When you walk into most gyms these days you are met by any number of things. Uniformed front desk people, signs and banners on everything from membership discounts to discounts on tanning beds and smoothies, and at the very least, scanners to badge in and out of the gym. We don’t even think twice about it because it all seems so normal, so simple, and yet none of us think about what it really takes to do all of the things we see with our eyes on a regular basis. Whether it be the social media adds, the pictures, the blog posts, the teenagers at the front desk with their sweet acne ridden faces, the giant banners announcing all of the big sales and discounts, how does all of that REALLY happen?
The answer is simple. Time. Money. People.
It is a rare thing these days to find a gym owned privately and not by a huge corporation or chain of gyms. Privately owned gyms are becoming obsolete, an endangered species if you will, and why is that? Because the time, effort, knowledge and money that go into running a $10,000/month gym, which is the minimum many cost these days, is overwhelming for any one person to do on their own. But there are a select few out there who are still trying. A select few who weren’t born into money and happened to simply love fitness and want to check buying a gym off on their bucket list, but a select few who have scraped and bled and cried and fought to make their gym successful and keep doors open in the hopes that they can help change human lives for the better the same way their own lives were changed by fitness.
One of those men is Dell Shepard. Dell, like so many people, wasn’t born into fitness. He was an “army brat” who moved around the world due to his father being in the army most of his young life. After getting out of the army Dell faced one many of the things that happen once the physical exercise stops and life and marriage start, and the pounds started to add up. He became more sedentary, was severely overweight, and was suffering from multiple pain issues and depression.
And that is when Dell Shepard found CrossFit.
In CrossFit Dell found a place to belong. A place where he wasn’t judged for his level of fitness or his body, but was told that he could do anything he set his mind to regardless of his size or current fitness level. He found a sense of freedom in the movements of CrossFit, strength combined with gymnastics and one of the things Dell happens to be best at….monkey moves. Flying through the air from bar to bar lends you a sense of freedom and empowerment not much can match. Dell found himself again through CrossFit and set out on a mission to help others find themselves on their own journey to fitness.
In 2017 Dell bought Eternal Fitness, now CrossFit Eternal, in the hopes of sharing his story of finding oneself through fitness with others. However, what Dell didn’t realize was the massive undertaking running a 10K/month gym would be. And this is the side that so many people don’t know about when they walk into a gym, and what Dell came to realize after his purchase was finalized. Running a profitable business like this requires every ounce of your being, especially when you are doing it with no corporations and money to have your back, no marketing department, no billing department, no general managers, operations managers, finance managers, legal team or front desk employees. All of those roles get folded up and put on the shoulders of a limited amount of people.
If you really take the time to think about the amount of hours that go into big gyms, their marketing, their membership retention teams, their customer service departments, their staff management, staff education, community involvement, networking, ad campaign management, public presence, the amount of hours and manpower is overwhelming. This is why many gyms bought privately fail. This is why so many out there make a living offering “marketing tips” on how to “build your gym and make it a profitable business in 90 days or less”, which by the way is all B.S.
But, in all of this, Dell Shepard is succeeding. He has made the sacrifices required to keep his doors open and his members happy. Sacrifices that include spending every morning and evening teaching classes while missing so many of the moments parents want to be there for as their children grow up, bringing your children to the gym after school and trying to help with homework in the midst of teaching classes, weekends teaching classes and cleaning the 10,000sqft gym instead of weekend getaways with the family, nights where when most go to sleep you are up thinking about the next competition or the next ad campaign or the next weeks programming instead of sleeping those very short 5 hours before starting it all over again at 430am the next day.
Dell Shepard has put in the time. But not only has he put in the time, he has put in his humanity. You have to meet Dell to understand the true gift he gives to his members and the world of CrossFit. He is a man of few words, and yet, he has this incredible innate gift at seeing strength in people they often times can’t even see in themselves and helping them become believers in their own strength. In the end, Dell helps every member who walks through the doors of his gym feel like they are SEEN. He helps them feel that sense of connection that they are a part of something, which is what we all as human beings crave whether we admit it or not.
When you walk through the doors of CrossFit Eternal you won’t see all the fancy lighting, the banners, the tanning beds or the smoothies…heck…you’ll be lucky at times if there is someone at the front desk to greet you as everyone may simply be teaching a class….but the one thing you can always be certain of is that once we lay our eyes on you, you feel like you are family. You aren’t a number, you aren’t a monetary figure, it isn’t just about getting you through the door. At this gym, as Dell has made sure of, we want to get to know you, your story, and what it is we can do to help you succeed in any and every area of life you want to. If you are looking for a place to become better at physical fitness, or looking for a place to simply feel you belong where after a long day you show up to friendly faces who don’t judge you and know and support you, this gym is the place to feel like family, and that is the dream Dell Shepard has always had for CrossFit Eternal.
So the next time you walk through those gym doors think about the person who is behind the scenes making your workout and everything that goes with it possible….and give that person a smile and a thank you for the effort they put into helping you succeed.