By Andrea Camarena
It wasn’t long ago that Johnny Gonzalez thought he was going to die in a hospital bed from a form of Colitis, an intestinal disease that caused huge blood clots to form in Johnny’s legs.
Before falling ill to the disease, Johnny and his brother, Anthony, one year his junior, were starting the process of opening a fitness-centered business specializing in nutrition and supplements.
But when Johnny was diagnosed with Colitis in December of last year, his dream was sidetracked as he battled his illness and his own mental barriers.
Less than a year later, Johnny has turned his life around, is back in the gym and last month opened the doors to Elite Fitness, his entrepreneurial dream turned reality.
Johnny and Anthony, who were both star athletes for Lindsay High School on the football field and on the basketball court, continued their athletic focus after graduating. They both played a couple of seasons for local Athletic Basketball Association teams Central Valley Dawgs and Mid-Valley Titans but really fell in love with physical training when they joined the McDermont fitness center and began working out in the weight room every day.
By November 2011, Anthony was working as a certified personal trainer at the McDermont Fitness center and Johnny, who had bulked up to 200 pounds, was ready to turn his hobby into his profession as well. That’s when he began working to turn a storage closet in the corner of the fitness center into a juice bar and supplemental retail space.
“I started getting really into fitness and McDermont gets so much clientele, I thought I can really educate people on fitness,” Johnny said.
Johnny went to Police Chief and Lindsay City Manager Rich Wilkinson to ask about renting space in the gym for a store that would educate, assist and improve residents’ overall physical fitness.
“McDermont really understands my goals with Elite Fitness,” Johnny said. “And Chief Wilkinson, he’s the one I went to first to get the spot. He understands what this is about. He comes to the gym every day and he knows our point of view. He inspired me.”
So, in November, the Gonzalez brothers received the green light to begin their $10,000 renovation on the first floor room in the north west corner of the fitness center.
But it was just a few weeks after the start of the endeavor that Johnny landed in the hospital and received his diagnosis. When the project came to a halt, the center and Chief Wilkinson waited patiently.
“Chief Wilkinson was very patient and understanding with Johnny’s situation. We appreciate everything,” Anthony said.
In February, Johnny landed in the hospital again with large blood clots in his legs. This time the situation was worse, and the Gonzalez family was not sure what was in store for Johnny. It was a huge physical and mental struggle for the fitness fanatic.
“I couldn’t walk for two months, I lost 45 pounds. I couldn’t work, I couldn’t do anything for several months,” Johnny said. “I thought everything was over. I didn’t even think I wanted to live. But then I thought, if I can overcome this obstacle…I think it changed me as a person.”
As soon as he was able, Johnny went back to the gym, but not to get his body in shape, to get his business bulked up.
“Johnny did like a 180,” Anthony said. “He’s a completely different person.”
Last week, owner Johnny and manager/lead trainer Anthony, opened the doors to Elite Fitness and immediately saw business from McDermont clientele.
The shop offers single servings of pre workout supplements and post workout protein juices as well as retail supplements, protein bars, and inspirational T-shirts. They also offer their knowledge in nutrition for those looking for peak physical fitness and have big plans of hosting clinics and athletic events in the gym.
“This is for everyone, this is for the community,” Anthony said. “People come in and don’t know how to eat or when to eat. Working out is just working out. But diet is what changes you. We’re trying to make everyone comfortable with coming to the gym and knowing they’re bettering themselves.”
Elite Fitness offers essentials like protein, creatine and fiber; all things that enhance digestion, muscle growth and fat loss.
“We want people to know what they’re doing,” Johnny said. “It doesn’t benefit them to not eat after working out. It is a waste of a workout. Thirty percent of your workout could go down the drain. You have to also have proper nutrient intake before you work out.”
Protein drinks start at $3 a servings and add-ins such as BCA or amino acids can be purchased for an additional price. Preworkout supplements cost around $2 each. Customers can also purchase the supplements to take home and make their own juices or shakes.
Another fun element of the store includes T-shirt sales ranging in price from $10-$20. The brothers hope to rotate their T-shirt selection with a new inspirational slogan every few weeks. They started with shirts that read “Me Against Myself.”
“People are inspired by different things,” Johnny said. “Sometimes, your biggest obstacle is yourself.”
He knows this from personal experience.
Elite Fitness is open every day from 6 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 3-8 p.m. Additionally, they offer free consultations for physical training and have plans to eventually offer camps and multi-sport competitions inside McDermont.
“We want people to come to the gym, feel comfortable and be educated,” Johnny said. “Everyone can be fit. And when clients get the results they’re looking for, well, that’s better than money.”