Gyms adapt to COVID-19 with micro gyms and workout pods


Some gym operators now facing stringent measures to slow the spread of COVID-19 are determined to stay open by offering new programs.

More jurisdictions in the Greater Toronto Area moved into Ontario’s “red” category for restrictions this week, meaning gyms must limit indoor classes to 10 people. Toronto went further, banning indoor classes altogether.

Philosophy Fitness in Toronto’s sheer size — 12,000 square feet of space — inspired owner Phil Ortwein to pivot from offering exclusively group fitness classes and personal training before COVID-19, to pre-booked personal workout pods.

Where fitness classes were once held, that space now holds cardio equipment and weights for one-on-one sessions.

Gyms explore personal sessions

Ortwein says he’s determined to look to the future and remember that these restrictions are temporary.

“For me, its about the achievement of getting through this, [and] it’s going to be something I can look back on and say ‘we did it,’ and that’s something I’m going to share with the whole team that has stuck by my side.” 

Phil Ortwein, owner of Philosophy Fitness in Toronto, says the gym has cardio equipment and weights in place for one-on-one sessions where it would normally hold fitness classes. (CBC)

A Toronto spin studio is also promoting a personal experience while group classes are banned. 

6IX Cycle Spin Studio is encouraging customers to sign up for one of 10 physically distanced spots in its Open Ride classes and listen to instructions on their mobile device so that they can be their own instructor.

Having room to breathe safely is key, says Brenda Coleman, clinical scientist at Sinai Health System.

“If you don’t have those 10 people all in there necessarily at the same time, ramping up and breathing really hard all at the same time, you’re reducing your exposure a little bit that way,” she said.

Innovating indoors key to staying active 

Montreal-based Silofit, which recently expanded to Toronto, is embracing a completely private workout, transforming unused office space into micro gyms that can be booked for between $20 and $40 an hour.

“You can come in, obviously, depending on the local guidelines, with anywhere from one to eight people depending on the size of the silo,” says Jarred Paperman, vice-president of operations at Silofit.

Jarred Paperman, vice-president of operations at Silofit, walks through one of the three micro-gyms the company has opened in Toronto. (CBC)

Silofit launched its business model in 2018, and now COVID-19 has made it desirable.

“Demand has skyrocketed. So our spaces are booked out at least a month in advance and all across all of our silos,” Paperman said

As winter approaches and outdoor fitness becomes far less attractive, Coleman said innovating indoors may be key to staying active.

“I think these indoor opportunities are wonderful,” she said. “If they can be done safely, if they can follow the recommended guidelines, I think they’re great.”



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