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Westfield dad leaves decades-long career in sales to buy gym

While many people focus on fitness goals in the new year, P.J. Pettijohn took things a step further and bought a gym.

WESTFIELD, Ind. — At the beginning of each new year, many Hoosiers make a commitment to go to the gym to change their lives. Westfield resident P.J. Pettijohn took things a step further and bought a gym — a decision that has definitely changed his life.

"As soon as it went up for sale, I looked at myself in the mirror, and said, 'I like what I do, but I don't love what I do,'" P.J. said. 

So, P.J. purchased Snap Fitness in Westfield, entering the world of running a gym after a decades-long career in sales. 

"My past job, I liked it," P.J. said. "I was very blessed to be able to support my family, but I didn't love it. I didn't wake up going, 'I cannot wait to make a sale!'"

But that's all changed now.

"Right now, I cannot wait to get here and talk to like-minded people to help them get fit, help them get healthy, help them maintain that lifestyle," P.J. said.

P.J.'s wife, Esmeralda, said the purchase of the gym reinvigorated her already high-energy husband.

"Now, he's ready to go every morning with excitement," Esmeralda said. "Oh, yeah. He loves it."

P.J. has all the built-in characteristics of a gym owner: He's outgoing, he's in great shape and he’s a motivation machine.

"My wife said to me, I should have done this a long time ago," P.J. said. "And I'm very blessed to have a wife who is supportive of this."

"It was scary, but then I said, 'Let's go for it!'" Esmeralda said. "He's always here anyway."

"I’ve grown up in the gym,” P.J. said. "I spent every single day of my life in a gym for at least a half-hour to an hour. So, instead of just going to it, why don't I own it?"

Many Hoosiers have realized during the pandemic that life is too short to be in a career that you don’t truly love. For P.J., being a "pandemic pivoter" also allows him to make sure he’s in great health at a time when everybody needs to monitor their bodies.

"So many people in America don't absolutely love what they do," P.J. said. "This is my passion."

P.J. and Esmeralda have three kids, with two in college and one in high school, so how much of the family is going to help run this gym? 

"All of them!" P.J. said, while Esmerelda rolled her eyes. "My daughter's already asking me, 'When can I start working for you?'"

"I'm leaving that to him," Esmeralda said. "I hold down the fort at home, and I'm letting him hold it down here [at the gym]."

The gym members we spoke with are pleased with the new ownership. 

"PJ's doing a super job," said gym member Debbie Stewart. "This gym is the 'Cheers' of all gyms. When you walk in here, everybody knows your name."

"This is going to be a 'family gym,'" P.J. said. "A 'family-family gym,' run by a family, helping the family community in Westfield."

A visit to the gym wouldn’t be complete without P.J. giving us three tips for better health in 2022.

  1. "Take 30 minutes to an hour out of your day to take care of yourself. So many people in America don't take time for themselves. They sound too busy."
  2. "Eat healthy! Everybody knows what's good for you and what's not good for you. The bad thing is, most people eat more of what's not good for you than what's good for you."
  3. "Stay consistent and make [fitness] a lifestyle. So many people are so [excited] at first. They go for two months and they're gonna lose 40 pounds, and then, they stop, and three months later, they come back and then do the same thing."

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