Rachel Cassano: How long have you been a customer with elitefts™ and what made you decide to get your equipment through us?

Chris Burkett: I first heard of elitefts™ a little over two years ago. I found the site while looking for articles to read about fitness to kill spare time between clients. At the time, I had my personal training certification (which I got in 2007) and did zero with it. I was a tattoo artist and body piercer at the time, and although I enjoyed fitness and training, I had no desire to train other people. I have spent hours on the site just reading through new and old articles, oddly enough that hasn’t changed and I still visit elitefts™ site daily. When it came time to start purchasing equipment for myself, there was no other place that came to mind than elitefts™.

RC: What inspired you to run your own gym?

CB: Oct. 5th, 2009 at 9PM - I left the tattoo studio I was working for at the time and sent my wife a text telling her to open the garage door because I'd be home in 10 minutes. I got on my motorcycle and about five minutes down the road, someone ran a stop sign, drove through all three lanes of traffic and hit my front tire as I was doing 60 mph. The driver of the car didn’t even stop, he just drove off. Laying on the road, my first thought was that I'm going to get run over! I started to get up to crawl to the median, instantly I felt a pain in my hip. When I tried to put weight on my left arm to get up, it gave out. After making it out of the street, I did a basic check of my body. I knew my wrist was broken. I thought my hip was shattered. I looked at my arm, only to see that it was seriously injured. I remember laying there wondering if my tattoo career was over. I thought about how I would pay my bills. I wondered if I was going to be able to get fixed. When the ambulance came, they checked all my organs to make sure I was stable to move. They insisted on giving me morphine, but I refused it. Then they said they wanted to give me saline in case I had internal bleeding. I am the kind of guy, who up until a few weeks ago, refused to take aspirin. So at the time ,the idea of someone putting a drug into my body wasn’t an option. After they showed me the bag and proved it was just saline, they hooked me up and put me in the ambulance. I was in the ER all of five minutes before my wife got there. The EMT called her and told her what happened.

They started checking out my injuries and took x-rays of my hip and wrist. My wife pointed out that my bone was sticking out of my arm. I had massive road rash from my knee to my arm pit on my right side. They peeled the shirt off my ribs to get it off and scrubbed out all the rocks and black top that found its way under my skin. They told me my wrist was shattered and I would need to see a specialist, they said there was nothing in the x-ray of my leg or hip showing a break. The next day my wife found a specialist and we went to see him. In looking at my x-rays, he told me that I needed reconstructive surgery on my wrist. He then looked at my leg/hip x-rays and found a six-inch fracture. They wanted to put pins through my femur to put it back together. Basically, $20k in surgery minus no insurance, means the Average Joe is screwed. I was able to sell one of my motorcycles to get my wrist fixed, but was unable to do anything about the leg. My doctor told me that I needed to go home and lay in bed and unless I was coming in for follow-ups, not to get out of bed. He said I couldn't put any weight on my wrist and leg. He also gave me a prescription for dilaudid. I was honestly thankful for that because at this point between my thigh and wrist, I was in horrible pain. Over the next two months, I was on my back. My wife had to literally take care of me. She scrubbed my road rash twice a day like they told her to, she set timers for my medicine, cooked whatever I wanted and everything else that needed to be done. If it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t have made it through all of that. Because I did not have insurance I couldn't afford physical therapy, so the doctor gave me a piece of paper showing what I needed to do and explained how to do it. I was told I would have less than 75% mobility in my wrist. Between Oct. 5, 2009, and May 27, 2010, I went from 240 to 300 pounds and was roughly 40% body fat.

On May 27 2010, the doctor said I was allowed to lift more than two pounds. He also told me I regained 95% mobility and was blown away that I recovered the way I did. My explanation was that I am too stubborn to be told I can’t do something. I told him that I was going to start exercising and asked if my leg will be ok to squat. He told me to give it a few more months to be safe. So, I leave his office May 27 and went straight to the gym I was training at. I was told when I enrolled that if medical issues come up, my contract would be cancelled if proof was provided. We contacted them the day after my accident and asked them to freeze my account and they said they would. When I went in to "re-activate" my account, I was told it was sent to collections and I owed them close to $2k for my contract. After a lot of screaming on my part and being told that it’s out of their hands and "in collections now" I left. I went home and started looking for a cheap cage, bar and plates. Not being able to work over this time frame left us really hurting for cash. So, I was going the cheapest route I could. I got myself a cheap little cage and started lifting.

I was told that because of my weight and body fat I was on the road for all the typical health issues that come along with being a lard ass. I was no longer lifting because I enjoyed it. I was now lifting with goals. I needed to get my life together and my health back on track. After everything my family went through after the accident, I was going to make sure that I wouldn’t put them through anything else by being obese. Over the next five months I dieted non-stop, did cardio twice a day and trained in my garage in Florida heat for upwards of two hours a day. I used every bit of information I had from my personal training certification, and things I learned on elitefts™ and Testosteronenation. I spent all of my free time researching and improving my knowledge. In the process, my wife and one of my friends joined in...and the three of us were on a mission.

I went from 297 pounds and 40-ish% body fat, to 214 pounds and 14% body fat. This was all between May 27 and Sept 26 of 2010. I have maintained eating clean and training. In training my wife and friend I got the bug. I really started hating my job. I wanted to quit tattooing and just eat, sleep and train. However , when you have family to feed, you do what you have to do to make sure everyone is happy and bills are paid. In September 2010, the job that I was working went to hell and it was time for us to go. My wife and I packed up our equipment put all of our eggs in one basket and opened our own tattoo studio. This last year has been amazing for us. We opened on Oct 27th 2010. We had a big following and the business thrived. In the process, a lot of our clients saw my progression and were constantly asking for help. I was writing nutrition plans, routines, and was even training people in my free time. My passion in life was lifting and fitness. I decided it was time to hire a few more artists and hand the reigns over to my wife so that I could open my own gym. August 1, I opened my doors here. Nothing is more gratifying then setting a goal and achieving it.

RC: The Dungeon Gym has a nice ring to it. Is there a story behind it? How did you come up with this name?

CB: Honestly it was a mixture of a joke and a tribute to Dorian Yates. When we trained at home, that’s what we called my garage. It was always over 100 degrees in there. You were miserable the whole time from the heat and getting tortured by me while training. I heard that Dorian used to call his gym a dungeon gym and I used that term once about the garage because it was fitting and it stuck.

Q: Where is your gym located and what kind of services do you offer there?

CB:We are located in Port Charlotte, FL. We offer a wide variety of services. The week before I opened, I bumped into an old client at a local supplement company’s event where I was trying to promote my gym. He was telling me he has a sport-specific training company specializing in speed and mobility, as well as strength and conditioning. The gym he was at was not meeting his needs and he was looking to move on. I asked him to come in and sit down with me. We hit it off and Iron Strong Fitness now offers sport-specific training for young athletes through my gym. I offer personal training, one-on-one or group sessions, as well as individualized nutrition plans. We are holding what I am calling "conditioning classes" now. I don’t have treadmills or any stationary cardio equipment in my gym. I don’t like the idea of possibly losing muscle just to burn fat. So my conditioning classes are prowler based with lots of other things thrown into circuits. Things like kettlebell work, tire flipping, sledgehammer work, battle ropes and plyo exercises.

RC:Can you give us a list of all the equipment you have there and the size of the facility you had to work with?

CB: My facility at this time is 3000 square feet. I hope to expand that into the next two units and warehouse out back. At that point, I would have this whole building for my gym and my tattoo studio which is in the unit next door. As for equipment I have:

RC:What piece of advice would you give to someone who wanted to open up their own facility?

CB:I am only a couple weeks into this and my knowledge of this business is still at an infants understanding of things so I am afraid I don’t have a lot of knowledge to offer. I will say this though. If you love this. I mean truly love this and you know without a doubt this is what you want, then go for it. It’s a gamble going into business for yourself. If you love what you do and are passionate about your business your clients will see this. Believe in yourself and make it happen. Success is for those who go get it. Risks have to be taken. No one ever comes out on top by simply dreaming about what they could have some day. You have to make the decision to turn your dream into a reality, take the first step and don’t let anyone hold you back.

RC: If someone wanted to go to your gym, how would they sign up?

CB: Just come in. After I was screwed over in my last contract at a local gym, I made my mind up to not put someone through a contract. I don’t have any automatic debits. Just come in. Sign a waiver, pay for your 30 days and you are free to get at it. As far as I am concerned, if you give someone a place they enjoy being at they will return. The Dungeon Gym is open seven days a week and I'm here from open to close.