Naperville gym owner to Pritzker: Small gyms are essential and should reopen
A Naperville gym owner is making the case to Gov. J.B. Pritzker that his business and others like it should be considered essential and allowed to reopen.
Sean Hastings, owner of Revolution Fitness, sent Pritzker a letter Thursday outlining the reasons small fitness businesses are essential in the realm of preventive physical and mental health.
Hastings said his gym provides small-group coaching in Crossfit, Spartan SGX and functional techniques, which work to prevent illness and injury by helping clients move better and reduce pain. Coaches and members share nutrition advice and build a social connection that increases motivation and strengthens mental well-being, he said.
"The services we provide combat metabolic syndrome which leads to the kinds of comorbidities -- diabetes and hypertension -- more commonly found in hospitalized COVID-19 patients," Hastings said in his letter.
Hastings also started a petition on change.org called Gyms are Essential -- Illinois. The petition has 637 signatures asking for boutique gyms to reopen.
"As far as the small boutique gym community is concerned, we offer preventive health," Hastings said in a phone interview. He said exercise is essential and gyms are an essential means to achieve it -- especially because many people don't exercise alone.
"A lot of people don't know how to come up with a plan. A lot of people don't have the motivation to stick with it," he said.
Online fitness classes provide some guidance and motivation and Hastings said he offers three free classes a day on Zoom. But many people might not undertake the high-intensity movements of Crossfit, which Hastings said "is all about keeping your body guessing."
"We build not only cardio endurance, but we also build muscle and joint health, and at the bottom of that pyramid is nutrition," he said. "It's hard to get all that stuff online."
Hastings' gym had about 120 members paying between $80 and $160 a month for memberships before the stay-at-home orders began.
He said he's asked his members to stick with him -- and keep paying regular dues -- and he has loaned much of the gym's equipment to those who have, who number about 100. Still, he worries about the future of his business.
Hastings said he also has reached out to other elected officials and found a receptive ear from Naperville Mayor Steve Chirico and state Rep. Grant Wehrli.
Chirico and Wehrli both are asking for DuPage County's reopening to be approached differently than Cook County's or Chicago's based on COVID-19 case counts and hospital capacity.