Living The Dream: Starting an Independent Gym

14/03/2020

After being a CrossFitter on the Gold Coast for 4+ years I made a huge decision to open my own gym which I named “Electric Fitness” located in Burleigh Heads on the beautiful Gold Coast (opened July 1st 2019). This series will chronicle my experience in opening the gym and everything I’ve learned along the way. This is part 1. Read Part 2.

Turning the Dream into a Reality. 

I’d been thinking of opening my own gym for around three years (prior to opening last year) after the first CrossFit gym I joined sadly had to close due to the head coach and owner Matt Haapu becoming ill due to a form of cancer. He passed away suddenly later that year. It was a shock and a tragedy that Matt lost his battle with cancer. Devastating to all who knew him.

I didn’t know Matt that well as I’d only been a member of his gym for under a year. I do know he was extremely well liked and respected within the local CrossFit community. I was always motivated to go train at his gym, not just for the workouts but to learn from him and the other members with this new thing called CrossFit.

I was hooked on the training style and was never going to enter a big brand fitness gym again.

My greatest memory of Matt was how warm and friendly he was. I had done my first Fran there, first front squat and first kipping pull-up. It was an exciting time and fun way to train.

I used to wear rugby shorts and surf shirts. Learning the Double Under at Made4Fitness (Matt Haapu’s gym)

I wanted to take over the location and continue the gym once he told us the news he was closing. I submitted a lease application to the landlord but they went with the axe throwing business – Lumberpunks

It was probably a blessing in disguise as I wasn’t ready to run a CrossFit business or any fitness business. I had the capital, business knowledge, time to make it happen but not the fitness qualifications, expertise to coach myself or how to hire coaches (apart from a few that had coached me). I didn’t even know you needed a CrossFit Level 1 to be an affiliate!

So I canned the idea and decided to continue with my IT business and train. But where should I train now?

I landed at CrossFit 4220 run by Renee Hoffman. Well respected CrossFit athlete and coach. Many others from Matt’s gym had also joined so it was comforting to have many familiar faces at this new box.

Having totally parked the idea of running a box I just enjoyed my training and concentrated on my IT business which was going really well and setting up my family for life.

The biggest adjustment from Matt’s gym to Renees was the programming and culture. All CrossFit boxes are run independently as the owner see fit. They are not a franchise and up to the owner to run their business any way they want to. Matt had a relaxed approach (i was a real newbie then though so maybe he went easy on me) whereas with Renee, there was real accountability. Everything was recorded on the whiteboard and a slightly more serious training environment. I loved it. It was a step up. The level of overall fitness from everyone seemed higher. I knew I would progress my fitness here.

Starting the transformation. Body getting leaner and adding more muscle. Oh and CrossFit shorts and shoes is essential wearing. CrossFit Haapu.

So you may ask, when did I revisit the idea of actually starting a brick and mortar fitness business? It was a few years later.

The combination of a continually feeling bored and unchallenged with my IT business (although it was doing very well) was the catalyst for change. I needed a new challenge. It would have been easier to keep the status quo but how do you grow as a person if you don’t chase your dreams?

This growing desire and passion was brewing from within – which was to spread the word on how the CrossFit style of training can change your life. It made me physically fitter and mentally I became stronger. Which I personally believe has saved my life and given me a new sense of purpose (outside of having my children). 

The mental game.

Not many people know I have Bipolar II disorder.  It can be a very disruptive illness that cannot be cured but can be managed. For me certain stresses or triggers (usually without warning) can start swings in my mood where i’m in up swing and feeling great or a down-swing and feeling down.

It can enable me to unlock boundless periods of productive boosting energy and feel extremely high on life. Also it can make me feel life is miserable and not worth living. Yes, thoughts like this actually happen.

So, exercising and cognitive behaviour therapy has been my way of combating and living with the illness. (I’ll write a full blog on my Bipolar life for another day).

Watch The Recovery Podcast on Youtube – Starting an Independent Gym

So the way I deal with my Bipolar NOW is to live life in the “middle of the road”. Let nothing get me too high or too low. Let all thoughts be nothing more than thoughts until my logical brain kicks in and does the real assessment of whats really happening around me. 

As I’ve matured in life I’ve become better at mastering the thoughts within my head. Still life will throw events your way that would stress anyone with or without Bipolar. So this has been a constant challenge in handling the ups and downs of life. Why do I mention all this now? It’s because i know the health benefits from regular exercise reduces mental illness (which is well documented). This was an additional factor as to why I opened a gym. I know many people struggle to cope mentally and exercise can reduce those struggles, even eliminate them.

When I’m in a workout, my brain switches off, all I have to do is think about the next rep, next second. It’s an amazing feeling.

So back to why I wanted to open a gym?!?!

After a few years of training at Renee’s (who later renamed her box to CrossFit Haapu in honour of the late Matt Haapu) and becoming increasingly bored in my IT business I started to seriously research on how to start a gym business. Bring on the research phase.

Stay tuned for part 2… “What’s in a name?

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