By Georgina Barnes
For the second time this year, the Government of Jersey have enforced rules to prevent the increase in spread of Coronavirus, and one that struck a nerve with most islanders was the re-closure of gyms, indoor sports and fitness classes.
Coming as a shock to most; the Jersey Football Association (JFA) decided to postpone all matches until the end of 2020; PT’s found themselves out of a job for the second time this year, and many islanders were once again left without the facilities they pay for to keep active.
Impacting all sport across Jersey, the Government has taken away what they just gave back to the community. However, in light of all the negative news, one PT decided to use his platform to keep islanders active – for free.
Scott Johnson, or better known as ‘Squat Johnson’ by his social media followers, says he woke up one day and asked himself, “What can I do to help keep people active without any cost?”
By just responding to his Instagram post, Scott sent out an abundance of emails to eager islanders, incorporating 15 home workouts of all variations to fit into their schedule.
During the first lockdown, Scott used his Instagram page to showcase different types of home workouts almost anyone could do. However, this time around he decided to be even more generous:
“I thought it would be best to just make a home workout guide for anyone, whatever equipment you have and just send it out for free!
“Obviously its not ideal with everything that’s going on lately, so I thought I’d give back to the community and just try and help them as much as possible and provide them free workouts.”
Scott is a well known PT at Boxinbusiness, a private gym located in town and at Fort Regent. Known for their popular and intense training sessions, he says the closure of gyms again will really impact them:
“From the first lockdown, it was an opportunity for myself and Boxinbusiness to help our clients and basically everyone on the island stay active.
“We rely on our clients a lot and what’s going on here in Jersey has affected us quite highly.
“All of us are out of work for the minute because of the restrictions, but seeing what’s going on on social media, everyone trying to rally and stay together in the community, helps a lot.”
Since the closure of gyms, there has been a social media uproar and the unity of gym owners coming together to reopen gyms as soon as possible.
A petition was created within hours of the new restrictions, asking the government to reopen gyms, enforce masks and two metre distancing for extra protection. The petition is now just shy of 5,000 signatures.
One major backer of the petition is Transform Together Gym owner Cameron Elliot, who has been extremely vocal on social media with his regular posts:
Giving more background on the petition, Scott says closing gyms won’t just affect the physical side of the body.
“It’s the impact that working out has mentally and physically on everyone on the island – a lot of people are battling with things in their personal life and the gym is somewhere they can relieve stress and basically stay mentally positive.
“The statistics that have been shown in terms of trace positive cases, they’re very low. We’re trying to put that across to them that gyms aren’t the problem – they’re the solution.”
In a more recent press conference, Doctor Ivan Muscat said there was proof of Covid transmission in gyms:
“Despite the fact that we would all like to keep gyms open because of the physical and mental health benefits of gyms, they have been associated with significant activity and it was considered appropriate to close these venues down at this point.”
Compared to, for example, tier three in England (the highest of restrictions), gyms are still able to remain open with strict guidelines in place. With this in mind, Scott says the Government need to rethink their rules:
“We understand cases are rising on the island, but we’re not in a lockdown right now, gym facilities have guidelines and strict measures with cleaning products before and after workouts, there’s distancing and we put forward plans to wear masks, there’s plans in place and they need to be aware of that and hopefully they can understand this.”
Knowing the closure of gyms a second time around will affect his clients, ‘Squat ’gave some genuine words of advice:
“The best thing to do is not sit around and wait for gyms to reopen, don’t forget about your goals and your health, the number one thing you need to look after is yourself, don’t give up!”
On the other side of Jersey sports, another major blow to the fitness culture on the island is the loss of different sporting fixtures.
During the first lockdown, Jersey Red’s Athletic decided in order to keep active they would test the water in other sports since all their rugby fixtures had been cancelled.
Head coach of Jersey Reds Athletic’s Myles Landick and his team formed their own football and cricket teams. Myles says this was the best way to keep his team active without being able to play rugby matches.
“We’ve been able to train but not play any games, that’s been disappointing. Our season then got cancelled a couple of months ago which is a huge blow, so we decided to set up a football team and that’s what we’ve been doing ever since.”
With the JFA postponing all Combination matches until 2021, Myles and his boys found themselves out of the competition once again.
“It’s been great for the lads to keep fit and active, they always enjoy their football so obviously they’re really disappointed they can’t do that. Just getting out and keeping fit playing team sport is vital for some of the guys’ mental health, so I’m a bit gutted.
“I think until you’re locked down and not able to play you don’t know what you’ve lost until you start playing it again.”
With the pandemic taking a toll on many people’s mental health, Myles said keeping his players’ health, mentally and physically, was at the forefront of his mind.
“Some of these guys have a routine and not having that routine can affect you. You train twice a week and play at the weekend and enjoy the social element that comes with it and not having the team sport has a definite impact on some of the guys.
“They’re gutted not to be out playing and want to do everything they can to play. What myself and one of the other coaches have said is if anyone is affected by not playing, just pick up the phone and give us a call or message.
“We want everyone to feel like they can chat to anyone here at the club, especially the coaches, and if that means being on the phone for someone for an hour to clear their head and chest a bit then that’s fantastic.”
One thing the second closure and postponement of physical activity has taught us is that if people believe in something strongly enough, they will come together and fight for it.
What islanders need to do is put things into perspective: we are going to be OK.
Our Jersey media is informative, but can cause an impending feeling of doom on our mental stability as the sole focus is on the Coronavirus.
Yes, there has been a sudden uprise in cases, but our island mortality rate is actually at the lowest it has ever been in the past three years.
A vaccine has arrived on the island and is set to be rolled out from next Monday (14th December).
With gyms set to be closed and matches off the cards until next year, the volume of support for those out of business has far outweighed the negative aspect of this pandemic.