Disappointed personal trainer and Royal Navy veteran asks government to re-think when independent gyms can re-open

A FRUSTRATED personal trainer is begging the government for a change of heart on the easing of lockdown measures for indoor gym sites.

Tuesday, 23rd June 2020, 4:58 pm
Updated Tuesday, 23rd June 2020, 6:35 pm

Sean Cole, owner of SC Vital Fitness in Drayton, has appealed for Boris Johnson to rethink how the fitness industry can open its doors again.

The 46-year-old dad-of-two, of Waterlooville, is calling on the prime minister to allow independent personal training studios like his to re-open.

His plea comes after the PM refused to give the green light for indoor gyms to open back up on July 4 after months of lockdown hardship.

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So far, only small outdoor training session can be staged at the gym. Pictured is: Sharon Bedwell from Milton, during her session with fitness coach Chris Phelan. Picture: Sarah Standing (230620-391)

Former Royal Navy physical training instructor Sean has already spent thousands of pounds overhauling his exclusive fitness HQ to ensure social distancing can be safely followed.

Speaking to The News, the navy veteran said: ‘I can completely understand why the government is saying commercial gyms have to close – they normally have between 14 and 20 sq ft per person.

‘But when you look at independent leisure facilities like mine, which there are a lot in the UK, we have lower numbers, you have to book to come to the facility and when you go to the gym you have 120 to 160 sq ft per person.

‘All the facilities I work alongside have all put social distancing in place and have all gone well beyond the two metre mark. We need to be looked at differently compared to a normal gym where there’s a close proximity of people and maximum numbers flooding in through the doors.’

Hopeful Sean Cole, head of SC Vital Fitness in Portsmouth, tests out one of the rowing machines which he hopes clients will soon be using. Picture: Sarah Standing (230620-324)

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More than 3,000 people have signed an online petition by Sean calling on the government to take a more lenient approach.

The fitness expert has already implemented massive changes to his gym; outside he has introduced a small series of personal training ‘bubbles’, while indoors, gym equipment has been separated into isolated squares with up to four metres between each person training.

Clients are also given their own equipment to train with, limiting potential exposure, and must wipe down and clean all the equipment they use – while being monitored by their trainer.

Ex-Navy PTI Sean Cole from SC Vital Fitness in Portsmouth, cleaning his indoor gym equipment which has been spaced out to allow for social distancing. Picture: Sarah Standing (230620-334)

Sean added: ‘We’re not a normal gym, we’re not a commercial gym space. I understand commercial gyms closing. But we’re totally different.

‘The government is tarring everyone with the same brush. It’s like comparing a Ferrari to a Skoda; they’re both cars that can go from A to B but one provides a better service than the other.’

Since lockdown began, Sean has revamped how his gym works, introducing new online sessions over Zoom and developing an app to help clients at home.

He added his staff had also been placed on furlough and were now ‘chomping at the bit’ to get back to helping clients.

Ex-Navy PTI Sean Cole from SC Vital Fitness in Portsmouth, has been running outdoor gym sessions and hopes to re-open his indoor gym soon. Picture: Sarah Standing (230620-324)

But the lockdown has seen customer numbers drop from 143 on the books to 88.

Sean, who served 24 years in the Royal Navy – 17 of those as a PTI and rehabilitation specialist – added the lockdown had impacted his mental health.

He said: ‘I’m a positive person, I always have been. But for me, mentally, I have never felt like this before. I did 24 years in the military and I have seen a few things and done a few things but this has probably been the worst for my mental health that I can actually recall.

‘I have been running a business but I’ve been worrying about my staff because I employ them and they’ve been out of work. I’ve been worried for some clients who have lost their jobs. It’s been hard on everybody – the whole world has been suffering.’

To sign his petition, see here.

A message from the Editor

Sean Cole, owner of SC Vital Fitness, has set up online Zoom training session for clients in a new studio at his indoor facility. Picture: Sarah Standing (230620-438)

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Equipment will be cleaned after every use and deep cleaned every evening at SC Vital Fitness. Picture: Sarah Standing (230620-338)
Social distancing measures have all been introduced into the gym at SC Vital Fitness. Picture: Sarah Standing (230620-432)