Edmonton fitness studios and gyms not seeing usual new year’s rush

Many Edmontonians begin their first step toward their New Year’s resolution to get in shape in January, but fitness centers and gyms say the usual rush to make a decision didn’t happen this year.

Prior to the pandemic, Edmonton’s YMCA saw an increase of nearly 450 memberships in both January and February, said Michelle Heinz Dawson, vice president of community and digital engagement with YMCA of Northern Alberta.

But so far in the first week of 2022 there has been a very small increase in new memberships.

“We were lucky to be keeping some of our membership numbers that we had in December,” said Heinz Dawson.

“So it hasn’t been a huge drop at this point, but we certainly aren’t seeing any new numbers or big increases this year, which we usually see.”

It’s a similar setting at the Champs Boxing studio in downtown Edmonton.

Currently, fitness classes in which participants participate in surprisingly heavy bags are filled to only about a third of their usual capacity. Some members participated from home via a live stream of the classes.

“This is the time of year that most fitness studios and boutique studios look forward to, and it has been kind of disappointing,” said Jelena Mordjinovic, owner of Champs Boxing Studio.

Jelena Mrdjenovich, owner of Champs Boxing Studio, says class attendance has been low lately with more members following through live. (Travis McEwan/CBC)

Mr Mrdjenovich is not sure if the low turnout is attributable to being careful with the current spike in COVID-19 cases or whether the cold weather is causing people to stay home.

She’s glad the county hasn’t imposed any new restrictions on the fitness sector, but she’s hopeful that cases will drop and people start returning to classrooms as financial pressures mount on her industry.

“This should be the time when we dedicate a little egg, you know, financially to the slow times,” she said.

As a professional boxer, Mrdjenovich used to take a hit, but as a fitness entrepreneur, she said she feels battered after constantly trying to get back on her feet. The whole reason for starting the gym was to motivate others to take on physical and mental challenges.

“I want to see people overcome adversity,” she said. “It’s something I’ve done all my life in boxing and working now, and you want to see people go through and help them get through that.”

While some people avoid gyms and personal lessons, some personal trainers rely solely on virtual classes as a source of income.

Angela Dejong, owner of Acacia Fitness in Edmonton, has nearly 200 clients in town and around the world. Personal trainer, providing coaching and mentoring sessions strictly on digital platforms.

Angela deJong, owner of Acacia Fitness, says more Edmontonians are becoming comfortable working out from home when they need to during the pandemic. (Herschel Supply)

She said the closing of gyms during the pandemic has resulted in people being comfortable working out from home and preparing to return to them based on their level of comfort in attending the facilities.

“They have equipment in their homes. Now the weather is not in the best condition, so the excuses are kind of gone because people can work in their homes,” Dejong said.

“It’s a little easier for them to get to an easy 30-minute workout than to drive to the gym and negotiate all of that.”

She said she has reluctantly had to refer about a hundred clients to other personal trainers over the past two weeks as demand was high.

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