Interview with Dave – The man himself!
While the name “Dave’s Gym” leaves no doubt to the identity of its owner and figurehead, Dave himself has been in the iron game for a long time and it’s no surprise that Dave’s Gym isn’t his first foray into the world of gym ownership. I caught up with Dave in one of those rare gaps between lifting and eating that’s usually reserved for sleep to get a little insight into what’s brought him to this point in his career.
Gaz: Dave, how’s it going?
Dave: Real good. Haven’t had my workout yet, looking forward to smashing legs later!
G: So when did you get started in the fitness business?
D: I started training people while I was still at school, I had a gym set up in my garage and was given permission by the PE department to bring people back and train them on sports days.
G: Was that for free?
D: I didn’t realise at the time that you could actually charge people to do that!
D: I was always interested in muscles! My first role model was Batman.
G: Really? Why Batman?
D: The suit with the muscles and the look of a superhero, muscle just fascinated me!
G: So was owning a gym always on the cards for you?
D: Yeah, yeah. From the earliest age the plan was to join the marines, leave, then open a gym.
G: Did it happen as quick as that?
D: No, my first actual job after leaving the marines was working in a leisure centre as a lifeguard. Back in the mid 1980’s there was no gym industry. You couldn’t have a career in health and fitness, but the only way I could think of making a living was to own my own gym.
G: What was your first gym when it eventually happened?
D: The Stratford college started running health + fitness courses, but didn’t have anywhere to do the practical side of doing gym programs. I approached them and said if they gave me the space I’d run a fully equipped gym on their premises – to my shock they said yes! The college had the gym until twelve, then I’d have it twelve ‘til nine. I think we must have had about three hundred members, It could have been a goldmine if I knew what I was doing. I was twenty.
G: What was the gym called?
D: It was called “Just-A-Gym”, and at the time was the only free-weights gym for miles around. Although it was small it had a squat rack, bench press, dumbbells to 50kg, and other assorted bits of kit.
G: Like what?
D: There was an old leg-extension/leg-curl machine which could do both depending on which way you were facing, an old vertical leg press which gave you a brain embolism every time you used it, a four station multi-gym that belonged on the ark, a very primitive example of a DAP that had rope instead of cables, a single bike, a stepper, and that was about it apart from bars and discs. The only thing I wish I still had were these two 50kg discs that were about waist height, they looked like train wheels – the radius on them was huge. Great for deadlifting with because the bar came up to about mid-shin. Incredible things.
G: So it was a pretty hardcore gym, even then?
D: Yeah it was, but it wasn’t a spit + sawdust gym – although we’ve got the same sort of equipment as meathead gym it’s a different vibe.
G: Was that something you cultivated on purpose?
D: Not consciously, no. But I think the feel of a place feeds off the people that are in it, I was never a roid-taking meathead so the gym reflected that attitude.
G: How does Just-A-Gym compare to what Dave’s Gym is now?
D: In the social and welcoming sense it feels broadly similar. But physically you can’t compare the two, Dave’s Gym is a lot slicker and more professional.
G: Was there anything specific you learned from those early days?
D: I went into it with no understanding of how business works, and no real understanding of how to deal with gym members. All I knew was how to train people, everything else was quite a steep learning curve.
G: Are you still learning?
D: Oh god yeah, I’m always learning. I’ve learnt more about training in the past three years than in the past twenty-five. The internet is a fantastic tool for developing knowledge and understanding about a whole range of fitness training.
G: I guess that’s something you’re trying to achieve with the Dave’s Gym Blog?
D: Exactly that, one of the main reasons for having a blog is in trying to play it forward. Although the internet is an amazing research device there are a lot of conflicting opinions out there, with the blog what we’re trying to do is to put forward simple advice in an un-convoluted manner.
G: Apart from the blog, what are the plans for the future of Dave’s Gym?
D: To continue trying to be the best independent gym in the universe. I’ll always try to get new equipment, classes, training methods and sports science concepts into the gym and onto the shop floor as quickly as possible. I’d love to be able to expand but I don’t want it to come at the cost of losing the intimacy that we have at Dave’s.
G: Finally, if you could sum up your whole ethos into one sentence, what would it be?
D: Dave’s Gym is about elite training for the everyday Joe. Or Jane!
G: Dave, it’s been a pleasure as always.
D: You’re welcome.