Leaving the safety of a large (and popular) gym was frightening, to say the least. It didn’t just frighten me, it made me sad. That wasn’t just my job, it was my second home. I had a gym family. I had recently started Strongman training with a great group of people, and I’d never felt so at ease with my training and my body image. Leaving that environment felt like leaving home. Not to mention moving my clients. Would they come with me? Would they see what my previous boss had seen? A bad trainer? A bad person? Would they stop trusting me? Would they leave a well-known and well-equipped facility and trade it for an unknown space?
Thankfully, I easily found a space to train. It was literally a basement. But it was well-equipped and it was clean and it was closer to home. Best of all, I didn’t have to be someone else’s employee. I simply paid my monthly rent, trained my clients, and went home.
My new space came with its owner—another trainer. We would share the space, he would collect rent, and I would be able to run my own LLC from that space. My first question before I agreed to anything, was and still is one of my top priorities. Would I be able to bring my kids with me? And, would my clients with kids be able to bring their kids with them. The answer was yes. This was a relief for me. Going through a divorce, it was of the utmost importance that I be able to keep my kids close to me as much as possible. I wanted them to feel secure, especially given the changes happening at home and in my work life.
I started bringing clients into the new space. It was very different for them and for me. We were used to having a huge space to move around in, so we had to get creative. For my own training, I had to give up most of my Strongman implements. There wasn’t space to store or use farmer’s handles, a yoke, atlas stones, blocks, sleds, kegs, etc. So, I worked with what I had. All of us became accustomed to our new space, and eventually grew to like it. Just getting away from the negativity of the previous gym was so good for all of us. My clients could feel free to be themselves without the threat of being sold CrossFit memberships or Advocare, without fear of the gym elite finding something wrong with the way we were training, or misconstruing our closeness as a Tribe as inappropriate. Basically, we had graduated high school and found freedom. And it was awesome.
I started to feel more comfortable and even let my guard down sometimes. I started to build some confidence in myself and my abilities as a trainer and coach. And I had a good year financially, professionally, and personally. Then I learned that my landlord was looking to move his training business to a different space. I was welcome to come along, he said, and nothing would change. Our agreement would stay the same, and I could even have a say in the selection of the new space. Things changed very quickly after that. I found out from a new client, not my landlord, that we were moving in 4 days. I asked my landlord for clarification, and he denied that we were moving that soon. It would be several weeks. But it wasn’t. It happened that weekend without my knowledge. I reached out, attempting to get information, but only got passive aggressive comments and anger. I panicked. Would I have to move my clients again? Am I out of a job? Will my business fail? What will people think about me—that I can’t keep a space, that I can’t make anyone happy, that I’m difficult to work with, that I’m a terrible trainer? It was a downward spiral of negativity, panic and fear. This was 4 days before Christmas.
I tried my hardest to find the lesson, to find the good, in what was happening. But all I kept coming back to was my failure as a business owner, my failure as a trainer, and my failure as a person. I was the common denominator in all of the troubling scenarios that I found myself. I was convinced that I was the problem. This was a repeat of what had happened 18 months prior. I was obviously worthless. A miserable failure who couldn’t figure out life. 2 long days went by before I had confirmation that I was still going to be able to train in the new space my landlord had found. I scheduled a time to pick up my key to the new space. He cancelled. I rescheduled. He cancelled again. I tried again to reschedule. Finally, at 6:30pm on Christmas Eve I was able to get my key. At this point I had lost 4 days of time with my clients, they had lost that time to train, and I had lost a good chunk financially.
Before I was given my key, I was told that things would be changing. In direct opposition to what I had been promised, my clients’ children (as well as my children) would no longer be welcome. In addition, my rent was going up. My landlord then proceeded to tell me how to train my clients differently, how to market differently, and how to make money differently. He told me to take flyers to the gymnastics classes because they’re full of overweight moms, “ripe for the plucking”. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. It felt like I was in a nightmare. I left stunned.
Later that night when I was crying on Brandon, he asked, “do you want to train there?”
Thinking about going back into that space made me feel physically sick. I couldn’t do it. But it seemed like my resources were exhausted. I was exhausted. And I was hopeless.
But my optimistic and hopeful guy kept me from sinking into a deep darkness. Together, we came up with a plan. We were going to bring the business, and the gym, home. With frustration, struggle, and so much fear, we forged ahead with converting our dirty garage into a well-equipped, modern and friendly training space. Over the next 5 days we gathered plywood, rubber mats, bumper plates, steel plates, barbells, storage bins, a rower, squat rack, barbell storage, resistance bands, slam balls, and dumbbells. We cut and drilled and worked tirelessly over those 5 days, making countless trips to Rogue and Home Depot and Cashman’s, drinking all the coffee, listening to Ed Sheeran, and building a beautiful training space. There were at least 3 times I hid in the laundry room, crying, convinced that I had made a huge mistake. Who would train here with me? I’m obviously a failure. Awful things keep happening and it has to be my fault, right? I’m the problem here. I’m the issue. Brandon did his best to keep my spirits up, but it was a struggle.
Almost everyone followed. The support was incredible. When people step into our space now, the overwhelming majority are in awe of what we’ve built. It’s so well organized and we have so much equipment, specialized barbells, Strongman implements, dumbbells that range from 5-125lbs, and nearly 2,000lbs in plates. Equipment aside, what people feel when they walk into this space is a sense of belonging. They feel welcome. They feel they finally belong somewhere. They feel comfortable. They feel SAFE.
Each time you fall, you have an important choice to make. You can give in to the fear of failure, give up, and move on. Or you can challenge that fear, work through the struggle, and come out stronger, more capable, and more experienced. When you face the fear, you grow, and the growth hurts. It’s always going to hurt. But I’d rather hurt and be growing than be comfortable and stagnate. The pain is worth it. The fear is worth it. The exhaustion and struggle and frustration are all worth it. My clients, my people, my TRIBE…you are all worth it.