Dear Editor,

Last week my hopes were raised and then dashed once again by the idea that the gym I’ve gone to for almost ten years, Planet Fitness, was going to be able to re-open (with modified protocol to respect Covid guidelines in place). I woke up at 3:30 a.m., bag packed, and was heading out the door when I checked my phone and realized I missed a text from a dear friend of mine, who is employed by them, telling me that the city of Paso Robles had threatened to fine the gym and they would not be able to open. I was devastated. I had a very intense and unexpected emotional response to this news. I spent that morning thinking about why the gym being open is so important.

I am a single mom who has two teenagers. I work two “essential” jobs providing services to my community. I work in a large grocery store, and I also work treating substance use. I have worked almost 70 hours a week during the pandemic. I survived the virus that I’m certain I contracted while being of service despite the safety measures being taken. I am grateful for the opportunity I have to work and provide for my children as well as serve the people around me. Being a mother who is supporting children through this unsettling social climate as well as serving as their teacher is mentally and emotionally draining. They are lonely and depressed at times and miss their routines and friends. The village that once supported our children has been locked away from them, and it is difficult for parents to help them find balance. Treating substance use requires me to be mentally and emotionally fortified for my clients as well. It is no secret that relapses and overdoses are on the rise. Depression and anxiety are sweeping through our communities and perpetuating substance use. The work I do with this population is potentially life-saving. I am honored to be able to provide such a vital service that benefits everyone who lives in our community.

I am not complaining about the load I carry. I am angry because the community I have served diligently over the past year is taking away my ability to take care of myself so I can continue to take care of them. I have spent hundreds of dollars to buy the minimal gym equipment I have. I have done my best to maintain my routines through the lockdowns exercising patience, knowing it will be over soon. I have a chronic medical condition that requires maintenance, which includes regular physical activity. It has become harder to manage over the past year resulting in physical symptoms I have not dealt with for years. My emotional and mental well-being have also suffered. There have been countless studies to speak to the fact that regular physical activity improves mental and emotional health as well as physical health. I feel the difference in my daily life in these areas also.

So many of the people I would see very early in the morning at the gym were people who served their neighbors in essential positions. We are being asked to continue to provide essential services like health care, law enforcement, and retail but are being told we can not take care of ourselves. We will not be any good to our community if we can’t be good to ourselves. Paso is failing the people who are keeping it running. A gym is an essential service. It is a medical and emotional necessity for so many. I admire Kennedy Club Fitness for staying open and providing this essential service. If they would open their doors at 4 a.m. I would join and never look back, but my schedule leaves little time for self-care, and Paso Robles is continuing to keep the doors locked.

Katie Green, Paso Robles