Fitness 2000 in Roker has suspended monthly membership fees for its existing members who have lost their jobs or are struggling financially due to the Covid-19 crisis while they get back on their feet.
Unlike most chain gyms, the independently-owned business in Roker Avenue doesn’t tie people into contracts and instead members pay a monthly fee of £20 to use the facilities.
Owner Les Ojugbana said: “I know how much not being able to go to the gym has affected people’s mental health and although £20 doesn’t seem like much, if you’ve lost your job and don’t have £20 then it is a lot of money.
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“We’ll review it on a month by month basis as people’s situations change.”
It’s not the first time the gym has supported people struggling with mental health. Veterans who receive support from the city’s Veterans in Crisis charity already get free lifetime memberships.
The gym itself has had no income for four months, with its six staff furloughed and the ten self-employed PTs who use its facilities unable to hold sessions indoors.
Les says the small business grant, as well as the loyalty of members, has helped however.
"The small business grant helped sustain the business through lockdown,” he explained. “Because we have no contracts, a lot of people cancelled their monthly direct direct, which is completely understandable, but I’d really like to thank all the members who paid regardless to show their support.
"This isn’t just a gym for a lot of people, it’s a really sociable place too and people have really missed it. I’m confident that as a business we can pick ourselves up from this in two / three weeks.”
Ahead of its full day back open, after Government gave gyms the green light to do so, on Saturday, July 25, the gym has held open evenings to reassure people about the precautions being taken and to introduce new members to the gym.
Les said: “I think people are confident about returning to gyms because it’s a controlled environment. 99 percent of people are raring to go and get back to their fitness routine.
“The gym is 1000sq metres so it’s more than big enough for social distancing and, because of the size, no one will need to make an appointment to use the gym. A lot of the signage is just a reminder for people to be aware of their distance to others.”
While the weights equipment and punch bags are already well spaced, the cardio equipment, such as treadmills and bikes, have been cordoned off so that only every other machine can be used. However, if you are working out with someone from your household or bubble, the tape can be removed.
Other social distancing at the gym includes a separate entry and exit doors, hand sanitisation stations as well as cleaning equipment to wipe down weights and machines before and after use, plastic screens at reception and the removal of seating areas so that people don’t gather.
As people are not allowed to change at gyms, gym-goers will need to arrive in their workout clothing and cannot use the showers – however, there is access to the toilets.
Contact classes, such as martial arts, cannot take place yet, but circuit classes where people have individual stations and spaces can go ahead.
The gym’s opening hours are as normal: Monday to Thursday 6am-10pm; Friday 6am-9pm; Saturday 8am-4pm and Sunday 8am-2pm.
To avoid queues at reception, new members, and people renewing memberships are asked to do so online ahead of visiting at fitness2000gym.co.uk or through Facebook by searching “Fitness 2000 Sunderland.”
It comes at the Echo is running its #SupportLocal campaign to encourage people to use city businesses.