Fitness studio owners and personal trainers in Blackburn with Darwen are angry and frustrated and say the government's decision to halt gym re-openings across the borough has left them facing 'commercial suicide'.

Liam Ainsworth, who runs Ainsworth Body Science in Blackburn said the ongoing lockdown situation, which prevented them from opening at the same time as other gyms across the region, will cripple the industry within Blackburn, leaving many self-employed personal trainers in financial crisis.

Mr Ainsworth, who has been in the fitness industry for 15 years, and runs his business alongside wife Kate, said: "I understand completely that the lockdown has to continue, but this is commercial suicide for us.

"The whole fitness industry has been in lockdown since March. We've had some help from the government but we are still paying our rent at the studio and have had no relief from that.

"All our competition, from towns outside of Blackburn with Darwen have re-opened, and that's fine as they are allowed, but we aren't and we haven't had any communication whatsoever or any support in how we are supposed to survive through this.

"We've been forced to shut when others can open. It's not so much as about us losing business or clients, but it's whether we'll have a business to come back to in the first place if we don't receive any extra support.

"Some of my staff, and I'm sure there are other personal trainers in the industry too, have had nothing from the government because of their self-employed status."

Lancashire Telegraph: Every member of staff at Ainsworth Body Science has been affected by the decisionEvery member of staff at Ainsworth Body Science has been affected by the decision

Leanne Proctor from Unit 2 fitness in Blackburn said they had been luckier as they were able to start training clients outside on their yard in small groups as soon as lockdown restrictions were lifted.

She said: "Due to this we have been able to get the gym running again and get money flowing back through the club.

"The weather hasn’t been on our side but it’s a small price to pay to be able to open again.

"Our clients have been very supportive and understanding and just as keen as us to get back training again.

"During lockdown we moved all of our clients online to a private Facebook group and managed to train them remotely by doing this.

"It helped us to keep in contact and retain many of our members. We’ve lost 20 percent of our members but the UK average is 30 percent.

"When it was announced that Blackburn gyms couldn’t reopen as planned on July 25 we were disappointed as we were due to open on July 27.

"Many gyms including us had spent a lot of money to get Covid ready.

"I feel that the council were wrong in not giving gym owners much notice in telling them that they couldn’t reopen.

"I received my phone call on the Friday, less than 24 hours notice if we hadn't been opening on the Monday.

"My opinion is that gyms are safe places if Covid policies and procedures are followed.

"Gyms are a community essential. I’d go as far as to say gym staff should be classed as key workers.

"We tackle mental health, obesity, loneliness, isolation and more on a daily basis.

"We are essential, especially during a crisis like Covid.

"With Blackburn gyms not reopening it runs the risk of clients going out of town to train, which puts more strain on Blackburn gyms losing more members.

"Will the council or the government compensate us for this? I think not.

"One positive from Covid could be that there may be a surge in people wanting to join gyms post lockdown.

"Lots of people have gained weight during lockdown, and started running, joined in Joe Wicks online etc, so people who would never have been interested in joining a gym before or personal training may just be tempted.

"But we will have to see."

Mr Ainsworth said it's the lack of information and proactive help for what he calls 'the forgotten fitness industry' that has made him most angry.

He continued: "It's the third time the rug has been yanked from under our feet.

"We were 36 hours from re-opening on July 25, and then we have to tell our staff, and our clients, that we can't, but everyone else can.

"How can the council or the government expect our businesses to survive?

"We can go to the pub, and get our hair cut, and go and eat junk food, but we can't boost our immune systems to help fight this virus.

"The fact we provide the very service that the human body needs to survive this virus yet we can't open is madness.

"I've written a letter to Kate Hollern our local MP and we've had no response. I went down to the town hall and was told to write an email which would be answered within 10 days and again, nothing.

"We're banging our heads against a brick wall here. We want to open, we want to help people, but we're being forgotten."

Following further annoucements on Wednesday in relation to the extending of lockdown restrictions across the borough, Councillor Phil Riley, Executive member for Growth and Development, said: "We know this is disappointing for businesses and residents and we are working with the government on extra support for people affected by the extended closures.

"The health and safety of everyone on the borough is of the utmost importance and we need to get the situation under control to avoid a further restrictions and this is the way we have to do it.”

MP for Blackburn and Shadow Minister for Local Government, Kate Hollern, said: “The Chancellor’s one-size-fits-all furlough scheme has seen millions fall through the cracks. 

"The Government isn’t doing everything in its power to save jobs which will make it more difficult for our economy to bounce back. 

"It needs to take a more targeted approach to protect jobs and protect businesses. 

"It’s self-defeating and not fair on the hard working people of Blackburn who are losing out.

"I will continue to raise these concerns with the Government in the strongest possible terms.”