Opening Day: Starting A CrossFit Gym Part 7

After being a coach at CrossFit South Brooklyn in NYC for 6 years I moved halfway across the country to open my own affiliate, CrossFit Lumos, in Austin, TX. This series will chronicle my experience opening the gym and what I am learning along the way. This article is the final piece of the adventure, before I’m a real live gym owner. Part 1. Part 2. Part 3. Part 4. Part 5. Part 6.

At a certain point, you have to draw a line.  As the build of the gym slowly trudged along, victim to permits, inspections, and simply the time needed to get work done, my rosy projection turned into my safe projection turned into my worst case scenario.  Finally, I had enough.

“December 12th, we’re doing something,” I said, and with a hard date (about two weeks away) our thinking crystallized into “what needs to be done before we can open our doors” and “the other stuff.”  I began thinking in terms of a software release- Lumos 1.0, 2.0, etc. with some things- my office/trailer, outdoor rig, etc pushed deeped into the winter or spring of 2017.

My GC and I laid everything out, and we began to attack projects with renewed vigor.  In an almost absurd Kafka-esque twist, a chance comment from an inspector led me to discover an online permit and inspection management system that had existed all along.  This may seem trivial to you, dear reader, but before finding it I had to schedule each inspection through an automated phone system- knowing about the web system from day one would have saved me months.  It’s the little things, no?

So, in the course of a few weeks, we scheduled and completed our electrical, plumbing, mechanical, and overall inspections.  Yes, we needed a mechanical inspection- even though we won’t be air conditioned our 15 buck exhaust fans in the bathrooms necessitated hiring a master mechanical contractor and doing the permit work necessary.  Ok, last inane bureaucracy rant, I promise.  

My dad and his fiancee booked flights for the proposed weekend, we began pumping it on social media and telling our park workout classes to come, and now it was real and happening and OHMYGODWEFAILEDOURDRYWALLINSPECTION.  With everything scheduled so tightly I had to do some backflips- little bumps along the way like not having our drywall screws the right distance apart became problems needing creative and swift management.  Oddly enough, for all the crazy rules and regulations, all of the City of Austin building inspectors were reasonable, helpful, and patient dudes- we fixed the screws, took pictures, sent them in, and got approved later that day.

Then, before I knew it, it was opening day, and the gym was nowhere near ready.  I mustered all of the troops and we began tackling the remaining items- mats needed to be laid, equipment needed loading in, racks and walls still needed to go up and be finished- all before 3PM.  We put on our big boy pants and our hustle hard hats and got to it.  The next 8 hours were a blur, but by 3 the gym was ready enough to host people, stage a workout, and give people a glimpse of what was to come.

My contractor Yussele was just as excited as I was to be done!
My contractor Yussele was just as excited as I was to be done!

I was majorly keyed up, and in a somewhat foul mood- I had been barely sleeping all week and had only gotten a few hours of sleep the night before.  There was so much to do and every moment someone wasn’t working as hard as I was got me itchy and angry and nervous.  Literally up to the minute people started arriving I was running around like a madman, throwing myself into whatever task needed finishing with crazed vigor.

Then I looked around- there were people in my gym!  While driving to grab the last of our equipment from storage (aka my living room) I had jokingly created an over-under betting line for attendees at 21.5- and I bet the under.  By about 4PM there were 30+ folks there, and trying to finish little tasks became a useless exercise.  So, I looked around, and with a big sigh and smile put on my Coaching Voice and shouted, “Who wants to workout?”

Warming up the new space.
Warming up the new space.

Over the course of this build I’ve often remarked to the patient souls who will listen to me that the hardest thing about opening a gym is that the stuff you are good at and love (coaching, connecting with people, building community) is buried beneath layers of stuff you aren’t necessarily good at or excited about.  Despite assurances that I was doing a good job quarterbacking the build, it had been months since I’d gotten to run a real class in a real affiliate and really flex my coaching muscles.

“Alright guys, let’s get moving!” Everyone’s heads snapped to the sound of my voice, and all of the stresses and checklists and outstanding tasks fell away.  I was back in my element, back doing something I know I can do and do damn well.  In a space that had been an empty box as recently as that morning I led about 30 people through a warmup, jump rope practice, and then a partner WOD.  Afterwards my brother popped a bottle of champagne and I fought tears as I thanked everyone for coming out and their patience so far (anyone who knows me knows I am a guaranteed crier at moments like this.)  

Looking suitably awkward, with bubbly.

Just like that, it was over, and we milled around and had a few beverages and chatted.  A few folks from the neighborhood showed up and said they had been wondering what the old vet’s office was turning into (one big mistake- I should have hung a sign outside on DAY ONE.)  I walked around, introducing new friends to old, my family to my coaches, my contractors, and my budding fitness crew here.  The afternoon trickled into the evening and after the last person left my family and I grabbed a celebratory meal.

Then I went home and got to sleep- someone had to be up to coach the 6AM classes the next morning.  

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1 Comment

  1. February 12, 2017 / 9:30 am

    I have absolutely loved reading this series. Through your detailed blogs on it, I have signed up to a CF-L1 training course, and would love to open my own box one day! Thank you for BTWB <3

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