Hackney welcomes back eager gym-goers and swimmers
- Credit: Steve Bainbridge, www.better.org.uk
Members have been hitting Hackney gyms and leisure centres as Covid restrictions ease as part of the government's roadmap out of lockdown.
Clissold Leisure Centre in Stoke Newington celebrated its reopening on April 12 with celebrity guests and media presence, including former Olympic swimming gold medallist Duncan Goodhew, and members of the synchronised swimming group, Aquabatix.
“It went really well,” said Katie Foulger, Hackney partnership manager for Better, the charity social enterprise managing numerous leisure centres on the council’s behalf.
“The centre was really busy, which was great to see. Lots of people were back in and taking part in sports.
“The customer feedback was absolutely exceptional. Everyone was just so happy, and so relieved, to be back in the leisure centre.”
Similarly, Tim Greenaway, of Hitio Gymin Hoxton, described how emotions ran high as they flung their doors open to members again.
"It’s been great to open up the club again,” he said. “The members have been absolutely fantastic, they’ve really missed the club, and we’ve missed them. It’s been quite an emotional journey.”
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Tim said the pandemic has been very challenging, adding: Not just for us, but for many small businesses in the local area - and other gyms for that matter.
"We’re only a small club, so financially it’s been a really challenging journey. The members have all come back with open arms, given us great reviews, and they know it’s going to be busy and they know to follow the guidance, which we’ve set out.”
For Tim, preparations were “very similar to the first, the second, and the third lockdown - we already had signage in place, and we had plenty of hand sanitiser stations.”
The situation was much the same for Clissold Leisure Centre, which, according to Katie, had most of the arrangements for this week already in place from previous lockdowns.
“It was a case of making sure that our one-way systems were still in place, that hand sanitisers were still available,” she commented.
“We brought new activities on board this time - we introduced badminton and squash, which was great to get that back up and running.”
Meanwhile, at Hitio Gym, there was a focus on communication with clients.
Tim said: “We’ve reached out to every single one of the members and explained to them exactly what our stance is and what the government’s stance is on adult indoor classes - and they understand.
“Some are frustrated - just like we are - but they understand that we just follow the guidelines.”
At the moment indoor group exercise classes are still not allowed but could potentially reopen on May 17.
Current guidelines include social distancing, regular cleaning of equipment, and booking sessions in advance through an app, which allows the gym to monitor capacity.
But the atmosphere at Hitio Gym is one of relief, with clients glad to regain a piece of pre-pandemic routine.
“People have been crying out to return to some type of normality,” he added. “Even pre-Covid, the stress levels were quite high in most people’s lives. It’s nice for members to come into a safe, clean environment, and be able to have a little bit of distance from work, from family, from personal lives.
“So many people I’ve spoken to have had such a challenging journey. It’s just so good to have them come back, and have something extra in their lives to look forward to and to think about. Hopefully, it will reduce stress levels.”
At Clissold Leisure Centre, their feedback echoed his thoughts, with “customers saying that the reopening of the facilities has had a massive impact on mental health,” according to Katie.
“It’s unbelievable, really. We’ve done surveys, and we know through feedback from our customers and the leisure centre users that people’s mental and physical health have been severely impacted over the last year. That’s the reality of it.”