I may have misted up a bit while closing up the other night. It was 8:30pm and I was vacuuming the gym after finishing personal training. Our little old yellow vacuum still works but cosmetically it is rather beat up as well it should be since we bought it April 2013. I recall it distinctly because it was one month after we opened up on Dunbar Street.
Opening a business is a scary proposition. We were suddenly on the hook for a $3500/month lease and for $25,000 of equipment financed through Desjardins at 19% interest rate co-signed by Sunghee’s brother-in-law because no bank was going to loan us that kind of money.
You can’t blame them. We had no assets. We were living in Sunghee’s mother’s spare bedroom near Oakridge Mall. We didn’t even have a car. I had to take 2 buses to work each morning departing before they even started running. Luckily for me a kindly driver would stop for coffee at Oak & 41st each morning around 5:30am and give me a solo lift on his “Not in Service” bus dropping me at King Edward where I could catch the #25 to the gym. It’s a reminder that much in our life is made possible due to the kindness of random strangers.
We had a handful of members who followed us from CrossFit Vancouver but not nearly enough to cover the rent. Bed-ridden with an undiagnosed illness and having lost 15 pounds in only a couple weeks (“Don’t worry,” the letter from the BC Cancer Agency said, “Just because you are getting tested does not mean that you have cancer.”) Sunghee was left home alone with our son, 10 years old at the time, as I went to stand each morning in an empty gym.
“Why open at 6am if there are no clients at 6am?” She asked me one night as I stumbled home exhausted at 9:30pm dropped off by The Wolfman who was too kind to leave me to bus home after coaching the 8pm group class. “Because if I’m not there at 6am, there will never be anyone in the gym at 6am,” was my answer.
By the end of March Music Man – thus named because in those early days, it was he who supplied the music – joined me for three sessions each week. Not enough to justify a 6am class but better than standing there alone through the dark mornings.
The next month, April 2013, Dr. T, our family dentist and a client of mine at CrossFit Vancouver since 2010, joined us paying two months – roughly $400 back in those days – upfront. I remember the excitement of that giant cash infusion, so desperately needed at that time. Our empty bank account and our empty 6am group class were no longer quite so empty.
And then the residential vacuum I was using to clean the gym broke. I took it to the old vacuum repair shop that many of you long time Dunbar residents will remember, only to learn that our vacuum – not fit for industrial use – was kaput. The most budget friendly industrial strength model suited for a gym our size came with the disappointing price tag of – you guessed it – $400. Just when I thought we might make some progress. Paying that bill hurt like a physical blow.
This was a business lesson I was to find repeated over and over again: every time you score a win, an unexpected expense arises whether it is a government agency, a year-end triple net lease calculation, or a musical rights organization collecting royalties for music played during classes. The battle to get ahead financially as a small business owner often seems a Sisyphean struggle.
Setbacks and disappointments notwithstanding, we forged ahead as best we could. What else are you going to do? We paid off that 19% Desjardins loan in just 2 years. And by 2015 our overflowing 6am class had to be split first into 5:30 and 6:30am classes and later into a 5, 6 and 7am class. Our success was never guaranteed. It still isn’t. When we decided to expand to our larger Alma Street location the banks were still not interested in loaning us the money. I had to personally sign for both our lease space and our equipment loan. But we’re only $4000 away from paying off that second equipment loan and – even during COVID – we’ve never missed a month’s rent. It’s a back and forth daily, weekly, monthly, yearly battle whose outcome is always in doubt. You cannot stop pushing that boulder or else gravity is going to bring it right back down again flattening you in the process but, very incrementally, it seems we have managed to inch the boulder just a little further up that hill.
Our little old yellow vacuum looks pretty beat up these days. It is still working but I’ve no doubt that someday soon we will have to replace it with a larger, more expensive model better suited to our bigger Alma Street location. $400 was a heartbreaking price tag in April 2013 sweeping away with one swipe of the credit card any financial progress we hoped to make that month. But standing where we are today, amortized over 8 years, I’d have to say it was a pretty good investment. So please forgive me if ever you stop by around closing time and find me a bit choked up as I vacuum the gym floors. It’s not the dust, it’s just that this little vacuum stirs up a few memories for me.
Sasquatch is supposed to be a fast and light, high volume workout. As such you should be selecting a weight that is about 40-50% of your one rep max. While you may need to break between rounds to catch your breath or shake out your burning muscles, you should be able to blow through these sets close to unbroken. Time permitting we will also discuss strategic breaking. A lot of time can be unnecessarily lost in this workout in the transitions. Not only does this decrease the intensity and reduce your fitness outcomes, as we learned over the past 3 weeks of competition, inefficient transition times can really add up.