So here we are again.
I have been watching the frustration amongst gym (and pretty much all small business owners) rise over the past few weeks and I have felt a growing sense of guilt that I have not felt more angered personally or roused to make a statement or do anything at all about it…
In all truth I have just felt beaten up and worn out by 2020 (and to be fair the last 5 years of my life). I would love if the online petition doing the rounds would make a change in terms of keeping gyms open but without being pessimistic I knew it wouldn’t (I am very much open to being proven wrong though).
Amongst all of the videos online, there has been many powerful statements underlining the importance of training for each individual and numerous strong cases have been presented in terms of the safety of small non-commercial gyms but unfortunately I think the gym industry as a whole has a bit of housekeeping to do until the likes of our politicians view us as an essential service.
One major thing that we are swimming upstream against, are the lack of any real standards or a regulatory body for gyms across Ireland. This makes appealing our case as an essential service difficult.
As most people will understand, if you were to walk into 10 different gyms in Dublin alone, you will probably have 10 wildly different experiences. This does not help our case.
But even considering that and without sounding like a tin-foil hat wearing conspiracy theorist, I don’t believe that it is in the governments interests to consider us as such.
I remember attending a seminar in Uppsala 8 years ago (one of numerous seminars and trips around the world that I have funded through my own hard work in order to better myself in a personally and business capacity) and the person running the seminar said something that resonated with me… as fitness coaches, we are the first line of defence in terms of the public’s health.
I know this has the potential to be taken out of context – especially in today’s fraught climate of pedanticism. I am not for one single second taking anything away from the medical staff that are over worked and over stretched, having to deal with Covid-19 every day of the week, so please do not take what I am saying as that.
I think the way the government has stretched the health service to its limits over the past few decades in order to cut costs has been nothing short of disgusting and the reason we are at this critical junction now. That alone should tell us what our leaders think of our health.
As fitness coaches we have always been seen as ‘lower order’ in movement knowledge, efficacy and professionalism in comparison to GP’s, Physiotherapists and even Chiropractors – and we hold the potential to be more effective in serving the general population in terms of their fitness and health than all of the above. But there is no money or valour in treating causes over symptoms.
In truth I was moved by a lot of the videos on social media from people that have pleaded to keep gyms open as the one hour there is the only respite they have from being bombarded by bad news from every arm of the media.
As coaches we have a huge responsibility and capacity to improve both the physical and mental health of the general public – through education around correct movement, correct nutrition, improving daily rhythm, talking, communicating how to balance work and life and critically, in being able to provide a safe community for each and every person that passes through our doors.
The country is full of small gyms – networks and hubs doing their bit to improve the health of their community and now, in the middle of a pandemic, the government sees it right to shut these down behind the guise of protecting our wellbeing?
The short-sightedness of the government to boast about committing to spending money on figuring out solutions to helping mental health in this time when the solution is right under their noses is nothing short of breath-taking. The inconsistencies and lack of clarity in the guidelines are staggering.
It is clear that private gyms represent so much more to their members in terms of a brief daily respite from the relentless pressure and constant spread of bad news and fear. For so many people it is the highlight of their day. The boundaries between work (for those that are lucky to still have any) and home are totally blurred now. There is no escape. Let’s see what this does for mental health and relationships in the coming months and years.
I am jaded by all of this but seeing the number of videos the past few days of gym owners and members alike, sharing their passion around the importance of what their gyms mean to them has been inspiring and not to mention heart breaking. Unfortunately, it looks like this will once again fall on deaf ears amongst our politicians and government officials.
Hopefully everyone can keep the awareness up on just how important this is for everyone in our country – a fitter population is a stronger, happier and more resilient population. Health does not operate in a silo and the effect of treating it as such will be felt by our people for many years to come.
It would be my hope that the government will be able to sit down and strongly consider reasonable guidelines based on scientific evidence and data and set out protocols, standards and a framework that gym owners can follow in order to remain open. Unfortunately, I feel as though this approach will be too progressive for a government that are incapable of decisive action or reasonable analysis. I know most gym owners would be more than willing to meet these requirements if they were established.
This situation is incredibly frustrating. On the other hand, it is extremely reassuring and fills me with promise for the future of our industry that so many passionate and genuine coaches have gotten on board to rationally fight our corner and underline the importance of what we do.
We will all be online now, adapting and doing our best to help the physical and mental wellbeing of our members, which is a lot more than our government. I hope to see you all in December, but I have not had any reason to trust our leaders up to this point.