Natalie's Everyday Heroes: Gym owner Thanh Nguyen keeps clients moving through pandemic

NOW: Natalie’s Everyday Heroes: Gym owner Thanh Nguyen keeps clients moving through pandemic

MEQUON, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Doctors and health experts are stressing the positive benefits of exercise during the COVID-19 pandemic. It inspired a gym owner in Mequon to create an online challenge to keep his clients moving.

“You still have to do something,” said Thanh Nguyen, of D1 Training.

When the Safer at Home order went into place, he came up with a 28-day challenge for $28. Clients were encouraged to take a class online every day.

“We're going to coach you, be on your butt every day,” he said. “Going make sure you're going to do this.”

He said it does help clients stay motivated to have a coach helping you through your workouts, but that was a lot harder to do with gyms closed. So, they put the challenge on Zoom. Coaches can see the clients and clients can see the coaches. It’s like group fitness classes, but with social distancing.

“We have the spectrum of people now and it's fun,” he said. “It's great!”

It’s also helping D1 Training. The facility looks brand new, and that’s because it is. It only opened three weeks before it had to close.

Owning a gym was a natural fit for Nguyen, because he’s an athlete himself.

“I play volleyball and soccer, and my wife's a runner,” he said,

Like a lot of people, he was finding himself in need of structure and motivation while staying home.

“Stay healthy, stay fit, and the latest one is, stay sane,” he said, of all the hours at home. “You’ve got to stay sane, you know?”

For him, staying sane meant helping others, too. The challenge allows his coaches to remain employed teaching classes.

“You're working out, the coaches are pushing, saying guys, you're halfway there, you got two more minutes. One minute, OK, round's done. Grab some water,” he explained about the virtual workouts.

But there’s more to the 28-day challenge. The proceeds, after paying coaches, are going to the Family Sharing Food Pantry, and also to Gigi’s Playhouse in Fox Point.

“Our mission is to change the way the world sees Down syndrome,” said Sue Pelikan, board president for the Milwaukee chapter of Gigi’s Playhouse.

Pelikan said it’s a good fit for her organization.

“D1 contacted us and said, hey, we're a new fitness center and we said, hey, glad to meet you,” she explained. “We love our community partners, Would you like to partner together and roll out Gigi Fit Teen?”

It’s a program they hope to launch this summer for teens.

“It addresses their balance issues, their low muscle tone issues, their joint instability and really creates a program they can follow,” Pelikan said.

Nguyen said it’s important for everyone to create a program they can stick with, and he hopes to see his clients back on the turf at D1 in the future.

“The people with the 28-day challenge, they're already talking about, they're so looking forward to getting back in the gym,” he said.

For more information on D1 Training, just visit

And you can find more information on Gigi’s Playhouse at

If you’d like to nominate someone for Natalie’s Everyday Heroes, just send Natalie a message at [email protected].

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