Courtesy of New Horizon Athletics
Dannette Wheeler felt uncomfortable in her skin for years. "I was embarrassed by how much weight I had gained," says the 48-year-old nurse, who is 5 to 7 years old and weighed just over 250 pounds at one point. Wheeler, once a social person, started to stay away from friends she feared could be judged.
Wheeler lives in Fentress County, Tennessee, an area that, like many rural communities, has struggled to find economic stability as manufacturing contracts have been moved overseas. When a CrossFit box called New Horizon Athletics opened there last summer, she joined her. Looking back at March 25, 2020, and Wheeler felt much better. By eating properly and doing modified versions of CrossFits classic high-intensity training, she had lost 52 pounds.
When the coronavirus spread across the country that day, forcing companies and restaurants to close, she noticed a semi-trailer parked on the street from the doctor's office where she worked.
The truckers declared their plight. They had £ 44,000 of salad for restaurants across Middle Tennessee, but none of these places were open for fresh groceries. The truckers needed somewhere to unload it.
Almost a quarter of the 18,000 people in Fentress County live below the poverty line and public schools offer free lunches to all children in the district. Wheeler knew that these schools were closed and many of their friends and neighbors had been fired. Families that were previously on the verge of food insecurity could easily go hungry.
So she opened her cell phone and asked a friend to make a short video. It took a couple of takes because she was so nervous. In the end product, however, it stands confidently in the back of the trailer, huge salad boxes around it. Your message is clear and simple: get what you can use. Bring a bag and tell a friend. "Stay healthy in Fentress County," she says at the end of the message.
Wheeler published this video on a Facebook group page of the same name – Stay Healthy Fentress County – that only went online two days earlier. The effort was started by their CrossFit trainers Adam and Amanda Wood, who wanted to create a hub for the community to share more health information, support each other and stay connected as the demand for self-isolation spread. Nobody knew if the idea would work. This was a completely different kind of wellness exercise.
When the Covid 19 outbreak hit the country in early March, independent gyms faced two grim realities: First, some members might quit membership if they could not use their facilities. Second, even those who wanted to support small businesses could bail if they lost their jobs. Recessions are generally not good for the fitness industry. During the great recession, Bally and Crunch both declared bankruptcy – and those were the big ones.
But at New Horizon Athletics in Fentress County, Adam and Amanda Wood didn't panic. Adam grew up in the area and had recently returned because he felt God was calling him to improve health in the county town of Jamestown. In 2019 the CityLab des Atlantiks reported that rural America had 21 percent of the country's population, but only 12 percent of all gyms. Part of this is that rural locations are often poor, which scares the available income for membership. CityLab's analysis also found that the average household income in neighborhoods with gyms and gyms is nearly $ 73,000, more than double the average in Fentress County.
Courtesy of New Horizon Athletics
The Woods always saw a way to help some people in their gym. Now they wanted to create a free model that can help everyone. They both felt that maybe God was revealing His plan for them for the second time in their lives.
The woods are in their mid-30s. They met half a decade ago when they worked in the service industry in Gainesville, Florida. Amanda was from Florida and Adam from a transplant. After stopping in the mountain town of Brevard, North Carolina, and considering various career paths, they decided on the less than reliable option of opening a gym in a place that seemed to be most needed. "I felt like God was calling me home," says Adam.
Classes filled over the course of their first year, although membership costs more than $ 100 a month. Members like Wheeler joined before the gym even opened. She registered as a "founding member" in June 2019 about a month before the start of the class.
Courtesy of New Horizon Athletics. "We know that this is a privileged service," says Amanda. "But our heart was from the start to make a difference in this community." When the novel corona virus spread, the Woods decided to voluntarily close their gym. They kept thinking about how they could make major changes.
On March 21, 2020 – just a few days before the salad truck arrived unexpectedly – the Woods informed members that the New Horizon Athletics would be closed indefinitely. But they also announced two new Facebook pages. The first was a member-only site where regular guests in the gym could publish PRs and demonstrate Adam and Amanda movements in their virtual programming. The other, however, was Stay Healthy Fentress County, a site dedicated to making contact with all members of the community who are not CrossFit members. The Woods asked their members to share the open-to-all site with anyone they thought would be interested in using their lockdown time to get fit.
Courtesy of New Horizon Athletics
Indeed, the community's greater health was one of the reasons why the Woods decided to close their gym more than a week before the contract was closed by Tennessee Governor Bill Lee close Nonessential companies, especially given that people who may transmit the virus can asymptomatically transmit it to other vulnerable people. In Fentress County, 27 percent of the adult population is obese and 17 percent have diabetes. A quarter of all adults smoke. Diabetes, high blood pressure and smoking are identified as comorbidities that increase the risk of complications from Covid-19.
Stay Healthy Fentress County was developed to address these underlying issues. The main components are sharing recipes (such as the couple's "egg roll in a bowl", a mix of ground turkey and boiled cabbage) and hands-on, device-free workouts for students outside of the gym. One day, they lead the county residents through a series of wall seats and running intervals, and the next day, they encourage people to try hand-released pushups and sit-ups. Your short videos always have a number of modifications, so one thing is clear: you don't have to be super fit to do this, you just have to be willing to try.
The Woods assumed that their own members would share and contribute, and word of mouth could cause more people to join or share the content on the page. If you've ever heard your friend talk about his triathlon – or even a couch-to-5K – and thought if he can do it,  then you felt that effect first – Hand.
For this purpose, Wheeler's first inclination when she discovered the salad truck was to call Adam and Amanda and have them posted something. Instead, the duo had a better idea. "I told her to make a video and publish it in the group," says Adam.
Wheeler's first reaction was by no means. The idea of standing there was a non-starter. But then she realized that this was the old Dannette who spoke; the version of herself that hid her body. She thought about how New Horizon Athletics members band together at the end of each WOD and promise to be "the light we want to see in our communities."
"I filmed it three times," she says of the video. But within a few hours the post had 50 shares. The lettuce was also gone within a few hours, but the location has continued to grow. There are now 450 members, about a quarter of Jamestown's population.
On May 4, Wood & # 39; s New Horizon Athletics reopened, but with strict rules for social distance. They do not accept new members because the class size has to be reduced in order to create more distance between the participants. In a way, this is increasing the demand for their free services more than ever and they plan to continue to publish short training videos and recipes every day.
Occasionally they interfere with memories of mental health – that it's okay to eat or skip exercise occasionally, especially at times like this. Community members also sign up quickly. Recent posts show Strava files of neighborhood walks and videos of children doing jumping jacks with their grandparents.
What’s special about the website is that it’s normal people trying to get a little better – not Instagram stars who look suspicious like they’ve never seen a plate of cookies and sauce. The names that "like" this little effort are friends. This is particularly useful at a time when some of us still cannot see those we love in person. The best thing is that it is operated by two certified CrossFit trainers, so there is no questionable diet or fitness misinformation.
Wheeler is happy to have played a small role in this community effort. In fact, an old friend intervened in her post with simple but powerful words: "You look great." Wheeler watched the video again and was glad she did. Supporting others felt great too.