How FIT36® Was Born
One man got his start in the fitness industry as a wilderness firefighter. Another got his start as a medic in the Navy, with an influential stop in Thailand. Two completely different paths led two men to Denver, where an opportunity to disrupt the fitness industry came to them before they even realized it.
Brad Cooley, the former Navy medic, and Ned Matheson, the former firefighter, found themselves as roommates and colleagues at a local big box gym in the Mile High City. An opportunity came to Brad to potentially start a spin studio in an urban building in the Lower Downtown District (LoDo) of Denver, and Ned joined Brad for an exploratory meeting. The two liked most of what they saw, loved the opportunity to change their direction in life, and their minds started working together.
“As we were leaving the meeting, I said ‘this is something I’d love to do with you, but I don’t want to open a Spin studio,’” Matheson recalled. “(Brad) was like, ‘great, I don’t want to open a Spin studio either.’ So we … decided let’s jump on this and figure out everything else as we go along.”
The Evolution of FIT36 from WellBiz Brands on Vimeo.
The drive to do something new, different and provide a place where people can go to train like athletes regardless of their fitness background is what drove these two to develop a workout that would stand apart within a competitive industry. The evolution of their idea was influenced by a small 800-sq. ft. studio, but ultimately became the basis for what would be a sought-after model in the fitness world.
Matheson recalls the process of defining what the workout would be: “It came down to wanting something that wasn’t going to be an hour. We wanted to increase heart rate throughout the workout using various forms of exercise, plyometric and different types of movements. Initially, we started with 24 people, 24 different stations and it was chaotic. We played with numbers and came across 12 exercises, one minute on with 30 seconds of rest in between, and dropped it to the 36-minute mark. We decided we wanted to stay below the 45-minute mark, but above 30. It’s the perfect number.”
Cooley continued to determine the types of movements that were important to them as they defined the full workout: “We were looking to hit the entire body, top to bottom, front to back, with safety as our biggest concern. We didn’t want to over train a member, whether a superstar athlete or a newbie, but it also had to be an effective, tough workout for everyone.”
The final product became a 36-minute, high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workout that focuses on building strength and stamina. Their fitness studio started under the name FIIT WERX and opened in April 2013. The two men developed a following quickly.
In 2014, the FIT36® management team took notice and began franchising the concept under the brand name FIT36® (FIT36) nationally. The workout itself never changed and only evolved into a uniquely dynamic mix of everyday functional movements; movements that very few of their members had ever done before. It is the workout itself that sets FIT36 apart, and the original duo of Cooley and Matheson feel honored when new prospective franchise owners are moved enough by the concept to open a FIT36 Studio of their own. They are elated to see the FIT36 brand grow as they continue to own and operate their LoDo studio themselves.
“It’s cool (when people) put enough trust and interest in the concept,” Cooley said. “They believe in it, and we’re happy to answer all their questions. They are all great people. It’s good to sit there and let them pick our brains.”
The concept has maintained its standing as results-oriented, fun and unique in the highly competitive world of fitness concepts. Matheson believes the concept is a perfect marriage of distinction and accessibility for the healthy, modern-day American.
“The 36-minute workout; nobody has seemed to jump on that,” Matheson stated. “And, the efficiency of the concept (is a big influencer). What’s the biggest excuse? Not enough time? Well, we’ve taken that out of the equation and you still burn more calories than you would typically in 1-2 hours in a gym*. Circuit training may help ensure greater results and they are very well-thought out circuits.”
When the two business partners think about the long way the FIT36 brand has come in such a short period, they can’t help but think about the beginning and feel overwhelmed with pride, like a parent proud of their child’s accomplishments.
“We’ve slept in (our studio), often... We’ve spent holidays in here; many late nights, early mornings,” Cooley recalled. “Now we have a staff hired. It’s good to see how far we’ve come and what’s happening… It feels good to know that our baby has come to fruition and is growing.”
In the three years since the first FIT36 Studio opened in April 2013, the brand has grown to six open studios in three states (four in Colorado; one each in New Jersey and Virginia), with 14 other studios across the country under development as of April 2016.
FIT36 is a baby that seems to be entering its teenage years sooner than anyone expected.
*Reference Men’s Fitness Magazine’s 7 Benefits of Interval Workouts article.