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Opinion: Should gyms be deemed as essential businesses?

At a time of major worry and stress for a lot of people, I think it is more important than ever to keep the gym’s open. Many people in the nation rely on the gym as an escape or release from stress, anxiety and depression. 


I trained as an elite gymnast until I was eighteen, I took a love of dance from this sport and began training with the dance society in college this year, as well as always being a lover of a good gym session. I know from experience that home workouts do not have the same effect as a session in the gym does for both my physical and mental health. 


I find the gym is an excellent place for some quality time to ourselves. During the first lockdown, my whole family was under the same roof 24/7, it’s natural for tensions to rise every now and then. Each of us relied on our separate exercise plans to take a breather and find some time to ourselves. 


We needed the gym to grant us this space. We didn’t have the necessary equipment either that we usually incorporate into our routines. My dad was undergoing treatment for a serious health condition during the first lockdown, and the gym was vital to his mental and physical recovery and rehabilitation. The loss of it had a big impact on him. 


I know from first-hand experience that we have to be so careful with this virus in an effort to look out for the vulnerable in these difficult times. 


However, I must agree with TJ Reid, a seven time all Ireland hurling champion for Kilkenny, when he says, “Our physical health is also just as important right now. We are being told that being fit and healthy will help you fight this virus.”


Sive O’Toole, a 19-year old elite athlete from Carlow, now attending UCD, said “In regards to sprinting, as you begin to compete at a higher level, gym work is essential for building more strength and power.” 


“This, in my opinion and experience cannot be substituted at home,” she added. “After the first-time gyms closed during the lockdown in March, my muscles were in a lot of pain after my first few sessions back, which proves that attempting to replicate my gym work at home was not effective.”


Sive is training diligently towards competitions next year and feels that the gym’s being closed has affected her training progress.


Shónagh Travers, a 17-year old elite acrobatic gymnast from Carlow, said that the gym’s being closed is having an impact on her mentally.


“I am very competitive and I work best when I am pushing and driving off my team mates and others. I am finding it harder to motivate myself without the gym, consequently leading to a lack of inspiration in my training and conditioning,” Shónagh said.


“Zoom classes are a great replacement but they don’t offer the same release or escape that the gym does. I am still house bound, and I’m finding that difficult.”


Shónagh is training purposefully towards the World Acrobatic Gymnastics Championships in Geneva next year. She is finding that the closure of the gym’s has interrupted her routine, making it difficult for her to stay focused on her goals.


The closure of the gym’s has impacted countless people in our country. Athletes who are training competitively have felt their progress is not mirroring their ability. Many older people use the gym as an outlet as well, sometimes it’s the only place they get to go all day.


A portion of the public go to the gym to learn and practise self-defence as they come from disadvantaged areas. The middle-aged cohort also could be training elite or rely on the gym for some time and space to themselves. 


Some people use the gym as a natural anti-depressant or purely just to keep fit. I know I love the gym to stay consistent with my fitness routine, and breath some different air, especially during lockdown when we are all mostly housebound. I think it is vital for each of us to voice these concerns. 


I will link a petition that’s purpose is to allow the gym’s be deemed as an essential service below. Let’s save our physical and mental well-being together!



? Journalism student in DCU ? ? First-year Rep for HerCampus ? Xoxo gossip girl.
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