Thorold's Warrior Fitness is breaking new ground as its owner refuses to abandon her mission to keep her clients healthy, despite taking several hard hits during the pandemic.
Catherine Drapeau says taking apart and packing up her Richmond Plaza fitness- and yoga studio that she built herself feels painful, but with the impact of the pandemic on her in-person training, and increasing rent prices, staying eventually became unsustainable.
"I had a lot of choices to go through. I could have just quit altogether, but that just isn't like me. I could have chosen the easiest route, which would have been to sell all my equipment and continue purely online, but there is too much of me that knows that I can get people back, and get them moving," said Drapeau in an interview with Thoroldnews.com.
She's talking about the many clients, both young aspiring athletes, and adults of all ages, that used to flock to the location she opened up in May 2011, at first without having a single client.
Despite being able to keep in touch with several of her regulars to whom she teaches a wide variety of yoga, strength- and mobility protocols, the loss of in-person training weighs on Drapeau, not only financially.
"The human connection is too important, and there is too much mentally and physically to be able to help people in-person, and I can't lose that. It is just not the same only doing training online."
The new location, which will have a bigger feel, higher ceilings, and a backyard for outdoor workout sessions, is situated on Merritt Street, sharing plazas with Sun Collision.
"On paper, it looks like I'm moving out of Thorold, because all of the papers say St Catharines, but I still consider it Thorold!" she said.
Renovations will begin in March - again by the hands of the Drapeau family.
Frustrated over fitness professionals not being deemed essential despite spending all her time improving other people's health through exercise, Drapeau still supports extensive measures to keep the virus down.
Where the government is missing the target, she says, is how the thinking around staying healthy during the pandemic seems to revolve exclusively around getting the shot.
"Just getting the vaccine won't give you a clean bill of health. You still need to move, exercise to keep yourself healthy and do proactive work, and that's what the government isn't telling you. At the end of the day, you have to do that to stay well no matter what."
During the short window in the fall that she was allowed to conduct her last in-person training sessions, Drapeau eventually only saw six people in her 2,000 sq ft. studio.
"We contact trace, we know exactly who is in there. It's spotless, and it is going to continue to be spotless. Even if Covid isn't around, I think we should keep those practices in place. I just want people to feel safe continuing in-person training again. Even if they say, 'Cathy, you can see one person per hour, I'll take it. I'll wear a hazmat suit if I have to in order to get that human connection."
But before leaving the Richmond St plaza, one task remains for Drapeau.
For the past six years, a feral cat has been living near the studio in a shelter that she built.
The cat eventually had kittens - some of whom Drapeau and her clients adopted as their own, while the mother cat was hesitant to trust people.
"The shelter we built for her is being torn down, and she has become so reliant on me that I can't just leave her behind," said Drapeau, who will be offering shelter in her backyard, as opposed to at her future studio.
"I couldn't exactly ask the owners of the new location I'm going to if I could bring a feral cat colony with me."
For more information about Warrior Fitness, go to their website.