by Colin Campbell
AFTER two very difficult years, the countdown is on to major changes at the Inverness Leisure Centre.
A completely new, redesigned and extended gym will open next Monday with an influx of top of the range equipment.
Amid the winter chill and glaur, that for many is Christmas good news arriving early.
Inverness Leisure has provided pictures and updates on its Facebook page and as one contributor said, using a word from what now seems olden days, the new facility as it shapes up it looks fresh, ultra modern and “fab”.
Responses from other people have been similarly enthusiastic.
In the 15 or more years I’ve been a member there have been three or four upgrades of this type.
The last big changeover, around five years ago, brought in treadmills, bikes and other equipment which for the first time included full screen access to the Internet and television, and a multitude of radio stations.
This, of course, can divert a user’s attention from putting in the graft to being absorbed by a TV programme or a YouTube video. But each to his or her own. And if it makes exercising more enjoyable, or makes it at least seem less arduous, which it generally does, then it’s clearly a welcome introduction.
The new equipment, most I understand coming from the highly rated Technogym company, should have a range of new features to enhance the exercise experience.
While work has been going on in creating the new gym, equipment has been relocated to a temporary gym in one of the leisure centre sports halls. It will close on Tuesday night.
Inductions will be needed before using the new equipment and can either be booked online or at the reception desk. From next Monday they will be held every half hour or so.
Whatever else is going on with this virus, the long dark months when the leisure centre changed from a hive of bustling energy to a sad, empty shell seem far behind us now.
We’ll all carry memories of the past two years with us for the rest of our lives. For me, one of the most melancholy was the last day before closure of the centre a year last March when only a small handful of people were still around and the place was virtually deserted.
It felt then that a storm unlike anything we’d seen before was about to strike. As it did. For months afterwards, the empty and desolate leisure centre for me symbolised more than anything the often empty and desolate experience of life in the time of virus.
It was a hugely uplifting day when the venue that’s so hugely important to mental health and wellbeing in Inverness reopened last August, although pre-vaccine folk were very, very slow in returning.
A further closure was to follow, in December, but with vaccination then clearly on the horizon, that always felt like a temporary inconvenience rather than the March hammer blow of the start of lockdown everywhere.
Throughout the entire experience High Life Highland and leisure centre staff have done an excellent job, controlled, efficient and reassuring. I’ve never had a moment’s hesitation in making the most of what the centre has to offer.
The number of people returning seems to be rising all the time, and interest in the expansive and fully modernised new gym should push it up further.
Where is the virus in all this? Nowhere. One member of staff fell sick with it for a few days last year but there has been absolutely no connection with the leisure centre and any other virus infections. Hygiene measures are rigorous and my own belief is that it is a wholly “safe” indoor environment.
There is one big change to the leisure centre which is indisputable, however. Partly because of the virus and no doubt partly because of Brexit the vast majority of young, fit Eastern Europeans who used to frequent it in very large numbers are no longer there and the presumption is that they have gone home. It is very rare now to hear a foreign accent at the venue. In terms of revenue and the energy they brought, they are missed.
However, those of us who enjoy to the uttermost the best value for money and probably the best leisure centre in Scotland are greatly enthused by the changes soon to be available there.
For many, I’ve no doubt, Christmas arrives early, starting next Monday.