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Aviemore CrossFit gym owner urges Scottish Government to reopen fitness sector


By Gavin Musgrove

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A CrossFit gym owner in Aviemore has called on the Scottish Government to allow the sector to be part of the nation's recovery from coronavirus.

Gyms remain shut down with no date given for their reopening in Scotland although they can now open from today in England and returned on July 10 in Northern Ireland.

Leisure centres and swimming pools can also welcome the public from today in England.

Ruari Lambert outside his fitness business in Aviemore which has been shut since early March because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Ruari Lambert outside his fitness business in Aviemore which has been shut since early March because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Ruari Lambert was one of the first owners in the strath to close his business doors voluntarily more than a week before the UK lockdown on March 23 to keep the community safer.

He is now urging the Scottish Government to review its decision on gyms saying that the closures have gone on too long.

He is confident that precautions can be put in place in gyms to keep users safe – more so he says than in beer gardens and some other venues that can now welcome the public.

CrossFit Cairngorm based at the Dalfaber Industrial Estate in Aviemore had just launched a little over five months before lockdown.

Mr Lambert told the Strathy: "CrossFit Cairngorm had been open for just 162 days when we chose to shut our doors due to the outbreak of coronavirus.

"We loaned our kit to members and moved online to keep our community active and engaged through an unsettling time.

"In the short time we were open we ran a mix of busy general, teen and masters classes, PT clients and supported a growing and thriving community of people with a shared goal of improving their health, fitness and a love of working out.

"We were about to hire more coaches so that we could add more classes and help more people to reach their goals and be happier and healthier and live longer.

"But come the end of July, we will have been closed for 135 days, and by the end of August we will have been closed for longer than we have been open.

"We have been watching as Aviemore and the wider strath fills with tourists and the businesses which serve them reopen. They are essential for our economy and local jobs.

"We just wish the same opportunities were being given to all businesses, provided they can put safety measures in place to fully protect those who they serve.

"We currently have no reopen date in sight from First Minister Nicola Sturgeon."

Mr Lambert said his business' mission is to help clients lead a healthier, more fulfilled lifestyle through understanding and practising quality nutrition and exercise.

He said: "Many of our members have not only got stronger and had a great time doing so, they have created positive changes in their lives which support a strong immune system, including increasing lean mass and reducing excess body fat.

"It should come as no surprise that the UK and United States with their30 per cent and 40 per cent obesity rates respectively have seen such a large number of Covid-19 deaths.

"We are as happy as the next person that restaurants and pubs are reopening both locally and across Scotland. But it’s just as important to reopen gyms and nutrition centres so that we can work with our local community to reverse the effects of obesity and improve our physical and mental health together.

"We are ready to safely bring people back into our gym in Aviemore with social distancing in place, limited class sizes, social bubbles, no sharing of equipment and deep cleaning between each and every class.

"So we would say this to Nicola Sturgeon, local MP Drew Hendry and MSPs Fergus Ewing and Kate Forbes and Highland list MSPs – give our business a chance, give our community a chance and let us be part of the solution as we work together to create a population who are fighting fit, resilient and more likely to dodge the worst of Covid-19."

Mr Ewing, Strathspey MSP (SNP) said they were following expert advice and he was happy to speak to Mr Lambert and other gym operators.

He commented: "All of us want to see restrictions lifted as quickly as possible. That means following the best evidence on coronavirus.

"I am keen to see pools and gyms reopen but must get the advice from the experts. I’m pressing for this as Tourism Minister and local MSP.

"Progress in Scotland in tackling the virus has been encouraging but we're not clear yet nor are we free from new cases sadly.

"I’m happy to discuss the details including plans for covid precautions with those pressing for gyms and pools to reopen

"Obviously the more facilities are open the more exercise people can take and the more there is for visitors to do as well.

"The businesses themselves have had a really tough time as I’m acutely aware so for all these reasons I and colleagues would like to see restrictions loosened as soon as safe to do so."

Mr Hendry said: "This is an incredibly frustrating time for businesses that have not yet been able to open. They’ve done the work, put in place precautions and feel ready to go.

"While they may feel forgotten,I know everyone working on this is keen to see these operations safely back in business as soon as possible.

"Along with my colleagues, I will continue to highlight the sheer effort put in by local companies like CrossFit Cairngorm, to meet the safety concerns and hope they can soon welcome customers back safely."

A Scottish Government spokesperson thanked gym owners and their members for their patience at a challenging time.

She said: “Exercise is good for physical and mental health and we know that many people have been missing going to the gym.

"We don’t want these restrictions to be in place a minute longer than we judge to be necessary but, for now, indoor gyms must remain closed as they involve prolonged close social contact, which increases the chance of infection spreading."


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