Gym owner: ‘We’re putting ourselves at risk’

Jen and Marcus Wilson are opening True Grit Society
Jen and Marcus Wilson

The Southwest Journal is documenting the coronavirus pandemic by recording the personal stories of Minneapolis residents and workers whose daily lives are in a state of flux. As the outbreak evolves, we will be checking in with the participants regularly. Read all of the stories here.

All interviews are conducted over the phone, and conversations are edited for length and clarity.

Jen Wilson, co-owner, True Grit Society gym

It seems that since the protests, discrimination and any form of maltreatment is something that has to be pointed out. I think it’s great; people need to have a voice and maybe people are just more comfortable with speaking out.

I feel like people are getting called out on it. Some people are saying they want to work out but didn’t think their gyms spoke out enough after George Floyd was killed. We have had some people come to us and say they want to try a new gym because their old gym didn’t take a stance. Now, you have to take a stance, and if you don’t, you can be called out for it. 

It’s a little scary, but I don’t mind it. I can see how if I were a white woman running a gym with my white husband, being questioned if I am inclusive enough could be very scary. 

I think that as a minority or person of color, it matters to you more, but that’s not a fair statement because it matters to our white members also. But it’s mostly been people of color coming to us and saying they would like to feel more inclusive and seeking community. But numbers wise, it’s been status quo for us. 

We did have a bit of a scare. An instructor got sick and told us he was feeling sick. He hadn’t taught for about five days. His symptoms weren’t COVID-related, but he got tested and was negative. But at the end of the day, we’re putting ourselves at risk. It’s such a catch-22 because we have this business that we need to run and try to make work. It’s such a struggle because it’s not really working, but we’re trying and we’re at risk. But on the other hand, we aren’t sending our daughter to school because of risk. 

I was thinking about my job based in Arizona, where they’ve had a bunch of COVID cases and people are worried about going into work. I told Marcus that I wasn’t sure if I’d still be working there if I had to go in, and he said, “You do the same thing everytime you teach a class,” and I was like, “Oh, dang.” 

You prioritize it differently based on how you’re thinking about it. They’re saying people need to mask up when they go out, but people are coming in here and not wearing masks while they work out. 

We know the people who are coming in, so there’s that. It’s almost like a dating thing where you really have to trust that the person you’re talking to is being honest with you and not exposing themselves. We’ve made classes even smaller and tried to do more outside, but at the end of the day, it’s all risk. I feel like at the beginning it was like, “Oh, that guy got COVID; he must have been doing something crazy,” and now it’s not really a taboo anymore. Everybody’s getting it, and it’s just a matter of when. It’s a bit of a scarlet letter, but it will happen to a lot of people. 

Doing a lot of things that people want to do, like working out, is about saying, “I am putting myself at risk,” and accepting that and making sure the people that care about you and are around you are comfortable with that, too. 

Honestly I started therapy last week, because there’s so much going on in my head on a daily basis about the business. I’m feeling a little bit backed up all the time with all the what ifs. And the therapist was like, “That’s totally normal.”

Our decision was we’re not going to send Sachi to school. She’s young enough where she needs that closeness, and we just don’t think it would be a healthy environment in general. I think her age is at risk for really filling up classrooms. It’s not like a fourth grader who can manage themselves. 

There are a lot of people out there who have been managing toddlers and babies and you can’t get much work done. Our concern is that a lot of parents are going to be enrolling because they feel pressure at work and need to drop their kids off. She would be starting kindergarten. We’re lucky because she could start this year or next and it wouldn’t matter. She could start at six and be totally fine. 

We’re lucky in that we could get a tutor if we could find one. We have some teacher members who have given us advice on what to do. We’ll probably enroll in a school to get the curriculum activities and then not attend or do distance learning.


 You can read all of the stories here.