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Start date for gyms a welcome relief for Benalla owner

By Meg Saultry

Forced to close throughout a strict government lockdown, little guidance meant gyms were navigating the pandemic with no light at the end of a dark tunnel.

As of this week though, local gyms now have a start date to work with — June 22 — where they can again open their doors to members under strict guidelines.

For Scott Upston, who owns and operates Primal Health Club, the government’s announcement has come as welcomed relief.

“When it came out, we were a bit startled,” Upston said. “It had been a bit quiet recently from the Andrews Government.

“We're very excited, it's gathered momentum and we’ve had heaps of messages and emails.

“We’re excited to get our members back in and have that interaction.”

Prior to Sunday’s announcement, gyms could see no end in sight to a forced shutdown, causing uncertain times for the businesses and their staff.

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Group exercise restrictions eased earlier this month, and are expected to lift even further next week — with 20 people soon allowed to gather outside.

That has allowed some gyms, including Primal, to move their group fitness sessions outside, which will also lend itself to freeing up more space in the gym.

Two weeks ago, peak industry body Fitness Australia released a seven-page ‘framework for operations’ document to help fitness personnel wrap their heads around new guidelines.

The framework is only to guide planning, with businesses then adapting to restrictions in each state or territory.

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Guidelines include moving equipment four square meters apart and spreading popular gym equipment throughout the premise to stop people congregating.

Hydration stations should be closed off, as well as common areas, while signage must be used to display hygiene and social distancing instructions.

Upston, along with his team, is now preparing the gym for that June 22 opening day, and said Primal would adhere to the rules laid out by both the government and Fitness Australia.

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“An example of that is they recommend a 60 or 70 per cent ethanol-based disinfectant,” he said.

“We have sourced a product that is 80 per cent, which will be used to clean all equipment and surfaces.”

Despite experiencing economic hardship due to the forced shutdown of his business, Upston said he had been amazed at the number of acts of kindness from the community.

“We’ve received gifts of food for the family, an offer to pay our commercial rent, and a lady dropped off a box of toys for my kids and our staff members,” Upston said.

“Walking down the street or in the supermarket, people are stopping me and asking when are `we’ reopening again. To me that indicates they own and are part of the journey which makes me proud.”

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Also easing the burden was the retention of just under 15 per cent of members who continued their memberships throughout the shutdown, as well as the waiving of rent by Primal's landlord.

“These acts of kindness and generosity has given me the ability to pay bills and keep my head above water. You know who you are, and I publicly thank you,” Upston said.

With June 22 now circled in the diary, Upston said he was more excited for the reopening than when the club launched in 2015.

“Five years ago it was just a dream and a leap of faith,” he said.

“Now we know what a great local gym we have and how awesome our members and those that support us are.”