Mr. Fitness

Southsider Jesse Dale encourages healthful joy
By Rebecca Berfanger  | Photography by April Knox

Personal trainer, gym owner and southsider Jesse Dale celebrates his clients’ small successes on their paths to getting healthier as much as he celebrates the major ones.
Although the Anytime Fitness Indy South gym owner has coached bodybuilders for competitions — and won his fair share of awards for his own physique at various events over the years — he gets as much or more joy from helping the average person meet his goals, whether it’s losing weight, getting stronger or going outside his comfort zone.

“I remember more [about] the people who I’ve helped than the shows I win,” he says.

Fully immersed in fitness, Dale serves as a state-level judge, official and promoter for the National Physique Committee. It is the state’s only drug-free bodybuilding competition and the organization behind National Physique Committee Natural Indiana. You’ll find competition taking place April 20 at Beech Grove High School; categories include bodybuilding, physique, classic physique, figure, bikini, master’s championship and Indy’s best transformation.

The event is open to all, and Dale likes to encourage his gym members to consider the event as a motivator on their fitness journeys. “Sports are fun, challenging and competitive, which can all be positive for people. This can make us mentally and physically stronger and even create some short-term happiness from overcoming the challenge.”

One of his trainees, Rex Eaton, won the Mr. Indianapolis Men’s Physique at the 2018 NPC Natural Indianapolis Championships in November. He has been competing for about four years and started training with Dale in June.

“I can’t emphasize enough how genuine and positive he is and how that seeps into every conversation you have with him,” Eaton says. “Jesse will be as hands-on or hands-off as you need him to be and makes himself available to explain the ‘why’ behind any changes or suggestions.”

Gospel of fitness
Even though he was on the football team and ran track, Dale is the first to say he was never the most athletic kid in school. When he was about 12 years old, his brother encouraged him to start lifting weights. This earned him a reputation as the fit person in school, and soon other athletes were asking about his fitness regimen. At 18, he entered a bodybuilding competition, was named NPC Novice Michigan Teen Champion and became a personal trainer.

He’s kept at it, both for himself and as an example to the people he trains.

“I like showing people what’s possible if they believe in themselves, stay committed and consistent,” he says. “I look at reaching my potential as a duty, obligation and purpose. Bodybuilding, for me, is about me versus me and creating the best version of myself possible and then using that to inspire others to make a positive change in their health and to glorify God.”

He co-founded MacroMissionary Coaches, through which he motivates, educates and inspires people using nutritional intervention.

He has the education to back up his work. He attended Oakland University for a degree in exercise science and acquired national certifications from the American Council on Exercise, International Sports Sciences Association, World Instructor Training Schools, National Academy of Sports Medicine and several specialty certifications in nutrition. He holds certificates in CrossFit Level 1, powerlifting and weightlifting Level 1 coaching.

Power couple
Dale’s wife, Erika, also an NPC promoter, has her own fitness journey. Her credentials include Level 1 CrossFit coach, certificates in nutrition and performance, NPC state official, a master’s degree in counseling and work toward a Ph.D. in holistic health and nutrition. An active kid, Erika could eat whatever she wanted and not gain weight; as she grew older and less active, she gained weight and tried different diets with little long-term success.

“I eventually found the macro nutrient approach where I learned more about food and created a lifestyle around healthy eating,” she says. It paid off when she lost 60 pounds. She entered a bodybuilding competition and trained to compete in shows.

“I like feeling healthy, I like having energy, but I don’t like to work out. I wish I loved it as much as Jesse does,” she says. “But I do like the feeling of waking up and not being in pain. I like to throw on my clothes and not have to wonder if they’ll fit because I’ve been through that,” she says.

Community of fitness
The Dales promote healthy eating habits, particularly through MacroMissionary and the recently published “The Purpose Driven Diet,” a book that focuses on the causes of unhealthy eating. They advocate for a macro nutrient diet, where a person focuses on consumption of carbs, fats and proteins and doesn’t just count calories. Jesse cautions that getting healthy can take time and reminds people that advice shared on social media and elsewhere isn’t always true.

“My biggest concern is there is a lack of good education, even though there are copious amounts of sources about diets,” he says, adding that no diet is one-size-fits-all, and most aren’t sustainable long term if the dieter doesn’t have a holistic plan.

Rather than merely telling people what they should eat, they will explain why someone should or shouldn’t eat something. “As a society, we’re overfed and undernourished,” Jesse says.

“Remember when your grandmother told you to eat your vegetables? Well, listen to your grandmother first, then you can learn how to bank your calories for the week so you can still have that date night where you can eat other things without feeling guilty.”

When people start the MacroMissionary lifestyle, Erika says, they’ll ask them to log everything for a week. “Then we’ll look at it together and nudge them to add in more fiber and lean protein,” she says.

“Day to day, we don’t try for perfection, but we do try to have progress,” she says. “I’m not here to micromanage others. Instead, it’s about teaching those choices. At the end of the day it’s a choice. If you choose to overeat instead of follow your plan, you’ll know that can have some repercussions,” she says.

If you’re on the hunt for a new trainer or gym, don’t focus solely on the would-be trainer’s physique. Clients should know how trainers are helping to make a real difference in others’ lives, Jesse says. Fitness, for him, is an opportunity to build community and spread joy.

“I believe that true joy comes more holistically,” he says. “When we are physically, mentally and spiritually abundant, we tend to share that abundance with others in the community through our continued growth and contribution. Competing is great, but it often requires a lot of self-investment. Getting healthy from a holistic standpoint allows us to pour into our families and communities.”