It’s a mild April afternoon, thick white clouds in the sky, strong sun rays cooled by an evening breeze. One of the many inconsequentially beautiful days of Spring 2020 with much of the United States under stay-at-home orders due to COVID-19.
Jerry Chambers has just completed a home workout, though you can’t tell from his voice, which neither rises above a steady baritone hum, nor is flattened by any post work out windedness.
This might be because the coronavirus lockdown gave him something of a respite from his normal daily grind. Not a respite from work—his day job at a pharmaceutical company was considered essential, so he gratefully trudged to work every morning despite the dangers. But his daily grind had certainly slowed.
He's Working It Out
A journey of fitness, family and faith
A normal (pre-coronavirus) day for Jerry starts at 4:30 a.m. while his wife and two sons are still in deep sleep. Jerry devotes these waking moments of solitude to worship and prayer. And then he’s at the local YMCA by 5:00 am. That’s when the work starts. “From 5:00 to 6:15 is when I get my grind in at the gym,” he says.
Short segments of these 5 am workouts litter his Facebook page, under the profile, Jae Chambers Jr.
After the early morning workout, Jerry heads to work, getting there around 7:00 or 7:30. He works in various capacities at the company but he spends most of his day in a sterile lab before clocking out around 2 pm.
Jerry then heads home to spend time with his family—his wife Kamil and their sons Jeremiah, 10, and Cameron, 9. There’s homework to get to. Dinner to fix. And maybe a few moments of relaxation.
But after getting the family settled, Jerry heads back to the gym, this time for work.
Jerry is a certified physical trainer under the International Sports Science Association. The certification allows him to work as a personal trainer and wellness coach at the Y. From 5pm to 9pm two or three times a week, Jerry trains clients, works with new members on fitness goals, and manages activities on the gym floor.
“Working in the gym is a workout itself. I do a lot of walking, a lot of instructing. I may have to spot somebody. I’m there for precautionary reasons but it’s still physical for me.”
After that, its back home to finish the job of parenting. And then to get ready to do it all over again.
A grind, yes, but smooth, regimented, orderly and intentional.
Things weren’t always this way.
Jerry is a hooper, a life-long basketball enthusiast. He was a four-year member of Person High School’s basketball program and the starting point guard for the 2005-06 Rockets. Even as a high-schooler he had a commitment to the weight room.
After graduating, he enrolled at Methodist University to play basketball and study athletic training.
“I got hurt my freshman year,” he says.
The injury ignited his interest in physical fitness. “It just made me want to learn about my body so I could get better, get stronger without the use of medicines, without the use of different things that people use to get an advantage like steroids and things like that. I wanted to learn all the essentials to taking care of my body.”
But because of the injury, Jerry left school and returned to Roxboro.
Back home, he began to face the harsh reality of adulthood. “Leaving college and coming back home to Roxboro, trying to start over, it was a rough time for me.”
On top of the difficult adjustment to responsibility during a time when jobs were not plentiful, Jerry also became a father in 2010.
“It came to a point where it was just me and my son. I was a single father.” He says. “And as a single father I was working full-time, third shift.”
At that time Jerry was employed at GKN, a mainstay factory in southern Person county. In 2013 he began working at a pharmaceutical lab, which helped establish a career path for him. But he still found himself in the difficult position of being a single father to a young child while working third shift.
Jerry says that he would pick Jeremiah up from school, get him situated, head to work, then get back home after work, get his son dressed and take him to school.
Despite the struggle, Jerry’s new job did at least afford him the chance to get back into the gym. “After I took my son to school I would go to Bullpen Fitness. I would probably train for two hours.”
Jerry’s training methods of choice: CrossFit and HIIT (High Intensity Interval training), two high-intensity conditioning methods.
Then he would go home, get four or five hours of sleep, pick his son up from school and do it all over again.
“So that was my life for about six years.”
Six years of raising a child while working third shift. Six years of less than five hours of sleep.
But six years of learning more about his body, getting the most out of his workouts, researching recovery methods, learning first-hand the things he would have learned in the classroom under his athletic training major.
“Like in high school, we could just go in the weight room, throw some weight on the bar and lift it,” he says. “We didn’t know about the fact that we get our true power from our legs. Who would know to brace your core to do a push up, or brace our core to do a chest press? We were just trying to lift the weight. So when I started out I was just learning what to do and what not to do.”
He started posting his gains on social media. People noticed.
“During that time I had individuals contacting me about training. I didn’t have any certifications. I could guide them in the right directions but I didn’t have a license or anything. But they would contact me and I would give them pointers.
“At one point I wasn’t even offering to train them. It was more of, ‘Hey I’ll come work with you and you can follow my lead, do what I do.’ But that’s when I noticed my gift, when there were people actually calling and trying to inquire about how they should better themselves and what they should do.”
Upon getting his physical training certification, Jerry, who was still active in Person County’s lively pick-up basketball scene, began to help train local AAU teams with programs designed to increase speed, agility and strength. He also gained a steady adult clientele and began to build his repertoire.
In 2014 Jerry met Kamil Lockley. Well, met officially, that is. They had actually attended Person High School together during the 2005-2006 school year. Jerry was a senior when Kamil was a freshmen. He even recalls seeing her in the hallway on occasion. But their paths crossed years later while Kamil was a student at North Carolina A & T State University.
The two single parents—Cameron is Kamil’s son—began dating in 2015.
After college, Kamil pursued a Master of Strategic Communication from Liberty University. She then moved to Charlottesville, Va. where she works at the University of Virginia. She and Jerry continued dating long distance with Jerry visiting on weekends.
And then, in the summer of 2019, Jerry made the most pivotal decision of his life. He decided that he and Jeremiah would move to Charlottesville to be with Kamil and Cameron.
This meant leaving his hometown, leaving his family, leaving his job, and leaving his clients.
“I literally dropped everything,” he says.
When asked why, his answer is simple. “Her. She influenced me to do so.”
Not by trying to convince him or force his hand. But by showing him the life that the four of them could have together. “We weren’t even engaged but I knew that this was my future,” he says.
It also helped that Jerry sought advice from wise counsel. “I talked to God. And if it wasn’t for that prayer, I wouldn’t be here.”
That prayer itself is the example of Kamil’s influence. Jerry admits that while mastering his physical health, he was neglecting his spiritual health. “I didn’t go to church when I was in Roxboro,” he says. “I had a home church and everything. Didn’t go. Even when I lived closer to the church I didn’t go.”
But on the weekends that Jerry would visit Kamil, they would attend Kamil’s church, Faith Christian Center International where Dr. Wayne Frye is the pastor.
Jerry was drawn in.
“[Dr Frye] was real. I could relate to him. Had more of a connection. He preached from the book. Spoke the Word. But all of it was relatable to the time as it is, as it stands right now. To actually learn the word and follow God’s path, it was enlightening for me. With growth and understanding I’ve changed. I actually get into it and follow the word now. And see what it says versus talking about it—actually being about it.”
After meeting Dr. Frye and developing a relationship, Jerry began to process that if he did take the next step with Kamil, this would be the church that his family would attend—the spiritual soil from which they could grow.
So Jerry made the move. Well, he made a few moves. In August, just after moving to Charlottesville, he and Kamil got engaged.
In September they were married by Dr. Frye in the prayer room of their church. The perfect setting for this union.
“That day that we had our ceremony at the church, it was an intimate setting. Our parents were there. Immediate family. Did it right after church service. He came in, read the vowels and we got married right then and there.”
“It wasn’t a Vegas thing, Lets go get married,” he says. “[Dr. Frye] basically told me before I moved, ‘I know you want to come up here and be with her but you have to create the covenant and honor God through marriage. Commit yourself to him and her.’ It really drew me, like, Man what are you waiting for. No need to be engaged for a year. Might as well get married now. No need to be shacking up.”
Jerry’s spirituality can be seen in many of his inspirational Facebook posts. And the love for his family is obvious when scrolling through his page.
At Jerry’s job at the Y, there’s been discussion about developing strength and conditioning classes. He’s enthused about leading one. But he has even bigger ambitions. He wants to open his own studio to offer classes. And eventually a full gym.
It’s a dream but he’s making preparations.
He’s in the process of getting his yoga certification to add to his range. He’s already developed sports specific programs. And he’s building back his personal training clientele—the new-school way, using every advantage that technology can give him.
Jerry began training virtually on days off from the Y. He started conducting one-on-one sessions with clients via facetime and group sessions through Zoom.
Such innovative thinking put him in the driver’s seat when things shut down due to COVID-19 and the whole world went virtual with everything from conference call work meetings to Zoom weddings.
Without a gym, Jerry took advantage of nature. He set up his phone and worked out with people on the other end, doing planks exercises in the grass, running up hills, and laying out a mat and doing core workouts.
All photos and videos courtesy of Jae Chambers Jr Facebook page.
Jerry is perhaps more comfortable outside than in the gym. “Nature is my playground. There are things you can do outside that you can’t do inside. And its more refreshing to enjoy nature. Getting out and walking or running, doing things that are going to benefit you.”
But again, Jerry is innovative. He can turn any setting into a workout facility—any prop into a machine. From his kitchen floor he encourages viewers of his Facebook page to get the grind in with ab work outs. On his living room
floor he’s recreated a pushup version of Drake’s “Toosie Slide.” From his office he uses water jugs as dumbbells, does incline pushups off of a minifridge and mountain climbers with a basketball.
When asked where his creativity comes from, Jerrys says “the Soul.” By that he means African American culture. Black Ingenuity. Finding ways to maneuver around obscure challenges and attaining enjoyment in the process.
“That’s why I have a lot of music [in my videos]. It’s not just to make it sound good or make it look good. It’s to throw some coordination, throw some rhythm, throw some soul and some passion into fitness. You can have fun with this.”
For Jerry, fitness isn’t about the weights and the machines, the sculpted abs and the flexing. It’s about the very thing that first perked his interest, the ability to take care of his body naturally and for the long haul. “You can’t think you’re going to be young for the rest of your life,” he says. “It’s going to be a point where you feel a sharp pain in your hip. It’s going to be a point where you feel a sharp pain in your knee. Or your foot is aching. You’re going to have to prepare your body now so later on you don’t have to get ready. And be prescribed all these medicines by doctors.
“[My fitness techniques] may look challenging to some, advanced to some. But I always like to break it down for gradual progression and say hey this is what you can do. If you can do a basic squat ten times, look how that can benefit you. Pick up a piece of paper. Correctly bending down with your legs and not your back to pick money up off the ground. Just essentials to how fitness ties into your everyday life.”
But Jerry—whether he ever expected it or not after leaving Methodist in his freshman year—is not just a fitness aficionado. He’s also a family man. And a man of faith. A creative marketer of his talents. And innovative trainer.
He’s a long way from the young man who was struggling to adjust to adulthood. And the best may be yet to come.