The Benefits of Primal Movement – Behind the Business with Greg Carver of StrengthBox
StrengthBox is a no-nonsense, bare bones gym and fitness facility that eschews banks of niche-muscle equipment and sets of weights for lifting. But make no mistake – what goes on inside is focused solely on making its clients stronger, fitter, more agile, and more…alive.
StrengthBox is the creation of owner Greg Carver, and it’s his holistic philosophy of whole-body training, feel-good and fun fitness with real-world benefits that permeates the spare, industrial space.
We interviewed Greg and spoke about what drove him to want to alter his own fitness and that of others, the concepts behind the gym and what the future might hold for StrengthBox.
So what exactly is StrengthBox?
StrengthBox is a community gym in Toronto’s East York district where real-world fitness and natural movement skills are paramount. The small-group classes appeal equally to men and women, and provide a solution for those looking for expert coaching without the high cost of personal training.
Members not only get proper training, but are taught movement skills they can use for life. Workouts change daily, so it’s never boring — and all exercises are scaled appropriately so that even raw beginners can participate without feeling intimidated.
From barbells and kettlebells to crawling and climbing — StrengthBox provides its clients with a guided program that not only will improve overall strength and conditioning, but teaches them how to move naturally and gracefully.
No mirrors, no judgement and no egos here! The strong community provides a built-in support system, that along with great programming guarantees results. Most active members start seeing results in a few weeks, and can achieve drastic improvements in their strength levels, overall mobility and body composition within the first 3 months.
What made you choose this path?
I wasn’t always a strength and conditioning coach, nor am I a genetically-gifted specimen. By the time I hit my mid-forties, I was not only feeling out of shape, I wasn’t very happy with my body or my energy levels. I had pretty much been through the wringer in terms of health challenges. And while I don’t want to ramble about my personal issues, if you understand where I came from — you may be able to realize what is possible in your OWN life.
Even as a child, I was often sick. A skinny teenager, I suffered numerous spontaneous lung collapses and underwent three separate pleurectomys, was hospitalized for anemia and malnutrition, spent countless hours in an oxygen tent, and seemed to contract each and every major ailment that was going around at the time.
My adult years were plagued with health problems too — mostly stemming from chronic inflammation and the result of my body breaking down after having been through so much trauma. Joint pain, stiffness, aching extremities and chronic fatigue were my daily existence. Despite being thin, I carried a lot of body fat. My stress levels were high, my energy low, and doctors suspected I had fibromyalgia or lupus.
Where am I now? Well, I’m thrilled to say that I DID regain control of my life in my late 40s and my symptoms quickly reversed. I went from sickness, to wellness, to fitness — and I’ve been on a roll ever since. I’m now 56 years old, keep my body-fat at 10%, have boundless energy and strength levels, and don’t think I’ve ever been in better shape. I’m proud of the way I look and feel — healthy, strong, happy and ALIVE.
What happened? How did I turn things around? While there’s no single isolated factor, in a nutshell it came down to my approach to exercise and nutrition. I thought less of “working out” and more about “moving”. I learned that fitness is not appropriate unless it’s “useful”. And I learned to make my training more playful and fun…to be a little kid again.
It was these thoughts and experiences that caused me to leave my high-level corporate job and focus on helping others. The StrengthBox was opened in January of 2010, and has been transforming lives ever since.
They say that to be successful you have to be passionate. Why do you love what you do?
I’ve used my system of strength, movement and mobility to overcome my own health challenges in the past, and I’m honoured to be able to share my passion with others. I credit my own success to the motivation I get from others, be they mentor, coach or client. I’m driven by people’s enthusiasm, and love showing people how to look and feel their best.
Has it been smooth sailing or have you overcome adversity to get where you are?
Leaving an executive job at a major corporate company to single-handedly open a local business has been a challenge for sure. Despite having a business background, there were many lessons to learn over the first few years. Now that StrengthBox has passed the critical five-year mark, it’s firmly established in the community and has gained solid media attention for the unique way in which we approach fitness and health.
We all know that crazy happens. What’s the wildest thing that’s happened on the job?
There’s a bit of crazy here almost all the time, but in a good way. We do have fun, in fact it’s one of our company values. We’ve play tag where everyone is crawling on all fours. We’ve shouldered logs out in the parking lot. We’ve played hopscotch using heavy weights. There’s rarely a dull moment when we’re in ‘adult play’ mode.
The fitness industry is broken and has a terrible recruiting method. Exercise shouldn’t be punishment. It should be challenging (we’re not afraid to work hard), but can be creative and playful at the same time.
What do you do with your time off? Are you familiar with that concept?
I get little time off, but my job never feels like ‘work’. When I relax, I like to blog at gregcarver.com, do a bit of cooking, and spend time in nature.
This is the age of the social network. How important is social media to your business and how do you make it work?
Social media is critical. People may hear about StrengthBox from a friend, but it may take several “reminders” before they get enough inertia to contact us for a free trial. Pictures, videos and posts are shared regularly through various platforms. Social media posts also give potential clients an idea of what to expect — they can see how a class works and the types of things we train.
Feel free to check us out on our YouTube channel.
How are you involved in your community? What does supporting local mean to you?
In addition to sponsoring several sports teams, StrengthBox supports mental health through various local registered charities. In our StrengthBox Challenge event, we have raised thousands of dollars to support Toronto children and adolescents who are struggling with the stigma attached to mental health. All proceeds stay in the community.
What does the future look like for you and your business?
The StrengthBox will continue to evolve and grow, but keeping a sense of local community is very important. We also offer fitness retreat and active travel adventures, and we’ll be running more trips in the future. Our next sold-out retreat is in Tobermory, Ontario, and I’m planning another amazing wellness vacation in traditional Greece. Check out travelsbynature.com for more information on international StrengthBox retreats.
Do you have any advice for aspiring business owners just starting out?
Make sure you are doing something you’re passionate about, know that you’re good at it, and establish demand. Keep overhead low. Build relationships. And even if your passion is as far away from having a sales job as you can imagine, know that networking and sales will likely be a priority for most of your self-employed life.
header photograph: Brilynn Ferguson