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Best of Richmond: Gyms, city and groups pivot during pandemic

Fitness and overall well-being have been integral during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Vafa Ismailova (foreground) and Omar Rajan, staff at Cambie Community Centre, have been helping Richmondites stay fit during the pandemic.

Suffice it to say, the pandemic hasn’t been easy on any of us — physically, mentally or socially.

Last year, community centres and private gyms were shut down to stop the spread of COVID-19, and when they were allowed to re-open months later, they quickly had to “pivot.”

Major adjustments had to be made at these facilities to ensure health and safety.

This meant carefully following regulations from the provincial health officer, for example, moving equipment around to ensure physical distancing and turning off the showers.

Health authorities have said there’s a definite correlation between fitness and mental health. 

“I think that in the time of a global health crisis and a global isolation, when we have a facility where people can come together and connect and better themselves, it’s extremely important,” said Tristan Kolver, a fitness advocate who works at a local gym. 

However, he acknowledges, for some a gym feels safer than for others, and it’s up to each individual to decide on their comfort zone. 

“Some people feel, at this point, safety and health means staying at home, some people feel health and safety means coming to a facility,” Kolver said.    

Fight or flight

It was fight or flight for the Community Mental Wellness Association of Canada during the COVID-19 pandemic, explained executive director Ahlay Chin, and they chose to fight.

As people were told to physically distance and stay at home more, the number of isolated Richmond residents just grew.

“These are turbulent times, this pandemic, we saw people in despair, they were frightened, they were depressed, they were anxious — how could we do something with everything going on?” Chin said.

So the association ramped up their services and reached out to those needing mental health support.

One big support was their Wednesday evening group called Heart to Heart — it alternates between English and Mandarin.

Another project was getting tablets to seniors so they could connect virtually.

City of Richmond pivots

Richmond city staff also recognized the importance of recreation to physical and mental well-being.

The biggest challenge, though, was the constantly changing environment.

Some city activities moved online — something the world was quickly getting accustomed to.

Doors Open Richmond attracted 22,000 visitors to its 37 virtual locations and the virtual Maritime Festival drew a “crowd” of 50,000.

The city opened its long-awaited aquatic facility at the Minoru Centre for Active Living during the pandemic, and now, with its limited capacity, is generally always sold out.

During COVID-19, there has been a “significant increase” in the use of parks, trails and walking routes, according to the city.

To read the digital edition of the 2021 Best of Richmond, click here.