Heather Seabrooke opened the door to Step of Grace training and conditioning studio for the first time in more than three months July 16.

“For me it was super emotional,” said Seabrooke, who co-owns the gym with Brittany Burton. Seabrooke said her first class was filled with happy cheers and a “crazy” energy.

“I’ve been staring at people on a piece of glass for 16 months, and now they’re walking through the door.”

Under Ontario’s reopening plan, indoor fitness facilities can run at 50 per cent capacity for the first time since March 31.

Burton hasn’t worked in the gym since March — she said she’s excited to get back to training.

“I was getting texts midway through [lockdown] saying ‘when do you think we’ll get back? I really need to get exercising’,” Burton said.

Working out, added Burton, isn’t all about physical fitness: “we’re a little bit like therapists.”

Seabrooke agreed, mentioning how important fitness has been for her client’s mental health.

“A workout isn’t just lunges — it’s a whole mental rescue,” Seabrooke said.

Her online classes were popular with clients, but Seabrooke said it’s hard to teach and monitor workouts through a Zoom screen.

“There’s delays online — it’s not live, there’s no feedback. They can’t feel my emotion.”

Sonya Smith, who takes classes at Step of Grace, said it feels “great” to get back into the gym.

Smith said workout class online during the pandemic motivated her to stick to her fitness routine.

“I at least have to have one class a day, and I walk as well, so it’s very important to me.”

Capacity limits mean that some gyms, such as Meghan Cox’s Just Movement Fitness, are remaining outdoors.

“Opening the doors actually limits the amount of people I can have,” Cox said. She runs outdoor fitness classes, which typically have five to nine people, at her property between Haliburton and Minden.

With multiple lockdowns forcing massive pivots for her business, she said she’s hesitant to switch indoors in case rules change again.

“The fitness industry has been through very traumatic experiences in the last months,” Cox said.

Despite being limited to the outdoors, getting together with her “people” is a refreshing experience.

“In losing our ability to get together as a fitness family, it’s been really challenging for them,” she said.

Those challenges haven’t impacted her desire to help others reach fitness goals.

“My passion is more important than the shutdowns, than the discouraging things that are happening in the world.”

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