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Local man leads petition for reopening gyms

As a veteran, Jesse Calvert has spent his fair share of time in gyms and focusing on nutrition. A passion for health led to him opening his Hartselle business, That Nutrition Place, and that passion has recently developed into leading a campaign for reopening gyms and promoting healthy lifestyles amidst the COVID-19 crisis.  

Calvert said he has already begun to see a shift in behaviors at his business from people struggling to lead healthy lives. Instead of the standard purchases like protein powders, amino acid products and vitamin supplements, Calvert said he is seeing a higher demand for caffeine pills, appetite suppressants and fat burning pills – all things, Calvert said, that have better alternatives.  

Using an InBody scale that measures weight, muscle mass, body fat percentage and more, the shop has also seen physical changes in customers. 

“We have seen people’s weight increase; that’s the biggest thing,” Calvert said. People aren’t lazy or fat, they have just gotten unhealthier. They are still trying to get out and buy gym equipment, but not everyone can afford it. 

Calvert said he always tries to educate people on better alternatives to caffeine pills and appetite suppressants. He said part of the alternative is being healthier through exercise and resistance training.  

“Resistance weights help with so many things … antiaging, mood, depression,” Calvert said. Beyond looking good and feeling healthy, it changes the structure of your body. We are meant to have some type of training for our body, but with our lifestyle, we are sitting more. We are on the couch, behind the desk or in the car, so that 45 minutes in the gym can go a long way to keeping us where we need to be in our health and fitness.”  

When Gov. Kay Ivey issued the “safer at home” order that went into effect April 30, gyms were among the businesses to remain closed – which spurred Calvert to begin a petition for reopening gyms and starting a conversation among gym owners to develop policies.  

“What guidance, timelines and procedures are in place for these gym owners to open up? There hasn’t been anything, and that’s what I am hearing the gyms want,” Calvert said. They want some instruction so they know what to do. How much grant money do they need to apply for? Is it just for this month or two months? What do I need to do to keep afloat?  

We are in phase three: getting gym owners to come together all across the state of Alabama and put aside their differences or competition to put together a solution.” 

Calvert began a petition on Change.org titled Gyms vs. The State of Alabama and received thousands of signatures within days. He said he has also reached out to gym owners to put together a coalition for planning policies that can keep gyms as safe as possible when they do open again.  

Beyond a “quick fix” Calvert said he is looking at policies that can be in place in the fall if there is a resurgence of COVID-19 cases and businesses have to close again.  

He said despite common stereotypes, gyms are clean and can be sanitized more easily than even retail shops.  

“If we get that stereotype out of people’s heads – that gyms are bad – and show how clean gyms really are, I think it will open businesses even quicker,” Calvert said. You go into a retail store, and someone has already touched that same shirt 10 or 20 times, and no one has cleaned that shirt because you can’t spray it with Clorox. 

Gym owners can reach out to Calvert via email at jesse@thatnutritionplace.com to be included in the discussions. Interested parties can also find the campaign on the That Nutrition Place’s Facebook page and by searching for Gyms Vs. The State of Alabama on Change.org.