Now that people can once again take part in contact sport, fitness enthusiasts are relieved to return to centres across the country.
Many say they’ve gone too long without the routine and connection it can offer.
The temporary closure of gyms and other fitness centres left many struggling to keep fit or cope with the anxieties associated with the Covid-19 outbreak.
But the chief executive of Aberdeen Sports Village (ASV), Duncan Sinclair, says centres like his can be part of the “national cure” for this mental health “crisis”.
And now, with the doors reopened and the green light on fitness and all sports, ASV is determined to get people off the couch and back into fitness.
‘It’s in everybody’s best interest to have a sense of belonging’
Duncan reflected on the last two lockdowns, and recalled the “very successful lobbying” on behalf of sport.
He remembers them saying: “Look, there is a national crisis on mental health.
“The case has already been made that being physically active, or being attached to a sporting club or organisations is good for your physical and mental wellbeing.
“So, let sports and gyms and swimming pools return as quickly as we can.”
He added: “It allows operators like ASV to basically say ‘we can help with this. We’re part of the national cure.’
“It’s in everybody’s best interest to be connected, to be physically active and to feel a sense of belonging. To not feel excluded, to not feel alone.”
‘The first lockdown, it was all about survival’
Duncan called the first lockdown a time of “high emotion” with ASV closing its door for the first time in its existence.
“When we closed the building then it was very much survival,” he explained.
“If it wasn’t for the job retention scheme, then we would be having a very different conversation than the one we’re having now. That was our real lifeline.
“It felt as if there was a lifeboat being offered to our organisation which we could survive for the period of lockdown.”
Duncan explained they tried to keep in touch with staff and customers as often as they could during the first lockdown.
Most of the organisation’s staff were furloughed for this period, while SportScotland and other sporting organisations created a plan setting out when and how operators could start to introduce sports and health and fitness activities again.
Behind the scenes, people were hard at working writing new procedures, guidance, and risk assessments for the eventual reopening.
Eventually, a small selection of high-performing athletes were allowed into ASV ahead of the Olympics in 2020, right before the decision was made to defer the major event for a year.
Happy to be back training
Rebekah Walker, 30, has been an active member of the sports village for the last three years.
Before gyms shut in March 2020, the Bridge of Don resident would use the facility’s equipment four times a week.
With her routine disrupted and struggling to keep fit, Rebekah picked up running in an effort to let out pent up energy and to help with her mental health.
“I really noticed an impact on my work,” she explained.
“When I wasn’t able to come to the gym, I really tried to get up and go for a run.
“On the days I couldn’t run, I would find it really tough. If I have at least done a workout a day, at least I feel like I’ve achieved something.
“That might sound silly to some people, but certainly within lockdown you were taking all the small wins.”
“It was really hard. I’m not gonna lie like I really struggled,” she explained about returning to the gym.
Rebekah said at one point she felt like the gym “wasn’t for her anymore”, but after persevering with her routine, and thanks to the comfortable setting in ASV, she said she’s definitely on the up – and grateful she can return to her fitness regimen.
‘Great to see the light at the end of the tunnel’
Scott Angus is a fourth-year physics student at Aberdeen University and president of its basketball club.
His team were in the middle of training when they heard about the strict measures coming into force.
“We’ve got told at our training session that this would be the last time until who knows when that we will be training because of the lockdown,” he explained.
But his teammates tried to push themselves to stay in contact and keep training where possible.
“It was difficult. Everyone kind of lost their touch with basketball, losing a bit of will with it so it’s been really difficult to kind of keep that motivation going,” he added.
“And now we’re back open. It’s great to see the light at the end of the tunnel and getting back into training.”
Duncan Sinclair urged people to remember: “It’s about how sport and physical activity makes you feel.
“That will be our mantra going forward.
“It’s about the experiences, about the emotion, about the benefits coming into places like Aberdeen Sports Village.”