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Over the last couple of years, I’ve been advocating for gym-goers and even people who don’t regularly exercise to work out at home. Using a kettlebell, you can get a full-body workout targeting areas such as strength, cardio, endurance, and more. Of course, this doesn’t mean that all other gym equipment is obsolete or unnecessary. I merely suggest an excellent alternative to needing a gym membership.

The last couple of months provided a golden opportunity for fitness equipment manufacturers to energize the home gym industry. Demand was at an all-time, but supply only lasted a few short days. The reliance on importing exercise equipment reared its ugly head and left people with limited options. They can’t go to a gym and neither can they work out at home (unless you count bodyweight exercises).

Now, as the U.S. passes the 60-day mark of the national shutdown, the states with the most stringent lockdown protocols are seeing businesses defy their governor’s orders. Most recently, several gyms in Pennsylvania and New Jersey are risking severe fines and more by opening today (5/18/20). The owners all give the same reason; open up and hope they aren’t shut down or lose everything to bankruptcy.

This is a difficult position for any gym owner and browsing through their social media posts they certainly can’t be blamed for being oblivious or ignorant to the dangers of COVID-19. Currently, two gyms are at the forefront of today’s reopening in defiance of state governments. Below I share my thoughts on both their situations and whether they are making the right choice.

Atilis Gym – Bellmawr, NJ

Owners Frank Trumbetti and Ian Smith announced several days prior to today their intentions to reopen Atilis Gym. This not only caught the attention of local residents but also national news outlets. In fact, Fox News anchor Tucker Carlson interviewed Mr. Smith who pointed out some of the hypocrisy of New Jersey’s lockdown rules as well as emphasizing how seriously Atilis Gym is taking the safety of their patrons.

Re-Opening His Gym No Matter What

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy is keeping his state under indefinite shutdown. But one business owner says he's fed up with the power grab. Ian Smith plans to re-open his gym and he has a plan for keeping patrons safe.

Posted by Tucker Carlson Tonight on Wednesday, May 13, 2020

On Facebook, Atilis Gym made this post which outlined 15 points of how the owners plan to open as safely as possible. The first point being that only existing members may enter at this time. This effectively makes Atilis a temporary private entity instead of a public one. Doing so gives them some leverage should any legal consequences happen.

Reading that post I’d gauge there are 10 people in support of the reopening for every 1 person who opposes. Clearly, the vast majority of commenters from their area and out of state are in favor of Atilis Gym’s decision. In another post, co-owner Frank Trumbetti somberly explains how his own mother contracted COVID-19 while in the hospital. This is the very place that is supposed to be a safe sanctuary. Furthermore, Mr. Trumbetti addresses those who oppose the decision to reopen and believe it was done for selfish reasons.

Setting the bar

I guarantee you that other gyms in New Jersey are keeping a close eye on what happens today with Atilis Gym. Will they be fined or possibly even raided? If nothing happens then it’s quite possible other state gyms will feel emboldened to open their doors this week as well – making a mockery of Governor Phil Murphy’s state-wide order. It’ll be a bad look for the state if excessive force is used to enforce this order.

This final clip about Atilis Gym’s reopening from 6abc report Katherine Scott captures the opening moments of Atilis Gym this morning. As I understand it, police are on scene but at this time have not enforced the order. Perhaps at their own discretion or waiting for clarification from senior officials.

Pwrbld Gym – Conshohocken, PA

Opening less than a year ago, Pwrbld Gym owner Collin Whitney also made the tough decision to open his business today. Similar precautions have been put in place for the safety of their members. Even so, there’s a good chance Pwrbld will receive fines like another Pennsylvania gym has after reopening.

Governor Tom Wolf’s 3-color “safety” phase currently has most of the state under yellow restrictions which still do not allow gyms to conduct business. Pwrbld Gym happens to be located in a Philadelphia suburb which likely will stay in a red phase until mid-June. Full restrictions for each phase can be read here.

One of the major points of contention regarding the handling, response, and restrictions that Pennsylvania has imposed is the coronavirus case count. Approximately 2/3rds of those who tested positive for COVID-19 are nursing home residents. This has led to a criminal probe opened by Attorney General Josh Shapiro.

As a resident living outside of Philly, I can’t even go for a walk without feeling like I’m in some dystopian society. Masks aren’t just worn by pedestrians, but also occupants of cars with windows rolled up tightly. I’m confident in saying that Philadelphia is nowhere close to returning to normal any time soon.

Left with no choice

That’s what Collin Whitney has said about needing to reopen Pwrbld Gym. While not getting quite the coverage that Atilis Gym has, local news 6abc caught up with Mr. Whitney to discuss his reasoning. Like many other business owners, he was on board at first but as the lockdown kept getting extended there was no financial relief. Sure, there’s the Paycheck Protection Program but that quickly ran out as large corporations took advantage. Small business owners have been left in waiting for 2 months now.

As you’ve seen, patience, money, and time have all run out. No matter what anyone thinks, to claim that safety isn’t important to gym owners is just plain false. I see no evidence of greed or disregard. It’s become an issue of survival and putting food on the table.

The debate on whether the economic destruction in Pennsylvania and similar states was necessary will continue for years. I don’t envy law enforcement as they are put in a difficult position of upholding state orders versus serving the best interests of their community. What happens today with these two gyms very likely will determine the actions of other industries. The floodgates have been opened, now comes the question of what will follow.

Where I Stand On The Matter

I’ve been pretty quiet about my thoughts on certain hot topics. Gone are the days of intelligent discussions of politics and respecting one another’s opinions. If you’re not in camp A or camp B you’ll be labeled all sorts of nasty things. However, I can’t keep silent on the issue of how the world is handling COVID-19.

It’s said that those who defy orders instituted for our protection against coronavirus risk not just themselves but everyone else. Everyone has the right to choose how they live but when those actions jeopardize another it is wrong. It’s a sound argument but has a major flaw – every action has consequences.

I read one Facebook commenter’s assessment that driving a car has inherent risks that the occupants of said vehicles are aware of. We have seatbelts and airbags to protect us. What this commenter fails to realize is that any time someone goes for a drive there is a chance for injuring or even killing another. I’m not talking about reckless driving. Just look up accident statistics that have objects in the road, animals darting out, or slick conditions.

That’s just one example. No matter how prepared or trained a person is, risk will always be a factor in life. How we handle these risks needs to be evaluated against collateral damage. In the case of coronavirus, such damage has been significant. Experts expect a rise in suicide directly related to the impact that lockdowns have had on affected citizens.

Trust in Humanity

Yes, there are a lot of knuckleheads and despicable human beings in the world. However, I still believe they are in the minority. Most people seem to understand the seriousness of this situation and take the necessary precautions. Just because Walmart is deemed an essential business doesn’t mean it is immune to being a cesspool of transmission. Why then, are they allowed to operate, while mom-and-pop shops are forced out of business?

Common sense would say that those most susceptible to COVID-19 remain under self-isolation should they choose to do so. When lockdowns are eventually lifted it’s not like some magic wand is waved and the virus has been defeated. Vaccine or not, eradication won’t happen for years. The risk, no matter how small, is still there.

It’s fascinating to me that there is such concern over person-to-person infection of a virus and not lifestyle choices deemed as okay by society that lead to the #1 killer of humans – heart disease. We can eat, smoke, drink as we please and that’s all glorified by marketing and advertising. Yeah, I know, it’s our choice to do so and there is the difference. Although, I would argue it’s more conditioning than choice at play. The danger is only apparent when it’s thrown in your face 24/7.

Ryan Faucher

I'm a web designer and kettlebell enthusiast on a quest to lose fat, build muscles and live a healthier lifestyle. I truly believe that exercising with kettlebells in conjunction with dieting is the most effective and efficient way to reach this goal. If you have the will and motivation, there is no reason you can't do the same.
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3 years ago

I really enjoyed this. Great points and laysnout all the issues. The gumyms should have been opened earlier. Maybe because people just think sweaty bodies and such. I do not belong to a gym but I do belong to a yoga studio. They went virtual quite quickly. I feel for all the small business owners. Hopefully things will get better.

Ryan Faucher
3 years ago
Reply to  Nicole

Thanks for your feedback! I really sympathize with small business and how difficult this must be. Looks like here in PA a judged ruled the closures unconstitutional, should mean businesses can open up again.