Local gym owner Stacy Edwards opens his doors at 5 a.m. every weekday, when his earliest clients start their training sessions, and closes them at 11 p.m., when the last one ends.
His gym employs eight personal trainers who utilize more than 375 pieces of fitness equipment. But Edwards and his gym lack one seemingly crucial feature: a physical location.
Instead, Edwards and his trainers use a bright red van to bring the gym into Eastsiders’ homes.
GYMGUYZ is an in-home mobile personal trainer business that operates nationally. Each franchise uses retro-fitted vans to serve clients who may not have time to commit to a traditional gym.
Edwards lives in Auburn and owns the Eastside franchise, but said he tries to focus on the personal aspect of small business ownership.
“These people that we’re meeting, I never would have met them if it wasn’t for this business,” he said.
Edwards and his trainers serve more than 40 Eastside clients from Renton to Bothell, all while juggling their equipment and single GYMGUYZ van.
They lead individuals and small groups through numerous fitness classes throughout the day.
Edwards said they’re only limited by workouts that require larger equipment, such as stationary bicycles for spin classes.
“The beauty of what we do, is we can do anything,” he said. “We’re not tethered to a brick and mortar location.”
These limitations don’t impact the business, according to Edwards. Their clients are usually interested in the time convenience and while some train for fitness competitions, most don’t want to bench press 300 pounds.
Currently, the most difficult aspect is keeping track of who has the van, according to Edwards. The trainers hand off the van and trade equipment between their sessions so each trainer has what they need each day.
Edwards is working to acquire another van and more equipment to help alleviate these difficulties.
Edwards has been running the Eastside GYMGUYZ for nearly four months and is very passionate about the relationships he’s built. Occasionally, he looks back and can’t believe he was initially skeptical of the concept.
“I (wanted) to do something in fitness, but I (didn’t) want to put 400 pieces of fitness equipment and drive all over hell and creation,” Edwards said. “Why would anyone want to do that when I could create this nice gym?”
Edwards partnered with GYMGUYZ despite these doubts and said he’s happy with his decision.
“I almost ask myself, ‘What the hell have I been doing for the last 15 years?’” he said. “I worked in sales for a long time and I asked myself ‘What did I like about it?’ and the only thing I could really say was the financial benefits of it. But I got nothing else from it whatsoever, nothing.”
Edwards was driven to work in fitness after two of his friends died from health and fitness-related issues. He said he felt some guilt and promised himself he would start doing something to help people with their health.
“To see the change in people’s lives, that to me is the key,” he said. “The relationship portion of it and the change people have in their lives that’s going to affect them forever, there’s no amount of money that can relate to the emotional attachment and feelings that you get from it.”
Edwards and his trainers build strong relationships with their clients as he tries to match each client’s personality with the trainer’s personality.
While Edwards works best with clients who want performance training, clients who want to lose weight work better with a trainer who’s lost 140 pounds and can closely relate to them.
“We’re in people’s homes more than anybody else. There’s no other stranger in their house more than us,” Edwards said. “I don’t care if they have a house cleaner, gardener, whatever, as far as people who come in the house and spend time with them, there’s nobody in there more than us.”
Deborah Ottum, a Kirkland resident, participates in one of the small group sessions in Bellevue. GYMGUYZ uses the conifer building at Bellefield Office Park for these small group sessions and some of their most popular classes, including pilates, yoga and cross-fit.
“I think it’s a great idea and more people should consider participating in either the classes offered at Bellefield … or personal training at home,” Ottum said. “The added exercise has lowered my stress level and I’m sleeping better…(it’s) more convenient and I have no excuse not to go; it’s right here and the cost is very reasonable.”
Edwards said he enjoys serving people who have a fear of the gym, but want to commit to self-improvement. He said he wants to keep the prices affordable so this service isn’t just for the wealthy and doesn’t cost more than a traditional gym.
“I’ve had to understand that I can survive in the gym but a vast majority of people don’t want to,” he said. “So I’ve become sensitive to people when we go in for the first time. I meet them where their fear is and we help pull them out of it. We’re going to be there for them and we’ll never leave them.”