That happened, Part 5

Monday, March 19, 2012

15 Wall Extensions
Reverse Plank, 20 seconds
German Hang, 20 seconds
15 Wall Extensions

Plate Walk, 4 lengths
10 Handstand Pushups or progressions
10 Dips
Plate Walk, 4 lengths

Practice Muscle ups for 5 minutes


Workout of the Day:
21-15-9 reps of:
Handstand push-ups
Ring dips


Cool Down:
15 Wall Extensions
Reverse Plank, 20 seconds
German Hang, 20 seconds
15 Wall Extensions

Martina and Peter performing “Kelly” at Lincoln Middle School in Santa Monica, aka the day I met Zeb!

Below is the last segment in the story of how I came to open Paradiso CrossFit.  Please read Parts 1, 2, 3 and 4, if you would like to know why I am writing this story:)

The ball was rolling. Only a month after I had the idea to open my own CrossFit gym, I was now certified and had become a manager at my restaurant job. I hit up everyone I knew in LA, offering my services for free. I found a middle school and a park near my apartment that had open space and pullup bars and I began to train a few friends, co-workers, and mostly Martina. My manager job was miserable, working 5-6 days a week from 4:30pm until about 2-3am. I did as much training as I could with the time I had, but at the pace I was going, it was going to take a while. I began looking for another job that would allow me more time to develop my training skills. During this same time, we applied to be an official affiliate and received our approval in June 2008! I ended up responding to a Craigslist ad for a restaurant manager position that would prove to be a major catalyst to getting Paradiso CrossFit up and running.

I met up with a guy named Niles at a cafe in Santa Monica. He was a management consultant, hired by Neptune’s Net restaurant to find a new manager. There was this moment in the interview when he said to me, “You seem like a smart guy. What is it that you really want to do?” I wasn’t sure if this was a trick question or not, but I responded with the truth, that my dream was to open something called a CrossFit gym and I needed to find a job that would allow me the opportunity to develop that dream. He and I spoke about CrossFit and the realities of the job offering and in the end, he thought that I would make a great fit as the new manager and wished me luck in my future endeavors. I was offered the position a few days later and started the job in July.

The manager job at Neptune’s Net was just what I needed. I was working on the beach, making a comparable salary, working about 20 hours less a week and my day was finished at sunset. About a month later, Niles stopped by my work and wanted to talk to me about an opportunity. He was working for a company called the Food Art Group, a successful restaurant management group in West Hollywood. The chef that started this group was planning on making a book about living a healthy lifestyle and was looking for a trainer to help train his executive chefs, CEO and other managers. Niles told them about meeting me, about CrossFit and thought that we could be a good match.

The man I was looking to work for was Chef David Myers. We met at an empty restaurant on La Cienega, near the Beverly Center in West Hollywood. He was young, successful and had a progressive vision for his restaurant group and employees that I could relate to. We discussed the CrossFit methodologies and my plans for the future and how we could work together. With a handshake deal, we decided that I would train him, his executive chefs and his management team for free and I could use this empty restaurant for training my own clients. I couldn’t believe what was happening. Eight months after sitting on my couch and coming up with this crazy idea, I had my first gym location in West Hollywood!

Our first real location, an empty restaurant at 420 North La Cienega, West Hollywood

At this point, I had a handful of people that I was training regularly, my apartment and car were filled with equipment and we had finally launched our website. With more space, I was able to step it up a notch and I began amassing more equipment. I purchased my first set of bumper plates, a GHD machine and more rowers. We built plyo boxes and a friend welded a portable pullup bar. Along with the restaurant group employees, I began to receive inquiries from people that were finding me on the internet. My foray into larger group training began and nine months into the journey, I had my first paying client.

 As this was happening I never had a chance to sit back and make decisions about my lifestyle. I no longer had time to go out on weekends. I was exhausted by the end of my days and ready to do it all again the next day. I lived this life for months, slowly accruing new clients and enjoying the learning process. I would train early in the morning in West Hollywood and then head back up to Malibu for the restaurant job in the afternoons. I couldn’t turn it off. On slow days, I would have my staff competing in the back lot for max squats, L-sits, sprints and walking lunges. I was sharing my vision with anyone that would listen and excited about what would come next.

There were always surprises and random encounters during this time as well. The most infamous occurred while I was training Peter and Martina at the local park one night, performing the workout “Kelly” (running, box jumps and wall balls). While they were out running, three guys came wandering up to me and asked if I was doing CrossFit. I was like, hell yeah, how do you know about CrossFit?! They introduced themselves as Zeb, Mike and Chris and they were members of CrossFit LA! I told them that I had just affiliated and that I was looking for a gym of my own. Around that time, Martina came barrelling back from one of her runs and I got back to coaching. I told them to hit me up sometime. That was how I met Zeb.

By June of the following year, I had been working with the Food Art Group for almost 9 months, the book idea had been stalled and there was a lot of speculation as to where we would end up and how we would get there. By mid-June, I was informed that the restaurant space was no longer going to be rented and we were going to have to move to an old bakery near Fairfax and the 10 freeway. The neighborhood we moved into was less than ideal, but the space was enormous. Over 13,000 square feet of space that smelled like donuts.

Our second facility, the old bakery.  Zeb and company performing “The Chief”

The plan for the Food Art Group people was to eventually transform the space back into a working bakery and I would be able to occupy a small portion of the space, including an outdoor parking lot. Not ideal, but I didn’t have any other options. While we were hoping this would work out as planned, we were also looking for our own space somewhere in between Santa Monica and West Hollywood. We didn’t want to alienate our current members, but we also wanted to service our own neighborhood. We looked unsuccessfully for another month, until the hammer fell once again.

I was notified that I would have until the end of the week to get my equipment out of the building. Boom! Just like that. Apparently, the building was going to be taken back by the bank or some higher power and if they came and my stuff was inside the building, it would no longer be mine. Fuck!! We didn’t know what to do. The best option we could figure was to go back to training in the park, store the big stuff in a storage facility and keep looking for our own location.

Two days after the bombshell, Martina sends me an email with a link to a Craigslist ad for a space in Marina del Rey. When I looked it up on google maps I was less than thrilled with the location, but we had no luck anywhere else, so maybe this could work! The advertised space was a mere 750 square feet for around $1000 a month. The landlord had just posted the ad that same day and we were the first to call. We arrived to find that the space was tucked away off the street, in an old building with a roll up door, surrounded by smaller machine and boat shops. We liked it immediately.

The landlord happened to live next door, so we explained what it was that we did: dropping weights, people running, music blasting, yelling and grunting. They were actually enthusiastic about the whole idea! We told them we would take a bit to think it over and without too much discussion, we decided to go for it. We signed the lease the next day.

Over the course of the next month, as we moved over the equipment and set up shop, we received so much support from the larger CrossFit community that we barely knew. I was reminded how many other individuals were out there just like me. Individuals that loved CrossFit and just wanted a place to go. Zeb had come back into my life in the previous months and we had already spent many hours discussing our philosophies on CrossFit, coaching, and programming. I offered him a job mid-August with the question, “What is the absolute minimum I can pay you?” He accepted.

With Zeb on board, a handful of members, a little bit of money in the bank and Martina’s financial support, I quit my job at Neptune’s Net and decided to go all in. Two weeks later, on September 1, 2009, one and a half years after deciding to open a CrossFit gym, Paradiso CrossFit hosted its grand opening workout know as “Inventory.”

The grand opening “Inventory” wod crew at the Glencoe location

You could say that the rest is history or that this is the end of the beginning of the story, but who knows? I see so much potential for growth, change and improvement all around us. I am as excited now as ever, and I can only say thank you for reading this and supporting what we are trying to do. I want to give a special thank you to G, who knew where she was needed before I did. To Rico, Suver, Sondra and K-Ron for accepting and supporting me from day one. To Martina for being my inspiration, guinea pig, financial support and positive ray of sunshine through it all:) To Scott Cohen and Peter for being around the longest. To Niles, Chef David Meyers and Basil Schmidt for their crazy ideas that didn’t work out the way they intended, but still worked out for the best. To Sherwin for noticing us in the park and bringing Zeb into my life. And last, thank you to all the members, current and former but not forgotten, that have helped build this community and life that I am so grateful for. Thank you. I wish you all continued improvement and the courage to find your own path.

You might also like