In British Columbia, gyms have been open since May 19, 2020. But high-intensity group exercise classes–considered to be higher risk by B.C.’s public health department–and studios offering high-intensity group exercise have been closed since November 19, 2020.
In January, Carl Ulmer and Sarah Hodson, co-chairs of Fitness Industry Council of Canada’s B.C. provincial coalition, focused their energy on making it easier for the decision makers to open up high intensity exercise in their province.
“On February 5 new guidelines will be introduced, and we want to make it easy for our government to open up high intensity group exercise,” says Ulmer. “We have a really strong feeling that it’s negative public perception that is holding back the province and public health department from opening studios and clubs that offer these programs.”
This negative perception seemed to be present despite the province’s Health Minister Bonnie Henry stating in a press conference that Public Health considered gyms to be safe spaces.
Ulmer and Hodson decided that sending a direct and positive message to the public via the media would make it easier for the government to side with the fitness industry.
Ulmer uses a basketball analogy to explain their strategy: “We want to make their decision-making process a simple little layup not a three-pointer.”
On January 20 Ulmer and Hodson invited the major television networks–CITY, Global, CBC and CTV–to visit Club 16 Trevor Linden Fitness’ downtown Vancouver location to see a club in action and all of the safety procedures it has in place. Staff, club members, Linden and some of the club’s CFL members were interviewed, and the story ran on all the television channels the next day.
“Our key message was that this specific club, like other clubs in the province, is healthy, low risk and safe. At Club 16 Trevor Linden Fitness we have had over 2 million healthy and safe transmission free workouts,” says Ulmer.
The result of the news event was as anticipated: The following day Ulmer and other staff members received text and email messages from many people who didn’t realize that clubs were open.
Ulmer stresses that this media event wasn’t necessarily about immediately boosting business. Rather its purpose was to reinforce the strong relationship B.C.’s FIC coalition has with its provincial government and public health department and to improve public perception of the safety status of fitness clubs.
“We’re continuing to pump out the message that ‘fitness is open and fitness is safe’ so that when the COVID-19 guidelines are revisited on February 5, the general public, our provincial government and our public health department will have no reason to think that it’s risky for people to participate in high-intensity group fitness,” says Ulmer.
In January, the FIC B.C. coalition also created a consumer awareness social media video called, Did You Know Gyms Are Open in B.C.?