TAUNTON — Fitness training can help lead to a long, healthy life.
That has been Sheepdog Athletics and Fitness owner Dan Miller’s motto since opening his doors in 2016.
When Gov. Charlie Baker announced the phased re-opening of Massachusetts in May, gyms were pushed back to Phase 3.
That did not sit well with Miller, whose gym is located in downtown Taunton.
“It is just crazy to me because this whole COVID-19 has huge health issues,” Miller said. “That’s exactly what we deal with — health and wellness. We make people healthier and less at risk for something.”
Miller, 31 and his wife, Tonya, 29, co-owner of Sheepdog Athletics and Fitness, have reached out to several city councilors and state representatives about discussing a plan about his gym.
Miller said his gym classes during the week have fewer than 10 members so that each member is able to get a high level of coaching. He said keeping his gym clean and sanitized isn’t a problem because he and his wife along with the members always made cleaning a priority after workouts.
Miller also said no clarification was put out on why smaller fitness facilities weren’t in phase 2. Instead, they were grouped with large fitness facilities with thousands of members.
“I guess my biggest thing is we originally wrote and basically what we got back is we’ll pass it along,” Miller said. “We did [hear] from three councilors. I’m sure they did the best that they could. But really it comes from the governor’s office. I don’t see them talk about gyms like they talk about these other things such as hair salons, nail salons and restaurants.”
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Miller said he started Sheepdog Athletics because he wanted to bring a fitness community to Taunton that was welcoming to all levels of athletes and embodied their core values.
“We strive for our members to ‘be the sheepdog’ in their communities, striving to be welcoming, supportive and impactful in their own ways,” he said.
Miller’s gym is located on 14 Merchants Lane behind the police station and City Hall.
“One of the reasons we are so passionate about this training, is that it is created for everyone,” Miller said. “Whether you are new to fitness or have tested all the programs, you’re guaranteed to have fun and see results with what we do here. We are passionate about teaching people to move safely to reach their goals.”
Miller’s gym doesn’t focus solely on aesthetics, but other issues such as high blood pressure, issues with weight, mental health, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
“We put a great deal of focus on wellness,” he said. “We’re tackling chronic health issues, and we’ve seen the effects three months of quarantine have had, especially on those unable to participate in our virtual classes for varying reasons. Some have essentially started to reverse.”
Miller, who is a U.S. Air Force veteran and currently serves in the R.I. Air National Guard has two children, ages 3 and 7. He said his children are generally with them during classes and develop great habits into making fitness fun.
“It’s great to see them active and that they see working out as something fun that makes you feel good, rather than dreading it,” Miller said.
One of the concerns for Miller and his wife is not just the health of their members but their mental health as well. They said they are passionate when it comes to their clients’ well being and state of mind.
“Aside from owning the gym, as a mother of two young kids, the abrupt transition from routine to isolated chaos was very difficult,” Tonya Miller said. “I sympathize with our members who use the gym as much for their mental health as for their physical health. For many, the gym is a healthy coping mechanism. There are going to be long-term repercussions from this time that go far beyond economic issues and the longer gyms remain closed the worse I feel those will be.”
When Baker first rolled out his four-phase reopening plan, he said each phase would last a minimum of three weeks. However on Friday, he said Phase 3 will stretch beyond June 29 because he wants at least two weeks of coronavirus data before opening gyms.
Baker said Phase 3 will not start anytime before Monday, July 6.
Miller said he will be able to do personal training indoors starting Monday. He will be offering two free beginners classes to any new members from June 22 to July 5. Miller will also be continuing his outdoor group classes twice a day until July 6.
Miller’s goal is to try to change his client’s mindset about not being ashamed about going to the gym four times a week. But what he really wants is people on the state advisory board making recommendations to the governor and reaching out on these subject matters concerning gyms.
“[Their] whole concern is health and wellness but [they] don’t address that at all to the people that actually matter for health and wellness, like gyms,” Miller said. “I guess COVID has brought new ways to address health issues like forcing us to online training. This is not ideal and not our goal at the end.”