Tuesday, July 5, 2011

First Year as a Business Owner: Equipment Hits and Misses - Pt. 1

Over the Fourth of July weekend, I pondered at the thought that it has been a year since I opened my own facility. As I attended BBQ party after BBQ party, I thought to myself where I was a little over a year ago and where I am now. Many of you reading this would think that I have been in the field a mere 2 years or so. I mean isn't that the norm? Enter the field...train clients for about a year...and BOOM! Develop your own personal training studio? Reality is...I've been in the field for close to 12 years! I started like many of you...working in commercial gyms and moving up to management positions. The thought of having my own business never made it past my imagination--simply because I knew how much hardwork and [bullshit] went into it. Yet, last year I decided to go for it. 

Over the course of a year, I have had to make some decisions.....mainly financial decisions. I work mornings at a private golf club training golfers and dedicate my afternoons and evenings to my facility. I watch my budget and I decide on what equipment to purchase based on recommendations from colleagues, price, and usage [in my facility]. I try to keep my costs down because I know in the first year, there is little to no return on the investment. I buy used equipment when I can and repair as much stuff myself as possible. Sounds cheap....but when you  have been around equipment most of your adult life, and have had plenty of conversations and hands-on experience with many commercial line reps, repairmen, and facility owners--you tend to learn a thing or two about tools and fixing exercise equipment.

With this post, I would like to mention some pieces of equipment that I have purchased over the year and give you my recommendation and reviews of each. In order to not create a long, winded post--I have not listed all the equipment that I have--simply the ones that I tend to use frequently and ones that I really want to expose a bit for many of you [my readers]. The purpose it to really show you how equipment that has more versatility and durability is more advantageous to your wallet and budget. They are bang for your buck pieces. Then, there may be some that I spontaneously purchased without foreseeing their limits.There is no order in my listing--hits or misses are mixed. I have listed how much certain pieces have cost me simply to illustrate the whack my wallet took. Although, most people will probably not find certain pieces to be "hits or misses", I have simply provided my rationale to accommodate my listing. It doesn't make it gospel.

PIECE #1: SLED (Cost $100)
I purchased this sled from eBay over a year ago and once I posted the first photos of it on Facebook, everyone was commenting  on how great it looked. Well, I will tell you that this sucker is heavy, durable, and the perfect size for my facility. For the cost, it gets a tremendous amount of usage--especially in my group circuit class (Bootcamp) and my one-on-one clients. If you are looking for a small, economical sled and can't quite afford a Prowler,  this little guy can get the job done. My clients push it, pull it, and drag it. The eBayer that designs and makes it even throws in a dragging leash with handles and caribiener. If anyone is interested, his eBay handle is "xchoppers". This thing is even shipped via Fed Ex in a box right to your front door in about 2 weeks. This has been a great hit for my facility. When I first opened, I tried dragging it on rubber flooring--not smart. The artificial grass lane is perfect and gets alot of miles out of the sled.Verdict: HIT! (Thumbs Up)

Possibly my most expensive piece, it is my most versatile. This sucker was big when it was shipped to my facility. I remember it was a cold December day around 4:30pm, when a huge tractor trailer swung by the garage door and low and behold,  there were 16 boxes on pallets for me! The shipping was costly and tedious because it is shipped by a  freight company and you have to arrange a time. Once the piece is purchased,  the company (Christian's Fitness Factory) it was purchased from doesn't handle the shipping. This piece gets alot of attention at my facility. Simply because I like the diversity it adds to training and also, I want to get the most out of it. There are 2 pieces made by BodySolid--one is a bit bigger and longer. The one I purchased is a little more compact. I did alot of research on the Internet before purchasing this. I checked out many manufactures and visited some retail outlets to get a better idea of what I was looking for within my budget. For the cost,  it was the best way for me to go. Once the piece arrived, I spent about 4 hours putting it together with the help of my wife. Once the weight plates are in place, this sucker is heavy to move. I had to choose a spot on the floor and that is where it was going to reside. BodySolid has a reputation for designing and manufacturing some solid equipment for residential and light commercial. I've worked with BodySolid in the past and was not apprehensive about buying this piece once a decision was made. Verdict: HIT! (Thumbs Up)

I don't know the inventor of the Lebert Equalizer, Mark Lebert, but I knew I needed something to spice up my group circuit classes. They are about $100 from any of the big equipment suppliers and Amazon.com; so I took a shot and bought them about a month ago. To be honest, I was a bit disappointed with them. They are relatively strong bars, but there is not much versatility to them. I use them mainly for dips, body rows, and push-ups. That's about it. The video that came with the product illustrates many more drills that can be performed, but honestly, I don't see the Lebert Equalizer being useful for agility drills when I have a Ladder, Banana Steps, and Floor Rings at my disposal. For $100, I think they are possibly worth less than that ($50). Each bar is sturdy, but for $100--I don't think they are worth $50 a piece. My recommendation would be to spend your $100 on something with more versatility or more of something that you may need for your training groups (i.e. more bands, tubing, balls, etc). Verdict: MISS! (Thumbs Down)

Quite possibly the most utilized piece I have. The board is quite popular in Crossfit camps and when teaching larger groups, however, I use the dry erase board for myself. My programs are written out during the day by me after I evaluate my client's history, goals, and movement analysis. Once I arrive to my facility, I write my clients' workout agenda (for that day) up on the board. I am a big believer in keeping the "flow" of a session going. Sure, it is instructional, but with my clients that I have been training for a while and have picked up alot of the exercises already, the "flow" is important. I don't like to pause and check out my notebook or look through my client folder while they are waiting for me. I don't carry clipboards and I believe that the client session is THEIR time. Therefore, I try not to waste it--since they are paying me! During the session, I will look up at the dry erase board and set up the next exercise during circuits. It only takes a glance. I will write specific weights, personal records, and make modifications if I need to and then later, transfer those changes into my notes. It has worked for me and I wouldn't change a thing. Find your way of keeping the session or class "flow" smooth and stick with it! Verdict: HIT! (Thumbs Up)

That's it for now. In an effort to keep the post short, I will post Part 2 of this topic later in the week. Thanks!!


  1. Hey John I was going to get the Lebert equalizer to but I thought they cost to much so I went to home depot and made my own for about half the price with metal pipe or you can use PVC pipe.

  2. Hi John,

    Enjoyed the article. I appreciate your comments about the Lebert Equalizer; I've gone back and forth about purchasing some.

    What would you consider the minimum distance for effectively using a sled?

  3. Hi Mick...I use only about 30 feet. My clients turn the sled on my artificial grass surface...or we combine pushes with drags.

  4. Hi thanks for the advice I was going to get the lebert bars, but now have decide not to, but going to get a few of your slede's build, localy, (australia) great idea, you can buy yourself poor in all the different equipement there is, but I manly use, Kettelbell, tyres, medicine balls, weight plates, for my bootcamp, and I have great results with my client's Love your post. Thanks
    Kind regards
    Fitter4ever Bootcamp Australia

  5. In case anyone is interested in the sled above, it looks like the guy has changed the design somewhat and increased the price. I found it here...


  6. Hey John

    Great blog post man.

    I have recently upgraded to a new facility and I love the reviews.

    I have the equalizer and as you said I dont get much use from them. I Need a free range motion machine so I will look into that for sure.

    I have a rogue Dog Sled and it was a bit more pricey but I love the sled as do my clients.

    Keep up the great work man, your doing great things.



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