You couldn’t come up with a better sales pitch if you made it up.
Stephanie and Justin East started as students 15 years ago at a Farrell’s Extreme Bodyshaping gym in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and they liked it so much, they started their own franchise.
After moving their business from central Iowa to Madison in 2010, they relocated again last November - this time to a bigger, better location in Fitchburg. This month, they’re celebrating their 11th year owning a Farrell’s franchise, and things in their new location have connected like a good roundhouse kick.
Justin said when the couple started training at Farrell’s, he weighed 300 pounds and was desperate for a routine to help get back in shape. Now a muscular, kickboxing 220 pounds, it’s hard to imagine that former self.
“It was basically my last resort when I signed up,” he said. “I talked (Stephanie) into joining, and it just kind of grew from there.”
The couple eventually started instructing at the gym, and soon became the managers before a former business partner connected them with an opening for a new franchise in Madison. But after six successful years, their location on the west side of Madison was getting cramped.
They were pleasantly surprised when they heard about the available space on McKee Road in Fitchburg, and made the move in November - though not without some concerns how it would affect business. Stephanie said it ended up being a big positive, though.
“We didn’t realize how much it was closer for so many people,” she said. “We had so many people who were excited because they don’t have to be on the Beltline now. We were really shocked by that.”
The Midwest-based Farrell’s chain has a set regimen for the franchises to follow.
In general, a combination of three days’ kickboxing for cardio work and three days’ resistance bands for strength training, with a nutrition part included. While the routine is designed for people to get in shape and stay in shape, the Easts say the real secret to their success is being able to build a community of like-minded people who enjoy working out - and getting in shape - together.
“The community - it’s the hardest part to tell people how it works, because it’s every fitness level,” Stephanie said. “We have people in their 70s, people in their 20s, and it all gels together. It’s hard to explain.”
Ferrell’s most popular offering is a 10-week session, with 45-minute sessions six days a week, but they work with people on a variety of membership schedules. Students get a personal coach who works with them on fitness and nutrition goals.
Stephanie said once people get going in the program, the sky is the limit in reaching their fitness goals.
“When some people come in, they’re like, ‘I’m going to hate this - every morning at 5:15 - I’m not a morning person, and I’m going to be grumpy,” she said. “But because of how our program works, when you put the class types we have with the nutrition and coaching, it creates such a lifestyle change for people, and an energy shift - you’re sleeping better, you’re feeling better. It’s an overall health change.”
Justin said the kickboxing is Taekwando-based, and the 10-week program starts slow, concentrating on technique before “ramping up” toward the end.
“It helps with balance, which you need in everyday life - getting up and down stairs,” he said. “The kickboxing is really cardio part, and the strength training isn’t building up (muscle), it’s more toning, and that’s where you get the fat burn and weight loss.”
As it turns out, kicking and punching the heavy bags at the gym seems to have a cathartic effect on clients, as well.
“It’s a stress reliever, too,” Justin said. “People can come in here and kick and hit our bags.”
“When people are are gone on vacation, they come back here, and (say), ‘Oh my God’ - they didn’t even think of that stress relief they’re getting from being in here,” Stephanie added.
Of course, any workout isn’t useful if it’s not productive. Stephanie said she can see the change in people as early as three weeks into a program.
“Energy levels are shifting, attitudes are changing,” she said. “It’s really an overall change.”
Even though the name of the business has the word “extreme,” Stephanie said people shouldn’t think the gym is about “extreme results.” You won’t see any MMA fighters or powerlifters in the sessions, just regular people looking to get in better shape - something she promises will happen if they try.
“We have a money-back guarantee with our 10-week program, so if anyone wants to come in and they think it’s just another gimmick, it’s not,” she said. “One of our taglines is ‘Results are typical,’ because we guarantee people are going to have results, because it works.”