In Stephen King’s epic Dark Tower series, the afterlife is referred to as “the clearing at the end of the path”. The implication, of course, is that our entire lives are an ongoing journey for our time on earth.
Progress along the path isn’t always linear. At times, it may seem like the journey is a tough one – a difficult, winding and uncertain path. At other times, the path seems a bit easier to traverse, and more predictable. And though the easy parts of the journey might seem preferable, it often seems like we only get to the easier path by means of following the harder one — either for a time, or in regular intervals.
Iron Lion Training is a journey that my wife, Steph, and I embarked on some years ago. At the time, what we had was us, our brand, and a mission statement that Community, Simplicity, Balance, and Strength are things we value, and that they contribute strongly to the priority of fitness and a healthy life. My wife made our first logo herself, and I still love it, even though the rebrand is awesome!
Launching our own brand of fitness training was something of a surprise to those around us – after all, we didn’t have a gym space, and no product other than our own experience as athletes and coaches. In fact, launching our own brand put some strain on our relationships with the gym owners who were renting us space. Those gym owners logically want the focus of people coming in their facility to be on them, and their brand.
So, why do it? Why put a strain on our good relationships with those nice people who trusted us to train people at their gyms? Why stick our necks out, rock the boat, and a bunch of other cliches? Why take a chance?
Well, it goes back to that statement of our values. Building, and being of service to a community means a lot to us. Life balance, and keeping it simple is something we value greatly. And strength is never a weakness, to quote Mark “Smelly” Bell – resilience makes everything else possible. Living our mission statement is even more important to us than the security and stability of training people for PN, or at Canada’s biggest gym, or in established smaller gyms. For us to stay true to our mandate, it became obvious that we needed to move forward into a place of autonomy.
And that puts us on a very different path from the one we were on. Training people online for Precision Nutrition was work I did from home, which offered both flexibility and stability. Steph had great success as a trainer, both with personal training and group training, and has gotten a lot of people fantastic results while working under the banner of other gyms. For both of us this will be a significant change, but the end result of prioritizing our values is that we actually get to live fuller, richer and more integral lives. To quote Dr. Krista Scott-Dixon, “the enjoyment of meeting one’s own deeply held goals and confirming one’s own self-concept always beats external validation”.
And so, we began our new journey. Steph tasked herself with the job of finding us a downtown Toronto space that would work for our dream gym. A lot of factors came into it – price, location, square footage, and the general feel of the place being some of them. Our initial goal was to find a work/live space, but after literal months of looking we realized that was going to be extremely difficult, maybe even impossible. Steph kept looking, and when I say she looked at thousands of online listings, it’s no exaggeration – she literally made it her job.
Steph looked everywhere in Toronto, uptown and downtown, Eastside to the Westside. We visited lots of places – some too expensive, too big, too small, no AC, bad location, bad juju (you can never really get it out), and so on. We found a couple of very promising spaces, but in the 11th hour, they both fell through.
Running out of drawing boards at this point, we nonetheless started again, and Steph found a tempting listing that was so fresh, no one had seen it yet. That’s practically unheard of, so off we went to 1485 DuPont, to visit Unit 312. And there we found peace.
Peace and Cotton Inc., to be exact, the printing company working there. We brought our dog Ripley with us, but since there was another dog there, Ripley and I waited in the hall while Steph scoped the place.
When Steph came out, she was very excited. Apparently she’d told Jer, “We’ll take it. But my husband has to see it.”
I met Jer, the occupant. And I met Kenya, his dog. When I held out my hands to the dog, she nuzzled and smelled them quite carefully, but I think I passed her test. I could see why Steph liked the place. It has high ceilings, exposed concrete walls, industrial floors, and a garage door that opened out to a bright sunny Eastern exposure; it certainly looked like the “home” we’d been looking for.
And so, the path continued. We met with Jer a number of times. He seemed a little unsure that we were serious, but we convinced him. We started to talk in earnest about what a good move in date would be. He found a huge space to move his business, and the die was cast. September 15 was our move in day.
Coinciding with the move in, Steph also competed in her first full powerlifting competition on September 17th, leading an all-female team also competing for the first time. It was my privilege to coach them, and they did great (check out Steph’s meet report coming soon)!
That meant we had to expedite a few things, but with the help of a hard-working group of delivery people, the flooring and equipment got delivered in time. Steph and I now have a gym full of our favourite workout gear, ready to do any type of real training you can imagine. It’s literally a dream come true.
But it’s a dream that comes true by means of continuing our journey along the aforementioned path. It happens by insisting that it happen, and not giving up when the path gets steep and twisty. We’re taking steps on our path. And we won’t stop, because you never really do.
Everyone is welcome to join us on The Path! Building community is incredibly important to us. We promise it will be a good ride, but we won’t promise it’ll be easy! Nothing good ever is.
By the way, the powerlifting meet was a lot of fun! I got a chance to coach the training of two absolute beginners to weight training, and two more experienced trainees (including my wife, Steph, who handed her training over to me for the first time in ages!). We worked together for 8 weeks, and they all made steady progress, right up to their first meet. I’m super proud of the whole group, including my only lovely wife who got 3 PRs, but Steph will be covering that in more detail in her own blog post coming soon soon, so I’ll leave it at that!