Carleton Place gym invites members from the COVID-19 red zone to workout

Anytime Fitness Centre in Carleton Place is inviting members from Ottawa to workout at its facility outside of the COVID-19 hot zone.

In a post on Instagram, owner JP Levesque criticizes the Ontario Government's latest round of restrictions on COVID-19 hot spots in Ottawa, Toronto, Peel and York Regions. Levesque, who also owns the Barrhaven Anytime Fitness, offers his facility outside the region to those still looking to get a workout.

"Ottawa Public Health has said we’re not the source of a problem," protested Levesque. "So why would we stop people from using this gym if it’s very, very low risk."

When Ontario moved Ottawa into a modified Stage 2 on Oct. 10, all gyms and fitness centres were ordered closed for at least 28 days. 

Anytime Fitness members are taking Levesque up on his offer.

"It actually represents about 10 per cent of our usage," says Levesque. "I would say maybe 10 or 15 folks a day."

Local members of Anytime Fitness in Carleton Place are not happy with the idea. Ian Renaud says he’d rather people from Ottawa stay home instead of potentially bringing it to Carleton Place.

"I’m not using it as much as I did before," says Renaud. "I kind of pick my times when I know it’s going to be quiet at the gym now. But no, I would prefer them not."

Levesque says the offer comes from a place of care for his members who need a place to de-stress during the pandemic, and keep up their mental and physical health.

"Why were we shut down when so many members with mental health issues are having trouble coping, and this is a major coping mechanism for them," questions Levesque. "It was more about providing access to those people who need their gyms desperately."

Noah and Chris are students in Ottawa who travelled the roughly 40 minutes to work out at Levesque’s Carleton Place location.

"We’re in school right now so we come just to de-stress. It’s the one thing we do a day other than sit at home and do school work," the pair agreed. "It’s our only option."

Levesque put out the offer against public health advice from the Leeds, Grenville, and Lanark Health Unit, who agree with provincial recommendations that people from high transmission areas should not travel to low transmission areas. It’s part of Levesque’s belief that his gym, like many others, should be considered essential services.

"We’re more than just a gym, we’re a mental wellness and health facility," says Levesque. "It sounds to us like they were just grasping at straws; it’s just a suggestion that gyms are not safe."

Levesque has joined other gym owners in Ottawa in launching a petition, calling on the Ontario Government to declare fitness centres an essential service. Thus far the petition has garnered over 16,000 signatures.

The following is a statement in full from Leeds, Grenville, and Lanark’s Medical Officer of Health Dr. Paula Stewart regarding travel between Ottawa and Carleton Place.

"Premier Ford has strongly advised people from high transmission areas not to travel to low transmission areas. We agree with this advice. People from high transmission areas could potentially bring COVID-19 with them - possibly without knowing it as one is infectious for up to two days before symptoms develop. Any place where people gather with close contact, less than 6 feet, is risky. The Health Unit has encouraged all of our businesses to ensure all the required public health precautions are in place and this will mitigate the risk, if all people in the site adhere to them.

We have done a great deal of messaging throughout Leeds, Grenville and Lanark discouraging people from travelling to areas with higher rates of transmission. Staying within your community has been public health advice from the beginning, if possible. At this time it is even more important. There are plenty of ways to get physical activity and still follow public health precautions."