Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Iqaluit July 31, 2013 - 6:15 am

Atii Fitness prepares to bulk up for new quarters at Iqaluit aquatic centre

“Atii Fitness has outgrown their facility”

DAVID MURPHY
Iqaluit's Atii Fitness is located at 1127 Mivvik Road, right across the street from the Iqaluit airport. (PHOTO BY DAVID MURPHY)
Iqaluit's Atii Fitness is located at 1127 Mivvik Road, right across the street from the Iqaluit airport. (PHOTO BY DAVID MURPHY)
Alia Bigro, a volunteer at Atii fitness, works at the front desk. There are currently 53 volunteers at the gym, which includes 18 board members, 21 desk volunteers, 11 instructors and personal trainers, and five ancillary volunteers — some do double duty and have roles at the gym. (PHOTO BY DAVID MURPHY)
Alia Bigro, a volunteer at Atii fitness, works at the front desk. There are currently 53 volunteers at the gym, which includes 18 board members, 21 desk volunteers, 11 instructors and personal trainers, and five ancillary volunteers — some do double duty and have roles at the gym. (PHOTO BY DAVID MURPHY)
Allison Dun, president of Atii Fitness, left, with board member Jessica Theriault-Tuitt, right. (PHOTO BY DAVID MURPHY)
Allison Dun, president of Atii Fitness, left, with board member Jessica Theriault-Tuitt, right. (PHOTO BY DAVID MURPHY)

Only one treadmill sat on the narrow floor of Atii Fitness centre in Iqaluit when it opened its doors nine years ago in 2004.

But things have changed — now, the not-for-profit gym, essentially run like a co-op, holds four treadmills, six elliptical machines, two stationary bikes and lots of clunky black-and-grey weights that hang off various machines around the room.

In 2016, more change will come as the city of Iqaluit plans to provide Atii Fitness with space at its flagship up-to $40-million aquatics centre, according to schematic plans released at an aquatics centre committee meeting July 22. 

The new gym, located on the third floor of the new centre, will be “two-to-three times bigger” than its current location according to city of Iqaluit recreation director Amy Elgersma.

“Atii Fitness has outgrown their facility,” Elgersma said.

Elgersma said the city has been involved with Atii since talks of the aquatic centre began. 

Now, at its current location near the Iqaluit airport, patrons have to jostle for position during peak hours in the free-weight body building section that’s equipped with eight-foot mirrors — which usually reflect guys checking themselves out while bicep curling or squatting.

Gym-goers also dance for positions on weight-lift machines, and a whiteboard categorizing all the cardio machines is filled with names of those waiting their turn for a good sweat.

And Atii has “had to turn people away from some classes” on occasion in its gym area at the back of the building due to lack of space, Atii board member Jessica Theriault-Tuitt said.

You only need look at the packed parking lot located opposite the airport after 5:30 p.m. on a weekday to know that Atii is popular.

With demands growing along with the population of city, Allison Dunn, president of Atii Fitness, is looking forward to see the centre make the move in three years time. 

“I don’t want to say we’re at capacity, but there are sometimes when I think we’re pretty much at our max some nights,” Dunn said.

The main thing, however, is to keep its current volunteer-run system in place when the switch is made. 

“We could use a space that was double, and we could operate the same way. It just wouldn’t be as crammed,” Dunn said.

Since 2004, there have been 1,346 members of Atii Fitness, and there are about 300 active members today. More than 50 volunteers also work at Atii.

Atii works like a co-op — this means customers pay a rate for the gym and all money is then put towards rent.

However, volunteers get a gym membership for free. Volunteering at Atii can include everything from manning the front desk and signing people in to serving on the board of directors and overseeing anything from finances to promotions.

Dunn said the idea of the volunteer-based model is “paramount” and she said hopes this continues in the new digs — which Elgersma says will happen — although no official plans have been set yet.

“In particular I would like to see this model continue to allow for affordable access to fitness,” Dunn said. “And I think it’s so important up here in the North because we do see rates of diabetes increasing.”

Dunn wants to see Atii grow its hours of operation as well. Now, the gym opens up late: 5:30 p.m. on weekdays.

“There’s probably going to be money regularly coming from them, and they might be able to hire staff to maybe run this facility during the day,” Dunn said.

That, however, is still up for discussion, although Elgersma said there would be more hired city staff on hand to help with cleaning duties.

The plan is to bring in a mix of Atii’s current equipment, and the city also plans on buying brand new equipment for the gym, according to Elgersma.

Theriault-Tuitt hopes, however, that Atii’s current friendly-neighbourhood gym keeps its same volunteer-based platform for the social aspect.

“I think there’s a different element of Atii that is so unique, and that’s the family element. The community element,” said Theriault-Tuitt. 

Next year plans are in the works for a big 10-year anniversary celebration. In the meantime,  Atii is hoping to attract a more diverse clientele at its seventh annual Healthy Living Awareness Run/Walk on August 10.

The cost for participation is $30 for the 10-kilometre road race, $20 to run or walk in the five-km race, or free for the 1-km fun run or walk. 

“We’re open for business, anyone can volunteer, we want everyone apart of this society,” Dunn said. 

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