The business of fitness, with Mighty Mick

 

I was in the living room, on the ground, staring up at the rotating blades of the ceiling fan. My heart was beating through my ribs and sending percussion waves to the glass of water on the table next to me (slight exaggeration). It was in the low 90s outside with what felt like 100% humidity. That, for some reason, seemed irrelevant during my earlier decision making process. Oh, and I was coming out of a 5 day’er (sickness) that came complete with fever, aches, pains, and an overall inhibitor of gross motor skills. Needless to say the timing wasn’t ideal. But enough about the past…

 

My 18 month-old daughter came over with a dripping wet cold cloth, sent from the wife, handed it too me and ran off to grab her, “Baaawl!” (ball). All the while I’m thinking, “My heart rate will decrease at some point, right? I’m not sure I’ve felt like this since 2-a-days…”

 

Monica (my wife) must have been thinking the same because she came over with a concerned look and a few questions to assess my overall condition. I must not have passed because she sat down and didn’t leave.

 

I had just “survived” a workout at Mighty Mick’s Gym in Hilliard, Ohio.

 

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I told my daughter to write this down – “That should be his marketing strategy, all those that make it through the first workout get a t-shirt.” Never mind she’s only 18 months-old and can’t write, I was just getting blood flow back to my brain – bear with me.

 


 

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David Eagle, Mighty Mick’s owner and operator, didn’t start out with a gym – his business didn’t even start as a business. Dave Mr. Eagle was a physical education teacher at a local high school who saw the problem of adolescent obesity first hand. Dave wanted to make a difference so he took his God given motivation and gifts to help some of those kids and, ipso-facto, he’s now a 59 year-old gym owner that could be cast as a Goliath-type character in the next Hollywood blockbuster. If you struggle with motivation, are looking for a gym experience other than the vanilla big-box pump chambers, or just want to feel like part of a family all working together toward improving fitness – Mighty Mick’s may be your spot…

 

Before we get too far ahead of ourselves though, the “ipso-facto” deserves some explanation:

 

Our coach was in his mid 40s when he started dabbling in bootcamps and learning all he could about fitness. He wasn’t new to the athletic process by any stretch, though. As a 3-4 sport athlete in high school who then became a physical education teacher, it was a desire to learn more about how to push his body and improve his health that led him to a career in physical fitness. He told it to me like this, “I was always a small guy in high school that wanted to be somebody… I wanted to be like (Joe) Namath or (Johnny) Unitas, those were my idols.”

 

I was sitting there listening to him, looking at him, and thinking, “Small guy? I can’t see you in that role, Dave. Not now, not then. There must’ve been a growth spurt in there somewhere.”

 

Dave had enjoyed his high school athletic career but towards this age his focus had shifted to different challenges and priorities. There were Iron Man runs, road races, and eventually kids of his own to root on. All of these new experiences only helped enhance his knowledge base and experience level.

 

There came a point where Dave’s desire to help other kids met with a brimming brain full of exercises, lifts, and heart rate increasers. He decided to pitch the administration on an elective gym class – “B.U.D.S. – Building Unconditional Drive for Success” (A take from the Navy Seals training program, without the “demolition,” of course). He hoped for 10-20 kids that were interested enough to get out there, learn a few things, and work to improve their fitness levels. 80-100 signed up pretty early on. He was floored.

 

It didn’t stop there either, BUDS became one of the most desired electives throughout the remainder of Dave’s career as an educator. We’re talking about an elective gym class here… I’ve been to high school and I don’t know about your experience but most kids in my day weren’t too
excited for any type of gym class, let alone an elective (of course I loved phys. ed., but I’m the guy that loves competition in all walks of life – grocery store, trail runs against other runners that don’t know they’re competing, etc.)

 

BUDS focused on different combinations of pull-ups, push-ups, squats, and other body-weight exercises, but that wasn’t all that drew the crowds. I suspect many came for the instructor’s personality. After spending a few days with him here’s my crude take on what that personality can be explained as: your favorite uncle that makes you excited about the family reunion who is also a drill sergeant (but the one with the sense of humor) and a guy you’ll never miss in the pews on Sunday. Oh, and ‘shy’ wouldn’t be anywhere near Dave in a sentence (except here, of course).

 

Not your “typical” retirement

 

Dave’s elective, boot camp style, class ran for about 15 years. That’s 15 years of students. 15 years of helping young kids find their physical abilities and limits. 15 years instructing activity as opposed to sedentary behavior. 15 years of having a blast in school. But perhaps most importantly – 15 years of keeping you out of physics, chemistry, art, or (insert your most challenging class here) for at least one more hour… Only kidding with the last one…

 

From what I hear, a great majority of these kids loved the class and they both enjoyed and respected Dave. As I try to give him praise and let him know what an awesome impact he’s had on so many people, he’s quick to remind me, “I’m God’s most flawed servant. I’m just doing the best I can with what He allows me and the people He sends me.” Well, the classes appreciated his work.

 

On March 31st, 2015, Dave retired from teaching and thus had to hand his class over to another instructor. “That was tough. It was like my baby. I had done the class for about 15 years and it was a little hard to let go but the guy that’s running it now is a perfect fit – and the kids seem to love him.”

 

Contrary to what Dave had expected, his version of the class didn’t stop there. He had made a ton of relationships and had an impact on so many people that a few weren’t ready to let up. Dave got a few calls. Some of the recent grads wanted to know if he’d be willing to start the classes back up after work/school hours so that they could come for the workout and the community, even if only for a few more months before summer ended.

 

It started as a group of 5 or 6 in his driveway. “I had pretty much everything we needed except for the pull-up bar.” Dave didn’t let that last for too long and before you knew it the band was back together on Tuesdays and Thursdays in front of Dave’s suburban home.

 

Outgrowing the driveway

 

Dave’s students (now clients?) loved it, so naturally, word spread. One guy brought his friend, another’s mom wanted in on the action, and before a few weeks went by the group numbered 15 or 20. Dave’s ‘business’ was starting to scale and he needed to adjust the space to accommodate this. I don’t think he pitched his wife (Mindy) on the basement or another room in the house before the idea of taking his workouts to the park came to him.

 

It was logical – all the space you need so anyone could come. The only issue was that now the group had almost tripled in size, and so did the amount of equipment they needed for the workouts. It’s hard to keep the sweat going and heart rate up when you’re waiting in line for 10 of your best friends for the pull-up bar. Dave had to expand his thinking and incur some
additional cost.

 

Pull-up bars, weights, bands, and all the other items you’d need for a proper workout came soon after, and when they didn’t fit in the back of his truck, there was a trailer. But people kept coming.

 

To offset the cost of equipment, Dave had to start charging a fee for the classes. “I was concerned that we would lose some people but they didn’t mind. I think they loved the workouts, yes, but they also loved being with each other. It has been a great environment.”

 

Summer pressed on, people came, people got in shape and enjoyed the community of the class, but come October, a problem was staring the group in the face… Winter… In Ohio… Eventually the weather would turn freezing and although this group was comprised of some tough cookies, it would have been pretty difficult for Dave to keep the workouts practical, safe, and at least warm-ish.

 

From garage to park to business

 

If you’ve ever been an athlete playing in a meaningful game (we’re going with football here – ’tis the season), you know what the 4th quarter can feel like. Basically 1 of 2 things could happen.

 

Option 1) You’ve trained your tail off both physically and mentally. You know what the opponent is going to do based on the formation they line up in and the game flow. Now all you need to do is execute the game plan, trust your training, and go make the play.
Option 2) You’ve trained 90% of the time but there were a few days where you dogged it here and there on the practice field. In the film room earlier in the week your mind was focused on dinner, your girlfriend, or any number of other things, all of which are not your opponent. You’re a great athlete but that can only take you so far. You’ve been playing all game and are starting to feel fatigued. As a side effect your mind isn’t as sharp as it was at kickoff. You see the formation, the ball is snapped, and maybe you make the play or maybe you don’t…

 

The question here is whether you have that determination and a will to succeed – do you have that drive?

 

For the glory-days version of yourself above that entails a week of practice, rest, and film study. For Dave, it was – do you have the desire to keep this thing going? To take a leap of faith and actually start a business knowing full well all the hard work and dedication he’d need to throw at this project.

 

If you’re wondering, let me save you the trouble. We’re talking about a career athlete, iron man competitor, and a guy that devoted many of his working years toward serving the children of our community. Yea, Dave took the leap…

 

Welcome to Mighty Mick’s

 

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What started with a 2-year lease, a financial commitment in the tens of thousands for equipment, and a loyal group of patrons almost a year ago has already expanded to a larger space and ventured into the realm of profitability. “We’re not talking anything huge here but we are finally in the black,” is how Dave relayed it to me.

 

I asked him why he thinks the steady growth has sustained throughout this first year. “It’s this place. And it’s not just me helping others either. Every day I see people helping, pushing, and teaching others in the workouts. Yes, they’re getting a great workout in but it’s the community. They’re doing it for themselves but they’re doing it for each other too.”

 

He’s not wrong. The workout that put me down (after effects described above) was attended by men, women, what I assume to be middle-school-aged kids, and other grandparents ‘like Dave.’ I say that last part in jest because I have yet to see many 59 year-old retired grandpas that look like this:

 

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The workout was a blast because of the atmosphere and the others sweating alongside me. It was also nice not to have to come up with my own workout plan for a change…

 

Why I’m writing this story

 

My dry cleaner was right next door to Mighty Mick’s and I remember being intrigued when I walked by for the first time and saw the space was no longer for lease. The next time I showed up there was signage, “A gym! Sweet.” Naturally my workout-centric curiosity piqued. That night I checked out the website just to see what this seemingly different gym was all about. Site looked good, concept made sense, and I thought about giving it a shot one day.

 

The third week – I’m pulling into the parking lot and see guys and ladies doing pull-ups (indoors), rope swings, sled pushes, tire flips, dips, and a cadre of other exercises outdoors. It looked like a glorious obstacle course that drew me in. I walked in to ask the ring-leader (Dave) what this place was all about, believing that this guy has to have quite a story to tell. I was hooked and needed to learn more right after leaving.

 

Emails were exchanged and a few weeks went by. Then I got home from work one day, checked my email, and yelled, “Monica!! He agreed to do the interview!” I was jacked up. There was excitement, I was intrigued by this guy and by the gym and I couldn’t wait to get started. I’m running through the house and finally find Monica upstairs.

 

“Who agreed to do what interview,” was her less than enthused but honest response. I explained the details and reminded her of Mighty Mick’s. This earned a response that came closer to my expectations in terms of excitement.

 

The nuts and bolts

 

Workouts start as a group then give you the freedom to go at your own pace and modify exercises as needed. Start times range from 5:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Monday through Saturday, with the times varying from day-to-day. You can check out the schedule here.

 

Dave was also pretty excited to tell me about the addition of Yoga and Hip Hop Fitness classes a few days a week. To which I responded, “Okay, you’ve done triathlons, iron-mans, road races, parenting, taught classes… How much hip-hop experience were you able to fit in there?” That earned a chuckle then he assured me there are a couple of his good friends coming to teach the hip-hop and Yoga classes.

 

The workouts explained

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“A workout always begins with a quick prayer. They don’t have to pray out loud and it’s not overwhelming or in your face but I believe this place exists because God has given it to us – and brought us together here.”

 

I had totally forgotten that Dave had filled me in on this before I came to the workout. I was there, a bit nervous, not knowing what to expect when the group gathered in a circle for 30 seconds, prayed for safety, and thanked God for this time. A millisecond later, the jams were pumped back up, there was a quick explanation of the workout and we were off.

 

You know how the workout ended for me but let me tell you how I got there.

 

Pacing myself, using moderate weight, and not giving 100% on every exercise in the first round were all points relayed to me by Dave, which I subsequently discarded as though I had to prove to him (and myself) that I could dominate this workout. Well… The workout dominated me because of my ego and overly high opinion of self. Lesson learned.

 

Dave remembered that workout too. “I saw you take off and was like, woah! This guy either really knows what he’s doing or we’ll be sitting on the boxes and catching up before too long.”

 

I landed somewhere in the middle. While still completing 2.5 rounds of the workout we did end up sitting on the boxes while I tried with what little energy I had left not to pass out… I’ve had better approaches to new things.

 

I asked Dave how he mixes up the workouts

 

“People come anywhere from once to 4 or 5 times per week, so I have to mix up the workouts and make sure that the folks that come Tuesday don’t get the same routine on Thursday.”

 

He has about 30 workouts in the queue with 7 ‘special workouts’ that come out to play on the weekends. I didn’t experience one of those but I’m excited to try – this time with a better approach.

 

Dave let me know that he takes steps to safeguard those in his workouts. “I float around to keep an eye on most of the folks with the workouts. For people that have been coming for a while, they know the deal and how to do the moves. I’ll typically stay with the new people for their entire first round of exercises coaching them through the moves to make sure the form is good and to help prevent injury.”

 

After being set loose myself, I counted a few other people coming up to me either making conversation or offering a suggestion about a move I must not have seemed 100% comfortable with. It was great to feel that support.

 

New additions – Yoga and Hip-Hop

 

Dave was excited when talking about the addition of Yoga and Hip-Hop classes. He thought more of his people would be excited to have these different options at the gym. Also, in moving to the new space, they were able to put in field turf (the stuff most football fields are made out of these days) for sprints, burpees, or Dave knows what else.

 

There are even a few others who have instructed classes at Mighty Mick’s other that Dave himself. “The response to the other instructors has been good. You know, this is my retirement, after all. I may take a day off here and there.”

 

My impression

 

The excitement I had when seeing this gym for the first time hasn’t faded after getting to know it’s owner and interacting with the people that make it what it is. We are talking about a community-centered business that puts its people first and isn’t bottom-line focused. The people I saw outside flipping tires that first day are still the ones I see when picking up my dry-cleaning (and kicking myself for not being there working out) today, only now they have a few more friends with them.

 

I’m excited to see where Mighty Mick’s can go from here, and if you’re in the Columbus, Ohio area I recommend you check it out. Or at least stop in, shake Dave’s hand, and see for yourself. But as Dave says, “Be careful, the feeling in this place is contagious – you may not be able to shake it.”

 

Thanks for reading!

 

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Do you have a question or comment? Let us know by commenting on the post below or emailing Mike. We’re glad you’re here. Thanks again and talk soon!

 

– Mike
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4 Comments

  1. What a great story, inspirational to be reminded of good things happening to hard working people. Great job Dave and thanks for bringing it to the page Mike.

  2. Angela pretty well summed up my sentiments as well. Very rewarding to see a guy like Dave living out his dreams and sharing those with others. Keep up the good work and thanks Mike for bringing this to all of us.

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