How I Started My Strength & Conditioning Facility

I walk in the door, nervous as all hell. I am shaking, not really sure what to expect. I am meeting with the director of Human Resources. I don’t event know what Human Resources means at the time. Little did I know this meeting would change my life.

When I was 14 my mom told me to get a job. The day I could legally start working, I was working. A few weeks prior I started hunting for jobs. I didn’t want to do what every other kid did in high school, work at the local grocery store. I knew I wanted to do something in the health/fitness field so I decided to write an e-mail to the local hospital. It went something like this:

“Hi, My name is Doug. I am really hard working, even though I’ve never really worked before. I would really like to work at your hospital. Let me know if there is anything I can do.”

I was expecting one of two things to happen:

1. They would share  the e-mail around the facility laughing at my stupidity.

2. I would be hired to clean toilets

To my surprise, I was contacted by the director of Human Resources and offered an interview. For a job in the physical therapy department. I was going to be a “PT Aide Trainee.” Somehow I impressed them enough to get the job and that following week I would go everyday after school to the hospital and work for 5-8 hours, everyday.

I was basally their guinea pig. Cleaned the tables, put hot packs away, greeted patients, transported patients, filed paperwork, unclogged toilets, you know the usual. However, I may have not known at the time, this job was going to change my life. I did that job for two years, every day, never missed a day, never called in, never late. It taught me a lot. It taught me responsibility, hard work, time management, and most importantly, I have great respect for PT’s, but physical therapy was not my cup of tea. I did know that I wanted to help people, I wanted to change lives.

Luckily, while working at the hospital, one the therapists had just graduated from University of New England. We were talking about what I want to do, and where I wanted to go to college, she suggested I check out UNE. I kept it in the back of my head, because I was only a Freshman.

I went to a technical high school, so we had to do a trade. I choose Health Occupations, basically for future nurses, but it gave me a great head start in the field of health and fitness. I was in a shop with 32 kids, I was one of two males. That’s a whole blog post in itself.

The best thing about that program is it was set up for you to get your Nursing Assistant (CNA) certification your junior year. So, freshman and sophomore year I continued to work in the PT department at the local hospital while going to school. When we started doing our clinical hours for our CNA certification that really opened my eyes.

We went through our clinical hours, and junior year I became certified. They day I got that certification I applied to every hospital and nursing home around the area. I was fortunate enough to hear back from a lot and choose a nice nursing home, on the water, in Newburyport, MA. That started the next chapter in my life.

You think you work hard? In my opinion, one of the hardest working people in this world are CNA’s. I say this now because I can look back at it. I did it for 6 years, there are people that have done it for 40 years. My junior and senior year were pretty much a blur. This was a typical day.

630am: Wake up and head to school

7-2pm: School

230pm: Punch in at the nursing home

730pm: Dinner break at nursing home, complete any homework I can

11pm: Punch out at nursing home

12am: Pass out and get ready to do it all over again.

Working in the nursing home was truly a life changing experience. Taking care of people, seeing the difference you make, opened my eyes to a whole new world. It also matured me quickly. At the age of 16 I watched several grandmothers and mothers take their last breath, I comforted grown men crying when their mother took their last breath, and I prepared dozens of grandmothers for their final resting spot. I talked with men who thought they were still in WWI, I fed residents puree mush, because that’s all they could stomach, and I helped men and women bath, shower, and go to bed every night.

At the age of 16, I don’t know how I did it. But, I wouldn’t be where I am today without those experiences.  I loved every day I went to work, and still to this day, there is no better feeling then putting a smile on a 93 year old ladies face.

Throughout high school I averaged 56 hours a week of work. It wasn’t easy, it was a grind. But I certainly wouldn’t be in the situation I am today without these experiences.

That PT job I had at the age of 14. The PT that told me to go check out UNE. She probably doesn’t know it to this day, but she changed my life.

I would remember the conversation we had, and I headed up to Biddeford, ME to go check out UNE. I fell in love, applied, and heard the great news several weeks later that I was accepted. It was the only school I applied to.

I went to UNE in September of 2007. The next chapter of my life was just about to start.

I went up a few days earlier then everyone else and started job hunting. I had worked in PT. I loved it, but didn’t want to do it the rest of my life. I worked in a nursing home, loved it, looooved it, but made the decision I couldn’t do it the rest of my life. How did I choose the fitness field? A blog post on it’s own, I started high school weighing 375lbs, I went up to UNE weighing 250lbs. Yes, that’s not a typo, I lossed 125lbs in about a year and half. My first two life experiences taught me I wanted to change lives, and with my personal battle of weight loss, I was pretty well set on the fitness field. So, let’s get back on track. I am up at UNE a few days early. I drive around the Southern Maine area dropping off my resume to every gym I could. I was fortunate enough to be hired on to a family owned fitness facility, and worked there 20-30 hours a week all 3.5 years of college. It got me introduced to the fitness field, and taught me a lot. I still missed the nursing home, so I would head home on Friday nights to Massachusetts and work Saturday and Sunday at the nursing home. I did this until Junior year when I put all my focus to the fitness field. Again, all throughout college, while balancing all of college life, I worked 50-60 hours per week.

In 2010 I would hit another life changing event.  Picture this. I am waking up every day at 6am because that is the only time I can workout at. I go to class from 8am-2pm. I head to work at the gym from 3pm-9pm. I get home at 9pm, get a little studying in, and crash. I do that Monday-Thursday. Friday morning I pack my truck up, head to class, and as soon as the professor dismisses us, I jump in my truck, head down 95 South, and work 32 hours in two days on the weekend, 7am-11pm. Sunday night I kiss my parents goodbye, and head back up to Maine to do it all over again. Friday nights after making the drive down from UNE was my only time off, I would spend it having dinner with my family. Well, one Friday would change my life.

It was a typical week. I had just rushed home to have dinner with the family, and was preparing to work two doubles at the nursing home. I walk in the door, dinner already on the table, with my mom, dad, and brother waiting for me. I am shaking just typing this, but this conversation is so clear in my head, it’s like it just happened yesterday. I would sit down, and before I took my first bite, tears rolled down my mothers face. The words that came out of her mouth next would cause anyone to drop.

“I have cancer.”

What!?

No!

You hear it all the time, but you never thing it hits home. Guess what people, it does. My mom had small cell lung cancer, and had six months to live.

How was I suppose to do it? There’s no book or website to help you through this scenario in life. You just buckle down and do it. I went on the next six months doing what I always do. School by day, and work by night. However, this was different. The thought of my mom in the back of my head, at all times.  One June 14, 2010 I would do what I have done dozens of times before. I held the hand of a woman, and watched her take her last breath. This was different though, this was my mother.

Throughout all of this, I never missed a day of work. I was never late, never missed a shift. Why? Shouldn’t I spend time with my family? I did, but if I had any down time, I was thinking of my mom. My work became my second family, and I was fortunate enough at all of my jobs to have such a close relationship with everyone, the first thing I wanted to do was go to work.

I went through the rest of college with an incredible drive after my mom passing. Most people would sit there and grieve. That’s not me. I know my mom wouldn’t want that. She wanted me to make a difference, she was the one that instilled all these habits in me, and to not keep grinding, would only be a disappointment. I worked harder then ever. Every waking minute I was doing something. Whether it was in the class room, going to conferences, reading books, or getting the practical experiences at my job and internships.

After taking 18+ credits every semester and taking summer classes, I was able to finish my degree in 3.5 years. I graduated and went straight to work, for free. I drove 17 hours south to Greensboro, NC for an internship with the East Carolina University Pirates. I busted my ass, paying my own way, doing what I love, working with athletes, and changing lives. I have been very fortunate in my short career, that every job taught me something. The PT gig introduced me to the field of health and fitness, but showed me that there are other things out there. My time at the nursing home was incredible, I miss it all the time, but I knew I wanted to do something different. My job at the gym assured me that this is what I wanted to do. My time at ECU down in NC taught me that working with athletes is where my passion lies. It also taught me that the collegiate setting is an incredible experience, but it wasn’t for me.

I drove back from NC after just a couple weeks, realizing it was not the setting for me, and made one of the hardest decisions in my life. Working all these jobs, averaging 60 hours a week, I had a good chunk of change saved up. I sat on it for months. My dream was to open my own facility. I wanted to work with athletes, I wanted to change lives. My mom would want me to do it. To not go after my dream would only be a disappointment to my mom. On December 9, 2011 I signed a piece of paper that would change my life. It was the lease to a 7500square foot warehouse. That was just the beginning to this lovely journey. I would dump every penny into my dream, with a hope that it might work out.

A lot of you probably clicked on this blog for the quick fix. Maybe this guy has a secret or a shortcut? And to be honest with you, that is the problem with this world we live in. We live in a microwave society, where we want things handed to us, with no work. We want to lose fat or gain muscle, but never work for it. We want to make 100k a year, sitting on our ass. Guess what, there is no magic pill, and these is no magic secret. You know what the secret is? Grind. Grind. Grind. Every fucking day. Day in and day out, no excuses. You want to lose fat, get off your ass. You want to build muscle, get under a bar. You want to make money, go out and work, work harder then everyone else. You don’t deserve anything. You earn everything. You want something, go get it. My tip to you, go work harder then everyone else around you. That is how success happens. Grind.

I will have a second part to this blog on the financials, equipment, and set up of a strength and conditioning facility. However, I wanted to start with this.  A successful business, a successful person, doesn’t happen overnight.

It happens because they work harder then everyone else, they work hard when no one else is watching.

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About Spurling Training Systems

At Spurling Training Systems, our focus is on providing a superior athletic conditioning experience. The combination of expert training, time spent understanding your specific goals and customized program development is what makes Spurling Training Systems a unique and effective training experience for athletes of all ages, levels and abilities. Doug is the founder and owner of Spurling Training Systems. He graduated from University of New England with a Bachelor of Science in Applied Exercise Science. He has several years of experience as both a personal trainer for general fitness and a strength and conditioning coach for athletes. His certifications from the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) include Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and Certified Personal Trainer (CPT).
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