Practical Strength for My Gym

Justin Keane
Justin Keane is the owner and head trainer at Crossfit Woodshed and will be hosting our next seminar on January 26-27, 2013.
I’ve been lifting weights on and off for about 25 years. I like starting my Al Bundy stories like that because it keeps me very, very humble: after all this time, my numbers are ordinary at best and my offseasons have taken me pretty far afield of the reservation. Still shots from my late twenties, for instance, would not be very pretty pictures. But through it all, lifting weights has been there–a crooked finger when I needed to get back into the gym, a comfort when things were going to shit at work or otherwise, and above all a tool to keep me running strong and smooth outside of the gym.
Focusing on the basics works best for the majority of people. 
So after an unexpected career blip in 2008 and thanks to an incredibly supportive wife, I decided the time was more right than wrong to look at turning something I loved doing and learning into something I made a living teaching. We made the decision to start very slowly and build from the ground up. For a while this meant driving around with kettlebells and dumbbells clanging around my back seat to meet clients before or after work at local high schools when the weather cooperated. We’d buy new equipment as business allowed, and did our best to encourage folks to tell their friends and family about their training. After a time, we’d built up enough of a membership to begin renting space from a local dojo; by the end of that calendar year it had gotten to the point where we needed our own space, and we were lucky enough to find a great spot (with awesome landlords) in the small town where we live, about five minutes from home. We run a full-time facility now, have taken on an awesome manager/business partner,  and as we’ve been doing since the beginning, we stick with the basics. Squat, push, pull, carry, stretch, and run. It’s simple, it keeps people moving safely, and it works.
If we can’t explain why we’re doing something, we don’t do it.
Early on in our tenure, we decided on two things in particular. I guess the first was less of a decision than a concession to personality: we would be direct, plainspoken, and focus on the training rather than the trainer. I wanted our workouts to be approachable, to make sense to a layperson as well as our members, and I didn’t want to try to run our business on charisma. This wasn’t going to be a gym where we put any focus on how cheerfully sadistic the trainer could be while handing down jargon-filled workouts and their attendant correctives from the mountaintop, but instead a place where we put an emphasis on simple competence. Show up, do the basic things well (and repeatedly), and get better by degrees. Slow and steady works from a practical perspective because we want to be a long haul gym with minimal turnover (only the boys over at Glengarry really, truly want to always be closing!) and because I’m not very charismatic anyhow.  It had to be about the method, not the madness.
The second path we chose is the one we’re still thinking through everyday: group training. As I’ve written, we live and work in a pretty small town, and we’ve always envisioned our place as equal parts community center and garage gym. The reality here is that people want to train with their friends. They want us to run classes for their kids. And in this economic and political climate, they feel good about buying local and working hard with their neighbors. It makes sense from every perspective for us to enact our training within a group setting, and it’s also a lot of fun for us to be a part of this small community within our small town.
We are well aware, however, that group training is a methodology that is, how you say, kind of easy to foul up. Done haphazardly, it’s at best ineffective and at worst . . . well, you’ve seen the pictures and read the stories. We’re bringing in the folks from Practical Strength for just that reason–to make sure we’re training our groups effectively, safely, and in a manner that allows our gym and its individuals to grow and flourish. Their curriculum is thorough without being dogmatic, fluid, and of a piece with our belief that hitting the basics well and just often enough will get our clients where they want to go. We expect this two-day seminar to better our ability to select and evaluate movement and loading, think through progressions and training cycles, and further conceptualize our business model. You’d take that, right? That we’ve been promised us several PRs on the Atlas Stone and/or the weight over bar is just icing on the cake.
I’ll close with this: if you’re a trainer or a gym owner in New England–particularly one who runs CrossFit classes–please do not come to this seminar. We would like to build ourselves something of a competitive advantage…
(Just kidding. You should come. These guys are going to help us all get better and we’re very very psyched to have them here.)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s