'Very few clusters have come from gyms and everything has been run properly, that's what's so frustrating'

Kilkenny camogie star and fitness professional Katie Power on how ‘disappointing’ it is to see gyms closed under Level 5 restrictions.

Kilkenny camogie star Katie Power.
Kilkenny camogie star Katie Power.

KILKENNY CAMOGIE STAR Katie Power has added her voice to the chorus around the country calling for a U-turn on the decision to close gyms under Level 5 of Covid-19 restrictions.

Gyms, leisure centres and swimming pools shut down last night as the country moved to Level 5, with people instructed to exercise within 5km of their homes.

With the exception of elite level competitions in rugby, soccer, GAA and horse racing, sport has shut down once again for the next six weeks.

In Northern Ireland, gyms remain open under their heightened restrictions, while in certain parts of England, such as Liverpool, gyms can reopen after pressure on the government to reverse their decision.

There have been endless calls across these shores to keep gyms open, with almost 49,000 people signing a petition entitled, “Move gyms to essential services for the mental and physical well-being of the Irish people,” while many gym owners and gym lovers alike have posted strongly-worded tweets and Instagram messages over the past few days and weeks.

In a report on Covid-19 clusters in Ireland, last week the Health Protection Surveillance centre reported nine related to “sporting activity/fitness”. This, however, did not specify if any of these cases are related to gyms. 

That’s a point made by Cats forward Power, who’s been ruled out for the remainder of the 2020 season and is facing another lengthy period on the sidelines after fracturing her kneecap, makes.

The closure of gyms concerns her, and not just because she works in one: she’s a qualified personal trainer and works as a nutrition coach at TJ Reid’s health and fitness facility.

She was impressed by the huge efforts other fitness professionals across Ireland went to to abide by the rules and regulations, and doesn’t understand why this can’t continue with minimal cases associated with, or outbreaks linked to, gyms.

“I think it’s extremely disappointing,” Power said at Thursday’s launch of a partnership between the GAA and The Marketing Hub.

“Obviously I’m biased because I work in a gym. But from where we worked, it literally couldn’t have been better. You couldn’t enter the gym without booking a slot, and there was only certain slots that people could book.

“There’s no such thing as like, ‘Oh, I’ll go in there now at half nine.’ You had to wait until the next slot, and if there wasn’t enough room for you that’s your tough luck for not booking it in time. It was run so proper and I’m sure TJ’s gym wasn’t the only one run like that.

From my research there was either none or very few clusters that had come from gyms so I just don’t understand why they are closed.

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“Back in the previous lockdown, people could work out outside, they could go walking or go running, they could bring their gym equipment outside. But it’s freezing outside now, it’s dark.

For mental health alone… if it’s just for 45 minutes and you’re safe, I don’t understand why people can’t go and blow a bit of steam off.”

While Power understands where others are coming from with regards public health as coronavirus cases rise day on day across the country, she finds it hard to hide her frustration.

ganzee-gaa-official-lifestyle-collection Kilkenny's Katie Power. Source: David Fitzgerald/SPORTSFILE

Having spoken plenty in the past about the positive impact of exercise on mental health, the 2016 All-Ireland winner added: 

“I can see the other point of view as well, but the fact that very few clusters have come from gyms and everything has been run properly, that’s what’s so frustrating about it.

“There’s rules for one thing and then something that could have a real positive impact on people’s health mentally, that gets closed down.

“It’s frustrating for gym owners — as with any business owners, I suppose. I don’t think they’re going to go back on it anyway, I doubt it. It’s tough because it’s going to be a long six weeks for people sitting inside every evening coming home and it’s dark.

“If you’re working from home, you’re just in you house all day, there’s nowhere to go. You can’t really go off for a walk anymore. It’s freezing outside, it’s dark, it’s dangerous. If you live out in the country you can’t go walking the roads at eight o’clock at night.”

For a contrasting opinion, read an opinion piece from Rachel O’Neill on TheJournal:

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