“It’s a safe house for many”: Local gym owner reflects on closures across Quebec as COVID-19 cases surge

By Taylor McClure – Special to Brome County News

Gyms, bars, and movie theatres are closed across the province as new restrictions are put in place to address the rise in COVID-19 cases and the Omicron variant. Given the fact that gyms were closed in the first wave of the pandemic as well, Alan Gauthier, owner of local Athletica Lac-Brome gym, said that the new shutdown was expected and that he is surprised it didn’t happen sooner.

“At this point, we have grown to expect it. The writing was on the wall with the appearance of the new variant and the attitudes of the anti-vaxxers and the health care workers that weren’t vaccinated.”

Without any kind of control over the matter, Gauthier said it is important to be able to adapt.

“We will always have the common cold and flu, but we’ve beaten them down as far as adaption to managing and living with its existence and this is what we have to do with Covid. I’m surprised it took this long for the government.”

While it’s difficult for the gym owner close his doors, Gauthier emphasized that it’s vital to take into consideration the collective well-being of his community.

“Society has a responsibility to itself and I think we failed on that aspect and we are being taught an important lesson.”

Gyms are not only a place to work on one’s physical health, but more importantly mental health. With their closure, the world has become “noisy.”

“Gyms were places where people could take an hour from their life and get away from it and not only work their bodies up, but bring peace and tranquility to their minds. The secret of success to this business and what has kept it open for so long is that it’s a safe house for many. Being forced to shut down doesn’t leave many places where you can be alone with your thoughts. Here, even though you have other people around you, you still manage to take care of yourself.”

The shutdown has taken that very important mental health aspect away for many. “Anyone can go outside and lift bags of salt for exercise. There are so many ways to get exercise outside of the gym; running on the spot, going outside and skating. No one is without the ability to exercise, but hideouts, like gyms, are like an adult daycare facility where emotionally there is a place where you can work things out between your own ears. That’s what gyms do for many.”

When people started going back to the gym between the first and second wave, Gauthier said that he could see the difference it made in people’s lives. “It’s amazing how people feel and to see them smile; it’s great to see their eyes smile again. Gyms are not just stinky smelly locker rooms full of jocks. They are full of people who just need to step outside themselves for a little bit and work things out and it doesn’t mean it has to be physical.”

While the gym may be closed, that doesn’t mean that the relationships Gauthier developed with members of his community no longer exists with people reaching out to him on the daily. “They reach out and they say hey, are you guys okay and what can we do? How I can I replace and change my habits? How can I learn to take one less glass of wine? It’s amazing and the reward we take from it is the ability for us to be who we are and to be human and keep it human.”

Taking the closure in stride, Gauthier said he is focusing on the present and what he can do to give back to the people who have supported him and may now be in a more vulnerable position.

“I’m sitting here in the gym now with the lights off staring at the equipment saying alright, it’s here, tell me when I could put my lights back on. In the meantime, what can we do to help someone else or our children and relatives? We don’t stop and think about ourselves. This is a society, it’s not an individual thing. Go outside, talk to people with your mask, get your vaccination, and do what you can and we will all get through it.”

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