When I moved to the foothills of North Carolina about a year ago, my training and my training business were very unsettled. I had clients in Rock Hill, South Carolina, 80 miles away, and there was no real place to train. For quite a time, I commuted twice a week, both to train and work with my clients. The novelty of 480 miles per week soon got to be a pain in the ass. While I really liked my clients, I believe I was spending more to commute than I was being paid. I have never been charged with being a brilliant businessman.

Other days of the week, when I needed to train, I went to a very nice commercial gym here in Lenoir. It has a walking track, steam, sauna, and a hot tub. There is a very small area with free weights and some powerlifting equipment: chains, SS bar, squat box, and a few other things. That made me know that there were some powerlifters there, though I never saw them. The chance of getting clients there was very slim. They had five trainers on staff and a medical rehab facility in-house.

That was the order of things for about as long as I could put up with the commute and the regular loss of money. I finally gave my clients some notice and severed my ties with Brutal Iron Gym in Rock Hill. My clients have survived nicely as I knew they would. The friends I had there are still my friends.

squat jeff guller LTTX

On February 2, 2018, there was an IBP meet in Morganton at Flex Gym, where two of my training partners from Rock Hill were to participate. I met them there, and they each had a great meet and won their respective classes. I had been to Flex Gym previously; in fact, I had participated there in 2013, just weeks before my open-heart surgery. I knew the owner as an outstanding lifter and a good coach and gym owner. What I did not know was how close the gym was to where I had moved.

The morning of the meet, I got there in 15 minutes. I told the owner that I wanted to chat with him next week, and I did. I called and went to see him. I told him that I was looking for a place to train and train others. I told him that, notwithstanding the posters of Arnold and other great bodybuilders, the gym seemed to have a distinct powerlifting culture and that I wanted to be part of it.

Apparently, he remembered me from a number of IBP meets and some of my SOB reputation preceded me. He readily agreed to have me there and offered me great terms to train people there. He first hooked me up with two wounded Iraq vets with whom I worked for a few weeks. They, however, said they couldn’t continue to afford it. Guns, ammo, and new truck wheels seemed to be more important. Thus began my bromance with Frank Beam, and a new chapter began for me at Flex Gym.

I have written about Frank previously. He is an elite powerlifter in the IBP in two weight classes. He owns Flex Gym, and out of a desire to make, create, and improve powerlifters. He coaches the Flex team and trains with them. He and his team are the most loyal participants that IBP has. He also hosts two IBP meets a year. Those are the things we see from the outside.

jeff guller ipa state nc

Not so obvious, is the fact that after the recent hurricane that hit Wilmington, North Carolina, the students at University of North Carolina Wilmington were sent home for an extended period of time. All of the young people trained at Flex Gym at no cost for long as they were home.

While Frank works 70 hours per week, he employs some young people who do a great job and need the work. He and I chat every day about things powerlifting, from Dave Tate’s latest video to Nate Harvey’s book to the latest thing we’ve heard from Louie. We agree on about 95 percent of the things we discuss. We are indeed on the same page. When I instruct a trainee, I often hear, “That’s what Frank said.” And when he instructs a trainee, he often hears, “That’s what Jeff said.”

I soon developed a modest clientele, developed my own training schedule, and helped Frank with the coaching duties on the weekends. Others have inquired about training and programming and may soon commit to do so or not. Meanwhile, my trainees are working toward a competition at Flex Gym on February 2, 2019, promoted by IBP.

My own meet schedule and competition for 2018 was quite successful. I qualified for the IPA Worlds at the North Carolina State Championships in Hendersonville in April. The IPA Worlds were held in Gatlinburg on October 23, 2018. There, I had a good meet, set IPA WRs, and met Louie Simmons. I also watched his lifters destroy some weights and learned some technique. Five weeks later, (not very smart) I competed in 365 Strong Nationals in Spartanburg, South Carolina. I had terrible preparation for both meets due to edema in my legs and torso.

Nevertheless, I was very fortunate to have had a good meet and break 365 Strong WRs. So far, the new chapter was beginning well. I am in an off-season right now but soon will begin meet prep for meets in March and May. These may be a little close together, but they are in my favorite federations: the IPA and 365 Strong.

The best part of this new chapter is not only the friendship of Frank Beam but also the camaraderie of an entire gym of men and women. The Flex family is indeed a family. Everyone seems to know everyone, but more importantly, they are willing to help everyone, with advice, equipment, or just listen. It’s also great to see the progress that my clients are making. I am sure they will do well in February. We will, of course, have the Flex team ready to compete by then as well.

2018 has been a great new chapter; it has put me in a good place with my training, my clients’ training, and the team’s training. 2019 brings the promise of improvement and I can’t ask for anything more.

A Conversation with Me About Competing at 77