Saturday, September 23, 2017

Former football players turn passion for fitness into business


F45 owners Matt Davidson and James McCoy may have both become personal trainers, but their passion for fitness started with football.

Davidson is a Fort Myers native who played safety and linebacker at Virginia Tech. McCoy is a former Arena Football League player who was on the roster of teams like the Dallas Desperados and Tampa Bay Storm until a neck injury sidelined him in 2011, when he moved down to Fort Myers and met Davidson. Both men were working as personal trainers at the same big-box gym but wanted to strike out on their own. They opened a gym in the Gateway area named Florida Strength Systems in June of 2014.

The gym had difficulty finding its identity at first, offering a mix of general weight training, fitness for the elderly, and even some boxing classes. McCoy and Davidson knew they needed to find a way to set themselves apart, so they decided to convert the gym into a F45 franchise in January of 2016

“Now we have one target audience to attack, rather than trying to chase a million different things. It’s more of a niche,” Davidson said.

F45 is an Australia-based gym franchise which opened in 2013 and already had over 750 locations worldwide by the end of 2016. The Fort Myers location was the 13th of over 40 franchises that have already opened up in the United States, and more than double that number have been sold to franchisees according to McCoy and Davidson.

Davidson said F45’s system has a different goal than many other popular fitness programs that help set if apart.

“I would say we are more physique based,” said Davidson. “Cross-fit is more performance based, how much weight you are going to move. We are more focused on burning body fat and building lean mass in a fun environment.”

The franchise’s training regimen is designed by a team of fitness experts with masters or doctorate degrees in kinesiology. McCoy said that unlike exercise classes at larger gyms, which are often thrown together by under-qualified trainers, F45 workouts are designed to work together, which he believes provides a personal trainer-style work out for a much more affordable price.

“With this program, you know you are getting the best training and the best workout from qualified people,” said McCoy.

The gym has seen a doubling of its business since the conversion to a F45 franchise, and its owners see no signs of that stopping. The franchise now has 160 active members and hosts about 100 individuals a day in its small space. Davidson and McCoy already have plans to open another location in Naples during the spring of 2018 and hope to continue to expand in Southwest Florida.

“It’s not a household name yet, but believe me it will be soon, and we believe that we are going to be the ones to help do that in this area,” said Davidson.

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