at the chain, according to GoodLife President and COO Jane Riddell.

“Some of our people have been out of work for 400 days” she said.

“I think it’s created a lot of anxiety among all of our people to be pulled back to work and then laid off again; and then pulled back and laid off again,” Riddell. “It’s been very very challenging.”

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That sentiment is echoed by the Fitness Council of Canada and by the Mental Health Association.

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Both have highlighted the mental health damage Canadians have said in a poll will be the scarring legacy of the pandemic.

It’s a legacy gyms say they can help blunt.

“If you’re struggling with mental health issues or physical issues and you know that a workout would just really just give you that boost you need, even one day there is a big deal,” Riddell said.

Ontario is at least 13 days away from Stage Two.

Under the province’s reopening plan, Stage Three won’t start for at least 21 days after Stage Two begins.

“Now’s the time to raise a bit of a public outcry,” Riddell said. “Let’s get open and get back to helping people get healthy again.”

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