As we just celebrated our 3rd anniversary here at TORQUE, and we enter our 4th year of business – I want to take the time to show people where we came from, how it started, and how we got to where we are. This is not to say that “we’ve made it” or that we’re satisfied. It’s to simply show our history, and the roots of TORQUE BARBELL.
TORQUE currently has 9 employees, and 8 independent trainers (16 personal trainers total) who rent space from us to run their training business. We have 367 members, and run 17 classes each week. Although this article might include background on myself and my own experiences, I feel that it is all relevant because as it stands, TORQUE is everything that I envisioned from the first time I ever thought of owning a gym.
It’s been a crazy 3 years, filled with sleepless nights, long days, and more stress than I’ve ever experienced. It’s put me in some very interesting situations (including being threatened.. more than once), I’ve made great new friendships, experienced success and failures, and had some of the best times of my life.
Although there have been many ups and downs – I wouldn’t change a single thing. I love what I do. I love the people I do it with. And I love doing something where the success or failures of the business are only dependent on myself.
It’s a long post, so in advance – if you read the whole thing. Thank you!
I grew up playing sports – hockey, football, baseball..etc. I broke my back when I was 13 and was introduced to the gym and weight training at age 14 through physiotherapy/rehabilitation at Sick Kids Hospital in Toronto. I fell in love with training, and started competing in powerlifting at 16 after meeting Joe Peacock (owner of Dotmar Fitness Equipment). Joe had been national champion 6 times, and competed at worlds numerous times. He competed against guys like Ed Coan and other big names back in the 90’s.
Skip ahead to 2009
I attended Brock University in the Phys Ed program. I was never much of a student, but with my original goal of becoming a Strength & Conditioning Coach for a professional sports organization – I knew this was the route to take so I could achieve my Bachelors Degree.
Short story short – I dropped out after 1 year. I passed a couple courses – maybe 3 out of 7. I think they were gym, human anatomy, and earth science (aka – “rocks for jocks”). I never took a business course in my life.
Although I didn’t get my education through “traditional” methods, I took it upon myself to learn via other ways. I have completed numerous certifications, internships, done extensive reading about human anatomy, biomechanics, and sports science, and have trained under some very knowledgeable strength coaches over the years.
I am a Certified Sports Conditioning Specialist, Certified Sports Nutritionist, as well as Certified Personal Trainer – but at the end of the day, 700lbs doesn’t care about your certifications or your kinesiology degree. The only way to TRULY get better as a coach or trainer is to walk the walk, lead by example, and practice what you preach.
Summer of 2010
I went to Wooster, Ohio to work as an intern under Travis Bell (Owner of Superior Athletics, and Westside Barbell athlete). I lived in a hotel while I was there. During my time with Travis, I learned the basics of business, how to train athletes, and how to run a training facility. Not only was this an unpaid “internship” – I had to PAY to go.
During this time I was fortunate to get to train at Westside Barbell in Columbus, Ohio. I met Louie Simmons and a bunch of other world class lifters and got to experience a REAL gym. This was one of the most memorable trips/experiences I’ve had in my entire life. I can truly say – Westside Barbell is the real deal. The gym and atmosphere will never be replicated, and the work ethic these guys have is something I can’t even try to explain.
End of summer / early fall 2010
I started the company Powerful Athlete Training Inc. – which was the name of my personal training business. I wanted to train athletes. I wanted to bring what I learned in Ohio – to Toronto and build a business working with ONLY the guys who wanted to get better at their sport. I found a small personal training/bootcamp “studio” where I worked out a monthly deal to pay rent, brought some equipment I had from home, and started to build my athlete training business.
I offered to help coach football at my old highschool (Etobicoke Collegiate) which led to helping some of the guys with their training programs and teaching them the basics of strength & power development.
Unfortunately – I quickly realized that training only athletes wouldn’t pay the bills. The market was too small. At this point – I started started an outdoor bootcamp behind the highschool on the football field with the help of my training partner – Brett Sanders. We targeted the general public. I sent out emails to friends and family, put ads on kijiji, flyers on cars..etc – and we ended up with 13 paying clients (I think 9 of them were friends and family who just wanted to support us.) Regardless, we kicked their ass and got them results. The word started spread.
Over the next 3-4 years – the business continued to grow. I trained people from all different backgrounds and different fitness goals. I worked with CFL players, university wrestlers, hockey teams, weight loss clients, rehab and physio type clients, and the general fitness enthusiasts looking to lose weight and get strong. I also took advantage of opportunities as they came up – such as being a presenting speaker for CBC’s Hockey Night In Canada – Hockey Nation.
Sometime around 2012, I quit my part time job (at Dotmar Fitness Equipment – doing deliveries and installations) to pursue training full-time.
One of the few commercial gyms in Etobicoke closed down, and while I was only operating on a “by appointment only” basis, I had clients who still had gym memberships at other gyms. I realized that there was now a gap in the commercial gym and membership market – and began to look around at possible locations to open a fully staffed – membership gym.
I remember looking at one location that was 16,000sq ft, one that was 5,000sq ft, as well as numerous other industrial locations. I eventually found a small commercial plaza in the heart of Etobicoke (the current location of TORQUE BARBELL), with two units side by side for lease. The combined square footage was around 8000sq ft. I made sure that we were able to knock the wall down to combine the two units, signed the papers with my then business partner (after two years, we parted ways) – and TORQUE BARBELL was born.
6am on May 1st – I met the real estate agent at 251/253 Norseman St. and was handed the keys. I remember walking in, looking around and saying to myself “HOLY F#*$ING S#*T.. WHAT NOW?”. I literally spent 3 hours walking around, making a list of things to do, and figured out what was priority. We had a bin being delivered at 9am, and we would only have it for 5 days. First things first – DEMOLITION.
With the help of friends and family (and a few cases of beer and pizza), we tore everything apart, and stripped everything down to the bare bones of the gym.
After 5 days of dirty, sweaty work, we were done smashing everything out and ripping up old floors, and had an idea of where to start building.
First was changerooms, bathrooms, plumbing, showers…etc.
Next was ripping down the wall between the two units. This was a huge moment for us as we could now see a clear vision of the space we had, and could start to design the layout.
Next we had to build offices, storage, and a kitchen.
The last thing to build was the front reception. We saved this for the end because we knew how important the first impression was going to be when you walk into the gym. We didn’t want to screw this up.
At this point we’re about 5 days from opening. The walls are painted, the floors are scrubbed and clean, and we’re ready for equipment.
4 days from opening – The field turf comes in.
We had a bunch of equipment back at the first facility, however since we were still running personal training sessions (gotta pay the bills), we had to wait till the last possible minute to bring our equipment over. As you can see, there are still training sessions being done right up till the last day, even while we were pulling all the equipment out.
We sourced most of our equipment from gyms that had closed down, and bought strong, HEAVY DUTY equipment, that was used. Since we were on a budget, we had to be selective of the equipment we purchased. 3 days before opening, trucks started to show up with a few pieces at a time.
Our equipment was in, the floors were down, and now all we had to do was organize.
This was 2 days before opening. At this point were pulling 18 hour days (6am – 12pm.. Sometimes later).
1 day before opening. Notice no dumbbell racks yet. Pictured below are 2 of my buddies – Paul and Ty – and Rodrigo, Brett, and myself.
This was TORQUE BARBELL on our first day of business. Rodrigo ran our very first Bootcamp class. My old friends Krista and Dave stopped by to check it all out.
This is TORQUE BARBELL today (June 5th, 2016). We just had our 3 year anniversary party with 120 of our members, clients, friends, and family. We fired up the BBQ, blasted some good tunes over the gym speakers, and enjoyed a beautiful evening with tons of good food (potluck – we asked everyone to bring their best dish).
I want to sincerely thank everyone who has helped along the way, and everyone who supports TORQUE. It’s been a great 3 years, and I can’t wait to see where we are in another 3 years.
Some things we’re currently working on include TORQUE Online Training, TORQUE Nutrition, and we may have a few other big announcements down the road.
Our mission statement remains the same from day 1 – “To provide a world class training facility, with professional programs, excellent service, and a truly authentic gym experience.” – and we don’t plan on changing any time soon.
TORQUE is here – and we’re here to stay.
– Dan Petkovsek