This is not an easy time to be the owner a fitness and yoga facility.
But when the Straight reached Vancouver exercise guru Ron Zalko, he was in an upbeat mood after celebrating his 40th year in business. And with the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic last March, it’s been unlike any other since he opened his first gym in 1980.
“It’s a very safe place,” Zalko said of his roomy 20,000 square-foot workout palace on West 1st Avenue. “That’s what I want people to understand. Our aim is to make sure everybody feels safe.”
So how does he do this? First off, people must have their temperatures taken before entering. There’s the mandatory hand sanitization, of course, and everyone is required to wear a mask.
They can only be removed when they’re doing cardio exercises as long as they’re at a safe distance from anyone else in the gym. Plus, people have to fill in questionnaires revealing their health status.
“They have to read it, sign us, and provide us with an address and telephone number in case we need to do any contact tracing,” Zalko said.
That’s not all. Clients can no longer shower on the premises. Nobody is permitted to use the water fountains. And there are absolutely no gatherings on the premises.
“We have very good ventilation, with fresh air coming into the facilities all the time,” he noted. “I’m very happy about that. I really believe in working out in a climate where there’s good air flow.”
These days, many people are exercising at home—and Zalko doesn’t have a problem with that. He emphasized that any exercise is beneficial, particularly now, when people are under tremendous stress.
That’s because physical activity can strengthen the immune system and alleviate anxiety and depression. So it’s worth doing outdoors or indoors.
“Stress kills,” he declared. “Also, when you’re suffering from stress you don’t sleep well. You gain weight. Your body feels under attack so you produce more fat.”
However, he quipped that sometimes, it’s hard for people to maintain their motivation to exercise when they’re working out so close to their refrigerator. And constant snacking can undermine the goal of losing weight.
In fact, the pandemic has given birth to a new term—Quarantine 15—to denote the additional pounds people are packing on by spending so much time in their homes.
While the Quarantine 15 has an amusing ring to it, weight gain is a serious issue, particularly if the root causes are more sugar, more carbs, and more booze in a person’s diet.
“I respect the decision of people if they want to work out at home,” Zalko added. “Exercise is very important. But what they get in a fitness club—particularly in the group exercises—is the inspiration, motivation, and structure. People like to work out with other people.”