Jerry Etienne makes the most of his three gym memberships. The 23-year-old from Tewksbury exercises every day at either Tewksbury Sports Club, Tewksbury’s Boost Fitness or Lowell’s Choice Fitness.
Etienne does cardio four times a week and works his abs and calves twice a week. He has also designated specific days to work his arms, back, chest, hamstrings, glutes, shoulders and quads. For Etienne, there is no such thing as a rest day.
“For my day-to-day to go on, I have to go to the gym,” Etienne said. “I have to go to work, I have to cook my meals and I have to go to the gym, no matter what. It’s not an option.”
He eats about 3,000 calories daily, usually of baked chicken, ground turkey, potatoes, egg whites, oatmeal, vegetables and more.
He is training for the National Physique Committee New England Men’s Physique competition in November 2017. At the event, usually held in Boston, he will be judged on his body’s symmetry, proportions, definition and muscle tone. At 5 feet 5 inches tall, Etienne weighs 190 pounds. By the competition, he wants to have “minimal body fat and be shredded at the weight of 160 to 165.”
He hopes to do well enough to become an International Federation of Body Builders pro, which would qualify him to compete in national competitions.
In all his time at the gym, Etienne has noticed a trend of people striving for healthier lifestyles.
“It definitely has grown in this town,” Etienne said. “Not bodybuilding, per se, but I do think that fitness has taken a huge increase in the town and in the area as a whole.”
More people in town are moving toward a healthier lifestyle, which often includes bodybuilding. Tewksbury Sports Club General Manager Arthur LaRocque said he has seen more people lean toward physique competitions, rather than old-school bodybuilding.
“The largest section of the population we’ve seen grow over the past couple of years is mid-20s to mid-30s,” LaRocque said.
The fitness center, which has nearly 6,000 active members, used to be a Planet Fitness, but removed itself from the franchise about two years ago. Since rebranding as Tewksbury Sports Club, LaRocque said membership has grown exponentially.
“The larger portion of our population is just focused on health and wellness,” LaRocque said, adding that there has also been an uptick in the number of family memberships.
Most members are Tewksbury residents and some are from North Wilmington and East Billerica. Lowell and Chelmsford residents make up a small portion of memberships.
Boost Fitness has seven locations in Massachusetts, including Westford, Worcester and Hudson. Just last year, Boost opened a location in Tewksbury.
“We’ve seen an increase in membership as a fitness center,” said Mark Federico, Boost Fitness regional manager. Among its seven locations, Boost serves about 35,000 people. In Tewksbury, the center has about 3,800 memberships, most of which come from referrals.
Tewksbury native Michelle Gavin said tearing her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) at 17 propelled her into a bodybuilding lifestyle after doing strength training as part of her physical therapy. Now 23, she is training for her second competition.
“I didn’t think when I was 18 I would ever compete,” Gavin said.
“But I’ve been really serious with lifting since I was 19.”Two years ago, Gavin competed in the International Natural Bodybuilding & Fitness Monster Mash, a bodybuilding competition, in Worcester. Come October, she will be ready to compete in the women’s physique competition.
“I just really want to bring in a better package than I did two years ago,” Gavin said. “I would eventually like to go pro and kind of be famous in the bodybuilding industry.”
In preparing for her first competition, Gavin said “I pushed my body to the extreme” and lost interest in going to the gym. But now, she has a number of motivators to keep her training at Boost Fitness in Lowell six days a week.
“I realized looking at old pictures of myself kind of remotivated me to get myself back in gear,” Gavin said. “My family helped me out, even though they don’t go to the gym.”
David Rollka, 23, of Tewksbury, works as a personal trainer for Gravity Fitness Clubs in Dracut. Like Etienne, whom he has been close friends with for years, he is training for a physique competition. In September, he hopes to snag first place at the Battle of the Naturals competition in Lexington. His goal is to step on the stage any at 5 to 6 percent body fat.
For the past month he has been following a strict diet, eating six meals a day and hitting the gym daily, as usual.
“I always wanted a better lifestyle,” Rollka said. “If I’m not at the gym, I’m not happy.”
His twin brother, Joseph, who also works as a Gravity personal trainer, is training to compete in the NPC New England Men’s Physique competition this October.
As a personal trainer, Rollka said he also sees more people making fitness a priority.
“Anybody, once they start to see results, they start committing to it,” Rollka said. “A lot of my clients never dieted before, and now they are starting to.”
Gavin noticed the same trend.
“There are a lot of people that are looking to get healthier and in shape,” she said. “It is getting popular, I feel. Not just competing, but just getting healthier, getting in shape and wanting to be the best version of yourself.”
Growing up obese, Etienne began looking up to football players and bodybuilders, like Simeon Panda, when he was in middle school. However, he’s learned to be in competition with himself and he urges others to do the same. Leading up to high school, he began to take his fitness seriously.
“I feel like fitness should 100 percent have a role in everybody’s life in one way, shape or form,” Etienne said. “Do what you can do to your 100 percent and you will find the satisfaction that you need.”