History of Penance Gym – Part 1

As we’re coming up on our anniversary in our facility, I’d like to take a relatively brief trip down memory lane. I’m going to try to keep this fairly short (3 posts or so), but I also believe that it’s important that I’m fairly transparent in our story. 

It has not been all sunshine, rainbows, and unicorns. There have been tough times, and decisions that I’m not proud of, and to sweep those under the rug would be doing a disservice to anyone reading this who has participated in this journey with us.

Starting Things Up

In January/February of 2010 I left my full time position as the Fitness Sales Specialist for Sports Authority to start a Personal Training and Athletic Training business [Do Work Training Systems].

I was lucky enough to rent space from 24/7 Fitness in Oakland and actually hit the ground running with a handful of clients:

  • A gentleman who just wanted to improve his fitness for the sake of being able to play with his kids and do his job better.
  • A woman who needed to improve her score on the Physical Fitness Test for the army.
  • An older gentleman that presented a great deal of opportunity for learning and growth (both for him and myself). He was in his mid 50’s, was mildly mentally challenged, heart attack survivor,  diabetic, and his years as a construction worker had left many of his joints very worse for wear.
2 of the earliest adopters to Do Work Training Systems [Penance] – Up before the sun.

About a month after I started the business, I managed to sign on a couple junior high and upcoming high school basketball players (2 or 3 boys and 2 or 3 girls) that were all trying to take their game to the next level by improving their athleticism. Some of these kids signed on because their parents knew me or knew of me already so they trusted me and wanted to see what I could do for their kids. Some of them signed on because my brother was the head basketball coach for the boys team for the local private school.

My brother, who was a great X’s and O’s basketball coach, knew that it was neither his strong suit, nor even his job, to develop better athletes. So [stay in your lane] he focused on what he knew best, and he would tell his players:  “Hey, if you want to get better. If you want to get faster. If you want to get stronger, if you want to build your athleticism. Then you need to go see my brother.”

We continued this symbiotic relationship for a few years. I made his players stronger, faster, and more productive on the court… He gave me the opportunity/platform to showcase what we could do!

Part of 1 of the Afternoon Athlete Groups… Luckily at a time that was not terribly busy in the gym

In early 2013 it became very evident that I had out-grown the small space that I had been renting from 24/7 Fitness, and I felt as though my business was really starting to get in the way of theirs. So on the 1st day of July in 2013, Do Work Training Systems moved to its new location, our very own turf room. Our athletes quickly named it The House! Everyone was very excited to move there – to have the extra space! It felt like overnight, we went from a couple hundred square feet and a parking lot (trying not to be in the way) to 4500 square feet just dedicated to us!

After moving our things into “The House” – So much space and potential!
Much larger groups of athletes – But we were in no one’s way!
Familiar Faces – Blake Douglass, Former owner of CrossFit Autobody in Union City (before he knew about CrossFit)

In 2014, my brother made the decision to resign from his head coaching position, and unfortunately the person who was hired to replace him would not allow his players to perform their Strength and Conditioning training with anyone other than himself.

Again, overnight it seemed like everything changed for us.

The majority of our athletes had been basketball players that were coming to us from that program, either directly or indirectly (students who saw how well our players performed and wanted that for themselves). The loss of these athletes created the need for me to pivot 180 degrees in an instant.)

We had already been working with adults to some degree, and honestly it was even more rewarding and fulfilling to help adults improve their quality of life (get out of pain, play with their grandkids, etc.) so this was not a big stretch for us.

The big thing for us was going to be getting the word out that we were even an option for Adult (or as it’s called in the Fitness Community – General Population) Physical Fitness. We needed to literally get us on the map! This ultimately is what led us to affiliating with CrossFit. CrossFit, by definition, stood for exactly what we stood for. Improving Health, Fitness, and Quality of Life – Although they word it as “Increasing Work Capacity across Broad Time and Modal Domains”.

Mid 2014: 2 Adult Groups going – StrongFit on left, Bootcamp on right.

Late 2014, we went through all the proper channels to certify, affiliate, and begin waving the CrossFitPenance banner.

I had no way of knowing just how much waving that banner would change my business and my life…

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