It’s time for fitness facilities across the country to stop fighting government restrictions, says Fitness Industry Council of Canada, the voice of Canada’s fitness industry. The national fitness industry strategy must be to partner with the government to work toward a solution.
“With COVID-19 cases continuing to rise, fighting the restrictions or fighting to be re-opened is a losing battle,” said Nick Corneil, head of the FIC Ontario coalition, at a recent Fitness Industry Council of Canada (FIC) national coalition meeting.
For months, fitness clubs, studios and gyms have been struggling to adapt and pivot as restrictions and requirements have been changing continuously and with little lead time.
Despite the chaos, owners say they are confident they can operate safe exercising spaces. But the public isn’t buying it.
The public may be empathetic to club owners’ often desperate situations but, “it has very little sympathy with our industry since there are now rent and wage subsidies in place,” said FIC’s president Scott Wildeman.
While the organization, which represents 6,000 facilities across the country, and its government relations consultant are focused on partnering with the government, not everyone in the industry is on board.
The result? More public backlash as the event became a leading news item with police sweeping in with a summons and the angry owner agreeing to shut down.
” FIC is against illegal actions that give our industry a black eye, and we really can’t afford to be seen negatively especially as an industry dedicated to mental and physical wellness,” says Trisha Sarker, FIC’s executive director. “We’ve been working hard for years to create positive government relationships and facility guidelines.”
“Working in partnership with the government is the only way to go, the only way that doesn’t turn opinion against us,” said Nathalie Lacombe, FIC’s vice-president. “We want to keep government and public opinion with us and to win back public sentiment.”
FIC wants the public and government to understand that when fewer people exercise, this has a direct and negative impact on the societal issues of obesity, mental health, cardiac health and diabetes.
“We need to focus on how clubs can be a part of the solution for the government and how we can work together to do this in a safe and responsible way,” said Corneil. “What can clubs do to be open in a way that minimizes risk and promotes health? The industry also needs to seek financial relief for revenues lost from closures and restrictions done in the name of public health. At the federal level, the idea of a bailout needs to be put forward, and at the provincial level a focus on securing funds to help clubs innovate to provide more online and digital solutions, and to cover the costs and marketing expenses for software and staff training.”