By Joseph McFadden , CEO BattleGrounds Fitness
I’ve told the story of how Rocky and I decided to open a gym in Front Royal so many times that the version I tell now is a mere shadow of the whole story. I can tell it to a perspective client in only a few minutes. In this blog post I’ll attempt to lay out the entire “Origin Story” here, from the very beginning, as all good origin stories do.
So it all started back in January of 2002 when I met Rocky up at Fort Meade, Maryland. I had just transferred to a new unit located in Baltimore, Maryland from my unit in Roanoke, VA. I was part of the 4th Combat Engineer Battalion and had been in the Marines since January 2001, when I stepped onto the iconic yellow footprints at Paris Island. Rocky had stood on those same footprints several months before I did. Fast forward to the Summer of 2002, where we had the opportunity to serve our country in Bulgaria, working with several Balkan nations as part of the Cornerstone Project, a unification effort of the fractured former Soviet Bloc countries.
We formed lasting friendships on that trip. Ones that continued on as we later went on to serve on multiple deployments, to South America in 2004 and Iraq in 2005. And subsequently, most of our friend group out processed from the Marine Corps Reserve and returned to civilian life, working toward using our GI Bills to complete college degrees. Then onto civilian jobs and starting families. It was a busy 8 years that seemed to fly by.
Life came to a halt in 2014, when one of our best friends was killed in Afghanistan. SSgt David Stewart, or “Stewie” as we called him, had been killed in combat operations. He had opted to go active duty after his tour in Iraq in 2004, serving a second tour in Iraq and then Afghanistan. He had gone down to Paris Island and served a few cycles as a Drill Instructor and then reintegrated back to 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion for a second tour in Afghanistan. He left behind his wife Krissy, and his two children McKenzie and Marshall.
At the time, Rocky had moved to his home country of Bolivia to run a family hotel business. Several of us had a group chat in Facebook messenger, where we could keep in contact as we felt those bonds of brotherhood rekindle in the wake of our loss. Krissy, had opted to grieve by running the Marine Corps Marathon. Rocky came up with the idea of getting her custom “Team Stewie” Nike running shoes that had the Marine Corps colors. We all chipped in for them and they were ordered. I was designated as the closest person to take them to her. I delivered them to her on Dave’s birthday, May 13, 2015. I wrote a card and packed the family up for the drive from Front Royal to Stafford, VA.
After a nice visit, Krissy expressed that the shoes were great but she really wanted more people to run with her. I was not in good shape. I had been fighting a battle with my health for years. Well, pretty much since I had taken off my Marine Corps uniform. I had gained weight. A. LOT. OF. WEIGHT. And I had gained it quickly. So quickly, that I have the stretch marks to prove it. Later, I had identified a Gluten sensitivity and had done a summer of just juicing, after I watched “Reboot with Joe” on Netflix. I had lost a lot of the weight in that process, but I had begun to put it back on. I had 4 children at the time. My oldest boy has Hypo-plastic Left Heart Syndrome, so we had adjusted to a much healthier lifestyle so we could set an example for him.
I was not in good enough shape to run a marathon with only 6 months until race day. I was in recovery from years of unhealthy habits, which included an attempt to drink away the PTSD I experienced from my tour in Iraq and the possible brain scarring from years of blowing up stuff in the Marines.
I got in the car with my wife and kids and I sat quietly contemplating the request Krissy had made. And I thought, “If not me, than who?” I had thought that so many times before when I had volunteered for things in the military. I had felt that call to purpose. I had a reason to train. To get off my couch and run a marathon. I messaged her that I would join her. And I did. I ran that marathon in October of 2015.
It started a path to fitness that stuttered for a few months until I then decided it was time to try and rejoin the military. It was my 35th birthday. I was too old to go active duty Army. I decided to try and rejoin the Marines. I had just run a marathon! I was ready to reintegrate into the Marine Corps Reserve. I headed to the prior service recruiter in DC and started my package.
The initial motivation and inspiration kept me moving. Then my reenlistment package got held up. My motivation started to slip. Luckily, it was then that I found a video posted by a friend from grade-school of his sister’s journey with CrossFit. I was hooked immediately. I wanted that in my life too! I called the nearest CrossFit, Convergent CrossFit (no longer in existence) and I started my path to what I believe will be a life-long love of fitness and commitment to my health.
My path led to a sabbatical from my full time job. I taught grades 3-5 at a small school. And half way through that year, I had abandoned my pursuit of rejoining the Marines and had started talking to a National Guard recruiter. CrossFit was helping me to stay fit, both in mind and body and I was working toward some of my personal goals that I had let slip over the years.
Rocky returned from Bolivia. He invited me to join him at a White Snake concert, tickets acquired through a service called VetTix. We talked and caught up on all things. We all know the first rule of CrossFit. And I was a loyal follower of that rule. I talked about CrossFit. But more importantly, I looked the part, as did my wife Sara. We were attending class regularly and living healthy good lives. Rocky saw me and heard me that day.
A week or so later he messaged me. He wanted to buy a building in my town. I though he meant that he wanted to move to Front Royal. I was surprised. I had spoken highly of my town and all it has to offer families. He was already missing the hometown feel of where he had been living in Bolivia. The link he sent me surprised me. It was for a commercial building. I didn’t even know that building was for sale. They had no sign in the window. It was a consignment store where I shopped often with my children and knew well. I wondered what it was he wanted to do with that building.
He said that he wanted to open a CrossFit in my town.
SO. MANY. OBJECTIONS.
He had never done CrossFit. We already had one in Front Royal. We both had full time careers. We didn’t have the money. We’d never done anything like that before.
Then the spark came. The inspiration. The dreams.
I had just come off a year sabbatical. I had loved it and the time I had been able to spend with my children. I had lived on a mere fraction of my previous salary. I had money left over from refinancing a property that I had been trying to figure out where to invest it. I had recently started talking to a CrossFit friend, who had taken over the property management company that managed my rental property. He told me he had client with an investment property for sale if I was interested. I told him I actually had other plans in the works. He asked me and I laid out the broad plan to open a CrossFit in downtown Front Royal. He said he was interested.
This started a plan, partnered now with Jon, to buy the building and build a business. Easy right?
Nothing is ever as easy as it seems. And everything always takes longer than you think. Those are two of them many life lessons my experiences over the past 2 years have taught me.
But wait….what are the Vision and Mission statements for the gym anyway? Isn’t that what this post was supposed to be all about?!
I’ll start by telling you what a Mission and Vision statement do…
A Mission Statement defines the company’s business, its objectives and its approach to reach those objectives. A Vision Statement describes the desired future position of the company. Elements of Mission and Vision Statements are often combined to provide a statement of the company’s purposes, goals and values.www.bain.com
When Rocky and I first decided to open BattleGrounds Fitness, we felt it was important to have clearly defined goals and objectives for what we had set out to accomplish in the heart of the downtown historic district in Front Royal. We had the building already picked out. And we had Jon to help guide us on that path. Our next steps were coming up with a business plan, doing our research (which included Rocky’s first CrossFit workout in San Diego), and seeking investors (hint: it failed). I’ll cover more of our journey from October 2018 through where we are now in the next blog post
For now I’ll leave you with our Vision and Mission Statements.
At BattleGrounds Fitness, we want to educate and empower the residents of Front Royal and the greater Warren County community with the necessary fitness skills and knowledge for them to live happier, healthier lives from their earliest years as “Kids” through adulthood and into their advanced years as “Legends.”
To become the premier Health and Fitness organization in Warren County, that has a primary focus on inclusion for all members of the family. This includes the highest quality of coaching and support for our CrossFit (all ages and abilities), Olympic Lifting, Gymnastics, Running, Rock Climbing, Adventure Fitness and various sporting clubs.
…In the next post I will talk about why the mission and vision of BattleGrounds Fitness is so important to us and how we are still working toward accomplishing it to this day.