Health Performance Institute goes beyond the gym to create a healthier community

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By Emily Elconin
Clinton County Chatter Staff Reporter

DEWITT — Making healthy choices and staying physically active is a constant battle in today’s society. Michigan now has the 17th-highest adult obesity rate in the nation, according The State of Obesity: Better Policies for a Healthier America.

Inside Clinton County, a team of supportive and encouraging trainers at The Human Performance Institute, a personal training studio located in downtown DeWitt are partnering with local restaurants in the community to promote healthy living beyond its fitness center.

It is teaming up with different restaurants to implement healthier options including Relli’s Italian Restaurant and Lansing Brewing Company in DeWitt and even an Austin, Texas-based company called Onnit that focuses on the sale of health and nutrition-related products including supplements, foods, and fitness equipment.

“It’s unique for a training studio to partner with other restaurants,” said institute founder Justin Hartig. “I think the reason it is being so well-received is because of our presence in the community.”

“I think it’s very unusual for gyms and restaurants to create these partnerships, but I think it’s a great idea,” says Marla Kaminsky, a Detroit-area nutrition expert. “I think educating people about what’s healthy on a menu and educating restaurants about portion size and what their putting in their food is super important.”

The Human Performance Institute first opened in 2014. They were originally based at B Strong Fitness located at 12900 U.S. Highway 27. Due to rapid growth of clients reaching almost 300 people, The Human Performance Institute has relocated to a new facility located 113 S. Bridge St. in downtown DeWitt where they currently run their gym.

Relli’s, a local Italian restaurant in DeWitt located at 202 E. Main St. has partnered with The Human Performance Institute to implement healthier options on their menu. 

“Justin is a big advocate for health and is helping spread the word around town.   Our customers are definitely receiving it well,” said pizzeria owner John Coscarelli. “I think everyone should offer more healthy choices.”

Coscarelli explains how the restaurant tries to rotate the healthy options monthly.  Currently, Coscarelli and Hartig are working to put together a lunchbox lunch for members of The Human Performance Institute after their work outs.

“It’s nice to have healthy options associated with local businesses,” Hartig said. “It brings a sense of community and more people are apt to try the new options.”

DeWitt resident and employee Linda Travis who works at Terranova’s Market located at 129 S. Bridge St. right next door to The Human Performance Institute says that it’s a good idea for local restaurants to implement healthier options.

On Feb. 9, The Human Performance Institute held an intense boot camp at the Lansing Brewing Company located at 518 E. Shiawassee St. Following the boot camp, participants enjoyed a luncheon and beer together after their hard workout. The Lansing Brewing Company has partnered with Hilltop Yoga and Playmakers to hold yoga classes and a 5K run on the river trail.

Sales and Marketing Director from the Lansing Brewing Company, Kerry Brown, says that promoting health and awareness is something they want to do to help motivate more people to participant in these events. Growing up in Clinton County herself Brown feels that these new changes should be implemented in other towns surrounding the county.

“In Clinton County, there are some businesses that could participate in more events like this,” said Brown. “It’s important to provide something for people that’s appealing. It’s an opportunity for people get together and encourage and motivate one another.”

Hartig plans to expand integrating more healthy alternatives to other local restaurants in DeWitt including The Family Tree Cafe located at 129 S. Bridge St.

Communities within Clinton County need to evoke action to promote healthier habits for patrons.  It is evident that staying healthy is becoming even harder in today’s society.  With restaurants offering sweets and such located right down the street from The Human Performance Institute it is tempting to choose the unhealthier option.

DeWitt resident graduate Taylor Tagsold has been training with The Human Performance Institute since the beginning of their journey. Tagsold has lost 12 pounds since she first started her new workouts in 2012, which she says are tailored to each individual that comes in. 

Tagsold also mentioned how she was excited about Relli’s new menu changes.  She says there are too many heavy pasta dishes and only a couple salads to choose from. Tagsold states that it is hard to eat healthy when there’s not healthy options.

“They push you to be the best you can be.  They cater more towards you than other gyms I have been to and have the knowledge to help you,” Tagsold said. “It’s a good place for people to go and just let off a little steam.”

According to the Sparrow Clinton Hospital: Community Health and Needs Assessment from February of 2013,  the prevalence of overweight adults in Clinton County indicated by Body Mass Index (BMI) is about 34 percent.

According to The State of Obesity: Better Policies for a Healthier America, Michigan’s adult obesity rate as of 2014 is 30.7 percent, up from 22.1 percent in 2000 and from 13.2 percent in 1990.

Clinton County resident, online fitness coach and trainer at The Human Performance Institute, RonJon Casanova-Smith, explains how health and fitness should be a part of everyone’s life.  Throughout his experience, he says that some people need extra accountability to have someone help guide them through their journey.

“I think there has been a lot of growth as far as people’s knowledge of healthy habits.  But, what we do is we provide a service to guide our clients,” says Casanova.  “We try to instill healthy habits for them and I think that’s what is really drawing people in.  We’re trying to give people of the community healthy options.”

Owner of the Diet Center franchise and nutrition expert in West Bloomfield, Marla Kaminsky, says when you go out to eat, you’re getting three to four times as many calories and salt.  Kaminsky says that restaurants can create delicious food that helps people maintain their weight and open themselves up to a whole new population of people who don’t typically go out to eat or eat specific foods.

The Human Performance Institute is constantly growing. RonJon Casanova and Justin Hartig confirmed The Human Performance Institute’s plans to open a new location down the street at the old DeWitt post office located at 901 S. Bridge St.

“It has has more square footage which will provide an even larger facility,” Casanova said. “We are constantly growing.”

Hartig said in an interview that once they move to their new location in the old post office, the new facility will include an Onnit cafe that provides healthy food for customers.

Hartig said this will be the first Onnit cafe in the state of Michigan.

Hartig hopes to turn the Institute into a franchise and become a national brand. He mentioned in an interview that the Institute has hopes to partner with a national restaurant in the near future.

But, for now, Hartig plans to continue to help make a difference in the DeWitt community.

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