Today, I am fortunate enough to talk to fellow peers in the industry. Some own gyms, and some own facilities. All of us have had to adjust our business models to accommodate what our state mandates have imposed due to the coronavirus. To say that this has been difficult is an understatement. I am hoping that those reading this article can sympathize and see our point of view. Most reading this already understand that we need more gyms and facilities like the ones listed and less of the big-chain ones. I hope these five questions help you to understand what we have been going through.

Obviously, during this pandemic, everyone has had to adjust and fight like hell to stay open and to keep his or her job or business. Some states have been hit harder than others with shutdowns and restrictions. For myself in Illinois, we were shut down for a couple of months. Then, the state opened up slowly with certain restrictions lifted. The hardest thing for me has been to get back to work and to keep my distance from clients to stay safe.

INTERVIEW: Chip Ganassi Racing Strength and Conditioning Coach Chris Snyder

It was very interesting to see the similarities among all of us during this pandemic. Please note that the people you are going to hear from are from places similar to where you train or have trained. None of these gyms are the big-box gyms that thrive off of selling thousands of memberships for $10.00 a month. You are about to hear from my peers in the states of Illinois, Missouri, Wisconsin, Iowa, Connecticut, and California.


Madtown Fitness, Madison, WI

I’m Dan Pasholk, and the owner of Madtown Fitness in Madison, WI.  We have two facilities—a main 20,000-square-foot gym and a 10,000-square-foot second location. We cater to several niche markets that all relate to strength and conditioning. Whether people are looking to train for powerlifting, bodybuilding, strongman, general fitness, or a specific sport, we aim to have every possible tool available with the convenience of 24-hour access.

Owning a gym was a dream that started when I was about 16 years old. I was one of those kids that, for lack of a better description, was unathletic as f*ck. I was always involved in sports, but it got to the point where I enjoyed the off-season training more than the sports themselves. It was probably about halfway through my sophomore year of high school that I started to lose steam in motivation. It felt like I was always pushing hard with mediocre results in terms of athletic performance. On a day that I was particularly half-assing a workout, our strength coach, Mike Gnewuch (Coach G as we called him), pulled me aside and tore into me, saying that if I actually put everything I had into my workouts that I’d be one of the strongest guys in the weight room. I’m not sure why this stuck with me as much as it did, but that felt like one of the first times a coach had really seen any potential in me. The school had just started a powerlifting program led by Coach G, and I joined during my junior year and got hooked. I credit a lot of my desire to be a coach and to own a gym to that experience. Getting to watch the effect that a great coach can have on athletic performance, and the development of high school athletes into positive and productive members of society was invaluable.

After high school, I was lucky enough to be coached by Kirk Remer, who owns Winner’s Edge Sports Performance in my hometown of Pewaukee. I learned a ton from Kirk, and he helped to fuel the fire that Coach G had sparked. I became more and more focused on competitive powerlifting, and Kirk helped me to take my personal strength beyond what I had previously thought I’d be able to achieve. If you’re an athlete lucky enough to work with Kirk at Winner’s Edge or with Coach G, who’s currently the head football coach at Mukwonago, you have something very special. Do not take it for granted!

Throughout college, I bounced in bars and began to construct my dream gym in my mind. I’d sit on Craigslist and eBay, waiting for pieces of equipment to pop up that I could afford with my bouncing tips. I was driving a Honda Odyssey minivan with 267,000 miles on it, and I would flip down or take out all of the seats to be able to fit equipment into the back. I went everywhere, up to ten hours each way. I remember finding things like a dirt-cheap monolift in South Dakota and a Pit Shark belt squat in Cincinnati. My friends all thought I was absolutely insane, and in their defense, I’m pretty sure they were right.

Fast-forward to finishing school at UW, and two weeks after my graduation, I opened the tiny, first location of Madtown Fitness. It was about 2,400 square feet of warehouse space, and during the first year, I pretty much fell flat on my face. I had to make many adjustments to my business model, the facility, and myself to turn things around. At the beginning of the second year, we expanded to 6,000 square feet in a different building and built momentum. Another six months in, we grew our initial location to 8,000 square feet. We opened our second 10,000-square-foot location across town a year later. After five-and-a-half years, I bought the building that our main location is currently in, and I’ve been personally renovating it since we moved in about a year ago. It’s around 20,000 square feet, so in total, we have just under 30,000 square feet of space, and we’re continuing to grow. I’ve always try to put as much as I possibly can back into the business to continue moving things forward, and to always offer a better and better facility to our members and athletes. After a little more than seven years, the gyms have surpassed what I had initially envisioned was possible.

Today at Madtown Fitness

Right now, our focus has shifted heavily onto the implementation and maintenance of extra cleaning procedures and preventative practices. Our members arrive at a sign on the door stating that masks are required under Wisconsin’s current state mandate. Upon entering the gym, they’re greeted by a table full of spray bottles and a laundry bin full of freshly washed towels. We’re running through 300-500 towels a day. Although it’s crazy, I view it as a good thing. I also invested in a walk-behind floor scrubber to sanitize the floors without it taking more than a couple of hours, thus allowing us to do it more frequently. Communal areas, like water fountains, chalk bowls, and locker rooms, are currently roped off. Mainly, we’re taking what the state put out as “best practices” and following them to the best of our ability.

In terms of my staff, I hired an additional full-time person to pick up some of the extra labor. We also began to treat our second location as more of a satellite location, and I have one staff member who’s taking care of all of our sales and new signups by appointment at our main gym. Usually, we’d staff both gyms for a period of time every afternoon/evening, but this allows all of my non-sales staff to focus on cleaning and maintaining everything throughout the day without being constrained to one location or the other for long stretches of the day.

State or Federal Mandates Affecting Madtown Fitness

I’m not sure where to even begin on this one. Wisconsin has been a pretty big mess. The initial orders came out at the beginning of March and seemed to change by the day. It felt like we were always going into survival mode to make massive adjustments with zero lead time.

First, the state said we weren’t going to be shut down. Then, gym capacities were limited to 50, then 10. Then, within about a week, we were all shut down completely. It was impossible to keep up. Initially, the shutdown was supposed to be for a month, but it was extended to two months. About a month and a half in, the Wisconsin Supreme Court overruled the shutdown. Businesses scrambled to reopen overnight, only to be shut down again by orders from individual counties. It was a whole lot of back and forth.

Personally, I’m just thankful that we were able to open after two months. Some states seem to be getting it a lot worse, and I don’t know how many smaller gyms could survive for more than a month or two of a forced shutdown. I looked at the downtime as an opportunity to make improvements to the facility that would be nearly impossible with members present. Throughout the two months, my staff and I built a second-story space that will hold a lot of additional equipment in part of our warehouse, and we created a brand new women’s locker room out of a space that was previously used as a garage. We also converted the old locker rooms into a tenant space that will be leased by a supplement store to help to make up for the revenue we’ve lost due to COVID.

Now that we’re open again, our county put out a mask order, and soon after, so did the state. This has probably been the hardest thing to deal with for us as a 24-hour facility. Statements regarding the order from health officials have told businesses that if someone isn’t wearing a mask, we need to assume that it’s because they cannot do so due to a health condition, mental health condition, or disability. So, now, we’re severely limited in what we can do to enforce it, but we’re still subject to fines and additional shutdowns if we don’t. We’ve got signs up everywhere, and we’re doing the best that we can, but unfortunately, with us being a 24-hour facility, it’s impossible to have someone watching every square foot of our facilities at all times.

Shutdown Prevention at Madtown Fitness

We’re pushing as hard as we can to get people to follow our current state orders, especially the mask order, as that’s the one they seem to be cracking down on the most. One thing I can say for certain is that if your municipality has mandated a mask order, and if you’re one of the people who isn’t wearing a mask without a legitimate health reason, you’re putting the future of your gym at risk.

Regardless of whether or not you agree with the orders, the owner of your gym is the one who has to deal with the backlash if you take your mask off the second the staff isn’t watching. You may not think it’s that big of a deal, but the guy across the gym might, and he’s the one who will report the gym to the local health department and start a whole new shitstorm for the owner of your gym to deal with. It has nothing to do with anyone’s political view; it’s just the reality of the expectations currently placed on gyms by counties and states. This pandemic is obviously a less-than-ideal situation for everyone. The main focus of EVERY gym owner right now is to make sure that our facilities can survive this difficult time.

Operation and Coaching Changes at Madtown Fitness

In terms of coaching, I had already been pretty scaled back compared with where I was during the earlier years of running the gym. My focus is a lot greater now on maintenance and administrative work.

In terms of how I operate personally, this has definitely reminded me of where my priorities need to be. A lot of us, as business owners, have the mindset that we should be able to work through or solve any problem. We’re the ones who want the pressure to be on us when things get tough because we know that we won’t give up, and we’ll find a way to push through difficulties. That only makes it harder when something like COVID comes along, and you take a huge hit over something you had zero control over. It’s made me reassess my mindset and accept that there are many things I can’t control.

Being a gym owner, you have this massive network of people who often are looking to get something from you, and that’s something we all signed up for when starting a business in the service industry. When things get tough, and you see a whole lot of those people leave, it reminds you which people are there to stay and that those are the people you should be putting your efforts into. Even though the gym's workload has only increased, I’ve made a point of taking more time at home with my wife and daughter and just spending time with the people I care about. Now more than ever, I think that’s a vital thing for a lot of us to do.


Strength N Honor Training Facility, Connecticut

My name is Steve Konopka. I am the head trainer and owner of Strength N Honor Training Facility, which is a small private studio in Connecticut. We train youth athletes from second grade all the way up to college. We are sprinkling in some adults who really want to train like athletes and get healthier and functionally more fit as opposed to stepping onto a cardio machine to try to drop a few pounds.

I grew up wrestling and playing football, and I went on to play college football. I then had a brief stop in the NFL with the New York Giants and afterward put together an eight-year-long career in the Arena Football League in its heyday from 2000 to 2008. Now, I just try to help young athletes get stronger and more injury resistant, and I help them navigate all of the mistakes that I made as a young athlete and get them prepared both mentally and physically to be their absolute best both on and off the field.

Today at Strength N Honor Training Facility

Pre-corona, we were transitioning to my studio full-time, so it was a very exciting time. We are mostly small groups of five to eight, so we are really hands-on and involved. We also have a one-on-one option at a higher price point, which was used for some older beginners who needed extra work technique-wise to get up to speed to train with proper form. The one-on-one option was used by some of the higher-end athletes who wanted extra sessions.

Our groups are mainly based on age and experience levels. The strongest and fastest don’t play a major role in the group, but we keep like-minded athletes together and use training experience as a strong guideline.

It’s awesome when you see three- to five-, seven- to nine-year-olds who are driven and getting after it with their body weight and sandbags!

Corona hit just as we were picking up steam. The state really shut all public anything down. So, it was very difficult to get anything done or plan for what’s next because no one knew what was happening. It was a really scary time business-wise and just day-to-day.

So, we were closed like turning off a water faucet with no guidance for how long or when we would know more.

Safety is always a top priority, so it was the right thing to do at the beginning, but once data and guidelines started to come out, a lot of it didn’t make sense for healthy, strong individuals. But you always want to take every precaution necessary when protecting your athletes. So, we just sat tight and waited.

We are in a few phases of guidelines, so roughly at 30 percent capacity. Our groups are close to one on one. So, we are in a situation where it’s not profitable as a business to provide a one-on-one option, but how do we say no to our athletes who are begging to get work done and have nowhere to go? It’s at least some type of income, so it’s very difficult and frustrating because every bit of income is a huge bonus right now, and we always want to do everything possible for our athletes.

State or Federal Mandates Affecting Strength N Honor Training Facility

The mandates really squeeze on my ability to provide for my family and keep our athletes getting what they need. I know it’s not an easy situation on both sides of the debate, but small businesses—especially gyms, studios, yoga studios, salons, bars, and restaurants—are really getting smashed.

We started doing a little more online Zoom training, which was a good break for the younger athletes. Still, for middle schoolers and above, if you don’t have access to the proper equipment, there are only so many days of bodyweight exercises you can do no matter how focused you are and how well the programs are written, and we had some really well-written programs!

Shutdown Prevention at Strength N Honor Training Facility

We have been following the guidelines from the state and the CDC. Following the guidelines to a “T,” whether you agree or not, is the best way to keep everyone safe and move forward.

Operation and Coaching Changes at Strength N Honor Training Facility

I tell my athletes that those who do the most now will be that much further ahead when everything opens up again! Eventually, this will pass; it’s just trying to keep your mind right, focused, and in a good place. Use every opportunity you can to get any type of work in remembering that anything is better than nothing and to be prepared when the competition opens back up eventually.


Max Effort Strength and Conditioning, St. Louis, Missouri

My name is Steve Welch, and I’m the owner of Max Effort Strength and Conditioning in St. Louis, MO. Max Effort has been in operation since 2011. Like most small businesses, especially in the fitness industry, we have been through some trying times but nothing quite like the problems this year has brought.

I have been a strength and conditioning coach and trainer for 23 years. I have a degree in exercise physiology. I have competed in drug-tested powerlifting for many years, and I’ve probably done at least 50 meets, including five international competitions.

My gym is a bit different in that we aren’t a public gym, and our members go through a trial membership before they can receive a key to the gym. We don’t select our keyholders based on athletic ability but rather based on character and trustworthiness. Of course, the world isn’t perfect: People change, and sometimes we have problems with members. But overall, I think we have a much more dependable and supportive client base than that found in a typical gym. So, in other words, we cater to the few, not the masses.

Our facility has the feel of an old school gym. It’s definitely a powerlifting gym, but we make sure that we are well outfitted so that all goals within the realm of strength and conditioning can be achieved here. We have so many platforms, racks, benches, bars, plates, etc., that most times, even when it’s busy, it’s not unusual for each member to have his or her own platform and rack without having to share...which has been a fortunate thing for us during these crazy COVID times.

Today at Max Effort Strength and Conditioning

How we are currently operating is pretty much how we always do. Our gym is a private club and isn’t packed with hundreds of people from the general public. We have certainly lost our fair share of members through COVID, and some of our members have generously supported us throughout but are staying at home and training there. We have lent equipment out to many of our members to keep training, especially in those first couple of months of COVID.

Our members have spread out their training times never to have times where people can’t properly socially distance (a term I’ve grown to despise). This has created a bit of a damper on that “team spirit” vibe that our gym has always been historically known for. Still, I’m hoping that it’s a temporary means to an end and that most of them will eventually decide to reconvene and train as a group again.

We have definitely upped our efforts in keeping the gym as sanitary and disinfected as we can. We leave out several spray bottles with a bleach-based solution that the members can use to wipe down after themselves. We also routinely wipe down and clean the gym. I’ve tried to keep the door open a lot and cycle fresh air into the place. Basically, we are spreading out, keeping safe distances, and keeping the place clean. The vast majority of our members have a lot of integrity and respect, so the few who have possibly been exposed to someone with the coronavirus have been forthcoming and stayed away until they have received negative test results. Anyone who’s had any kind of illness with similar symptoms as the coronavirus has stayed away until it was confirmed that he or she wasn’t positive for it. I’ve felt very good about the level of effort that has been taken here, and so far, we’ve had zero confirmed cases from our gym.

State or Federal Mandates Affecting Max Effort Strength and Conditioning

Yes, indeed, some of the mandates have affected us. Our gym is in a municipality where the executive has been quite harsh and unrelenting on certain businesses, with gyms being at the top. Some of the restrictions have been relaxed a bit, and businesses can open, just not at full capacity. It’s been tough. There’s been a lot of loss in earnings, members, peace, and the ease of doing business, as well as the enthusiasm and drive that my gym is known for. But because of the financial and general support received from a large portion of my members, we’ve been able to survive so far. But just surviving isn’t why I’m in this business. My intensions are to thrive, and I hope we get back to those days again real soon.

Shutdown Prevention at Max Effort Strength and Conditioning

There hasn’t been much that I’ve felt I can do to keep future shutdowns from happening. It’s a powerless and awful feeling to know that just because one single county executive or mayor interprets data and risk in an overzealous or all-controlling manner that you may lose all of your income and all that you have worked so hard to have. We are a small private barbell club, and we have been able to keep a low profile. We aren’t open to the public, and we aren’t located in a high-visibility area. I’m hoping that we, along with everyone else, can do enough to impress upon local and state leaders not to find the need to kill small businesses.

Operation and Coaching Changes at Max Effort Strength and Conditioning

The coronavirus changed the way I had to do things a lot at the beginning. We weren’t allowed to train inside our gym. So, I lent equipment to many of our members, who insisted on staying home. I wrote them programs based on what they had. I met clients in parks and took some equipment with me. I’ve done FaceTime workouts with people. I have one couple who I still do that with twice a week. Half of the stuff in their basement is equipment that I’ve lent them.

For the small group of us who still came to the gym to train in those first few months, we literally carried racks, benches, bars, plates, dumbbells, Atlas Stones, etc., outside into the parking lot every day! We sanitized the equipment after each individual used it. We even put up a big tent to train under when we needed to. It was exhausting and crazy, but we did it. We wiped down all of the equipment so much that everything began to rust. It took three weeks to remove rust and to re-paint the dumbbells, plates, and kettlebells alone. This has been a challenging time, to say the least. I hope it’s over soon. I hope that people get back to having the common sense and resiliency that I once believed most Americans had. I hope we learn a lot from this, and in that learning, I hope the powers that be figure out what to do so that we can prevent such things from happening in the future.


Powerwod Gym, Dublin, California

I'm Jesse Burdick. I've been involved in powerlifting and have been coaching amateur and professional athletes for 20 years. I am the owner and operator of Powerwod, which is inside the CSA Gym in Dublin, CA.

I have five elite totals in five weight classes and have coached five lifters who have broken all-time world records. I am also a youth strength coach currently running strength camps for athletes in the Bay Area. We have middle schoolers all the way up to professional athletes in our facility every day.

Today at Powerwod Gym

LOL…well unfortunately, due to the administration in California, our status changes day to day. But on the regular, we are running classes and sessions outside seven days a week. We have kids’ MMA and strength classes going five days a week.

State or Federal Mandates Affecting Powerwod Gym

One-hundred percent yes, and somehow, it's different every day for us. Right now, the best we can hope for is for the infection numbers to drop to below one in 100,000. That would allow us to operate inside at a 50 percent capacity.

But looking at the numbers, with there being 33 false positives per 100,000 tests, that looks like a complete impossibility.

Shutdown Prevention at Powerwod Gym

We are currently exceeding any and all state standards that have been established. We have social-distance boxes taped onto the floor and sanitization stations everywhere. Also, our members spray down any touchpoints upon the completion of their sessions, and then, the coaches spray the entire facility after every session.

Operation and Coaching Changes at Powerwod Gym

I have had to become part coach, part janitor at this point. We are doing our best to respect everyone's feelings and opinions on the matters at hand. Ultimately, we are doing our best to operate the business as usual, but the stress and added time constraints make it extremely challenging.

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MAD Strength Lab, Des Moines, Iowa

My name is Jason Weite. I'm 43 years old and reside in West Des Moines, IA, where I own and operate MAD Strength Lab. I was reared with the blue-collar mentality where hard work, mental toughness, and doing as much as possible on your own are always keys to success. Much of this mentality was taught to me at a young age through the sport of powerlifting, as I was fortunate to follow my late uncle John Ware as he worked to surpass a record-breaking 2,427-pound total in 1989. Later in life, I've been able to watch my brother, Nick, go on to do some amazing things in the sport.

This same mentality helped me to earn a division I football scholarship and to go on to play a few years of Arena football before getting into the powerlifting game myself. During the school year, I work as a special education teacher, and until recently, I was coaching high school football and track. I opened my gym, MAD Strength Lab, in January of 2020 because I've always enjoyed helping others and wanted to give back to the community the knowledge that I've acquired, and continue to acquire, in the area of powerlifting and weight training in general.

I have a son who is entering his freshman year of high school, as well as two daughters. All of them are involved in multiple sports, so I'm getting out of coaching football and track so that I can be available to watch their sporting events. By opening the gym, I can still coach strength and conditioning but maintain my own schedule.

One of the main focuses of opening MAD Strength Lab was to be able to work with youth and to teach them proper movement patterns before transitioning into their respective high school weight training programs. One of the things I noticed as a coach was that during the strength and conditioning programs in the summer, you would have 60-70 student-athletes coming in per hour, and many of them had little to no knowledge of proper technique. They were getting asked to max out on day one so that these coaches could see how "strong" they got over the summer. Needless to say, I witnessed a lot of not-so-good things and was determined not to have my kids making the same mistake. You wouldn't let your kids jump in the deep end on the first day of swimming lessons, would you? You get my point.

Today at MAD Strength Lab

In Iowa, we are operating at 50 percent capacity, with groups of no larger than ten, and with social distancing. This has forced me to work with smaller class sizes and cap the number of memberships available.

State or Federal Mandates Affecting MAD Strength Lab

MAD Strength Lab was officially opened in late January 2020. On March 17, all gyms in Iowa were shut down. With me having a smaller independently owned gym, this hit hard because I was just getting started and was not eligible for most grants available due to being a new business. On May 15, we were able to open up again with one member at a time. That lasted a couple of weeks, and then, we were put at 50 percent of capacity, groups of no larger than 10, and social distancing. This has all affected MAD Strength Lab because although I opened up this gym because I love doing it, the bills keep coming in. Every independent gym owner knows that you cannot survive on memberships alone, so cutting class sizes has really forced me to test my time management skills to make everything work.

Shutdown Prevention at MAD Strength Lab

Currently, our adult and youth classes are being run with much smaller numbers. In our adult classes, we have only one person per station, and each station is sanitized before rotating to the next. In our youth classes and powerlifting areas, there are numerous bottles of cleaning solution and hand sanitizer available, along with practicing social distancing within the gym. One of the gym areas is turfed, so I have a company that comes in and disinfects that with a sanitizing mist. In Iowa, masks are not required to be worn while one is exercising, but I always wear a mask when coaching a class or doing any personal training. Also, we’re just making sure that people coming into the gym are being smart and staying home if they aren't feeling well or have been around others who may be sick.

Operation and Coaching Changes at MAD Strength Lab

I guess the biggest change is just factoring in the social distancing piece when doing the programming for your classes. I also am a firm believer that if you have the necessary materials easily accessible to members to have a clean gym, this will make a big difference in how clean your gym stays.


Gonzo Barbell, Bloomington, Illinois

My name is Eric Gonzalez, also known by everyone as Gonzo. I am the owner and coach at Gonzos Barbell, a powerlifting gym started in Bloomington, IL, about two years ago. The intent of the gym was to give the people I coach a home of their own away from the distractions of the commercial and CrossFit settings. I was coaching in a few other gyms, and it was hard to get the type of intensity and focus that comes with training the way we do with all of the distractions. I scraped together as much cash as I could, sold my Harley, bought a monolift, and found the cheapest space I could afford to make this place happen. The gym is private and dedicated to powerlifting and strength training, and the equipment is almost 100 percent free weight other than a belt squat machine. We don’t get many casual, just-here-for-a-pump members because of this. But the members we do have are loyal and appreciate having their own facility.

Today at Gonzo Barbell

Compared with pre-corona, I've had to adjust my business hours to fit changing schedules. A lot of people were off work or off school, so the times they want to train are different. I've had to improve on how well cleaning the equipment is enforced as well. I've always had towels and cleaner available, but they only got used to wipe down really sweaty bench pads when they got too gross. Now, I make sure that bars, pads, and handles are getting sprayed and wiped down after each use. This is still difficult because people have short attention spans, and after weeks of my jumping on everyone about it, they still tend to forget. A couple of other members or I make sure to give everything a final wipe-down during every mid-day break and evening close. Because we are a smaller gym, we don't have to worry about huge crowds, so as far as masks are concerned, I've left them up to the members to wear as they feel they’re needed.

State or Federal Mandates Affecting Gonzo Barbell

The mandated shutdown in March through April and into May has really affected my growth as a business. I was initially at my peak number of members, as well as the number of competitions we were doing as a gym. All of these competitions helped to get the gym name out, and I was attracting a lot of attention because of it. Once the shutdown hit, everything was just frozen, and I slowly started to have members drop off because of their own financial struggles or lack of competitions to train for. From January until the shutdown in March, I had coached at eight meets already for the year and had at least two scheduled for every month up until around October. Almost all of them have been canceled, including some of the big-name invite-only meets. That was a huge missed opportunity for the gym to be seen and for me as a coach to attract potential online work. I've coached at one meet since quarantine began, and I will be lucky if we get another four or five in by the end of the year. It's been difficult to maintain my current members but even harder to pick up new ones without many competitions being scheduled right now.

Shutdown Prevention at Gonzo Barbell

Currently, I'm just trying to do my best to keep everyone in the gym safe and to follow the guidelines put out by whoever is putting them out. They seem to change every week at either the state or the federal level. If someone tests positive, I make him or her quarantine, and I try to encourage people to take time off on their own if they think they might have been exposed.

Operation and Coaching Changes at Gonzo Barbell

As a coach, I have had to get creative in keeping my competitive lifters motivated even though there are no meets to train for. We always go in cycles of competition training then strength building. Each cycle gets long and grueling, and just when they've had enough, we hit that meet, and those new platform numbers re-energize them going into the next block. With no competitions in sight, they lose that fire or can easily let nutrition slide or something else outside of the gym grabs their attention and the focus is gone. Just finding ways of keeping the training fun or sparking small rivalries in the gym has helped to keep them focused. We've had a lot of time to build and hit new personal records on different variation bars or lifts that we don't always get a lot of time with.

One big thing that has changed in how I operate has been how I am attracting new members. I have been focusing on bringing new students in from the colleges in town. I've always taken students, but before, it was more of the ones who were already powerlifting. Now, I’m trying to appeal to the ones who may not have an interest in it but still need a place to lift. A lot of these kids come in and see what we are doing and over time hopefully decide to give it a try.

I’ve been pretty low key about operating and staying out of the public eye as much as I can. I’ve seen some other gyms make a big deal on social media about opening and then getting shut back down. My main goal since the start has always been my lifters training, and if that means keeping my opinions to myself inside my old dirty gym, then that’s what I do. Even if we got shut down statewide again, I’d set up the monolift and a platform in my garage to keep them moving if I had to. It’s turned out to be a difficult year when I expected it to be a year of growth. I’m still thankful to be open and coaching because it’s what I love. I couldn't imagine not being in the gym every day with my crew.

Contact Information

Madtown Fitness


  • 1509 Emil St., Madison, WI 53713 (Main/West Location)
  • 2418 Pennsylvania Ave., Madison, WI 53704 (Second/East Location)




Strength N Honor Training Facility 




Powerwod Gym



MAD Strength Lab


  • 2520 Vine Street in West Des Moines, IA



Gonzo Barbell 


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