'While You Were Sleeping': Local gym helps build bodies, rebuild lives around the clock

Izzy Morales Rivera says gym helped him overcome homelessness

SAN ANTONIO – At 3 a.m. on a recent day, the weights were in full swing at American Fitness Gym in New Braunfels.

Everything from the barbells to the treadmills were getting a good workout, thanks to a steady stream of overnight fitness enthusiasts.

“We definitely have a lot of police, a lot of teachers, people from, I guess, all types of backgrounds coming in here and getting their early workout,” said Israel “Izzy” Morales Rivera, who works at the front desk.

Working from 9 p.m. until 5 a.m., he’s there to greet members when they come in at the wee hours of the night.

“My sleep is, kind of, like, all over. Sometimes I get my days confused. So I don't know if it's Monday or Tuesday or Wednesday,” he said.

What he does know is that, even with his unusual schedule, he enjoys his job.

During slow times, he sometimes can get in a workout for himself.

Unlike with most gym members, the workout for Morales Rivera doesn’t involve the usual routine.

Instead, he more often spends his time practicing hip hop moves.

A dancer who once performed with the San Antonio Spurs, Morales Rivera later fell on hard times.

“I had no money,” he said. “I was homeless for a little bit and because of American Fitness, they gave me a place to stay.”

The job at the gym, he said, helped him get back on his feet.

And while others around him were working to build their bodies, he began building yet another career.

Morales Rivera said in his down time, he discovered social media marketing and now creates online content for businesses all over town.

“Now it's, like, how does this guy that only had 37 cents in his bank account (go) to now being financially stable?” he asked, proudly.

Like a dedicated bodybuilder, he also has big goals.

He said he plans to keep strengthening the progress he has made so far, working while others are sleeping.

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