While the doors of Bodymass DC have only been opened about a year, the story actually begins in 2012. New to the DC area, I was a fitness manager with Washington Sports Clubs and had been relocated from Alexandria to the Columbia Heights location. Kris was the top producing trainer at that club and motivated me with how he was always researching ways to become a more successful fitness professional. From my very first day I felt connected to him both professionally and personally. We began working closely together and realized that in addition to having a similar training style, we both had a drive that wasn’t matched by many in the industry. While living in Columbia Heights we also realized that for such a densely populated area, there were bare minimal options for fitness. Unless you travelled significantly away from the area, WSC was your only major option. It was seven years ago that the gears were turning about bringing more fitness options to this deprived area of Northwest.
Over the next four years we continued to work side-by-side at other commercial gyms in DC before going out on a limb and opening the first Bodymass location in January 2016. Even though we enjoyed training at a commercial gym we knew we wanted to pursue something greater and find a way to impact a larger number of people. Our chance came when a gym member who knew we were looking for a bigger opportunity found us a beautiful space in Arlington that would serve as the perfect space to launch our entrepreneurial careers.
The role as personal trainer in a commercial fitness company often forces you to balance upper management’s business expectations and our client’s membership experience. We empathized with constant membership frustrations, yet still had to work within the confines of a large organization and those guardrails often kept us from providing the service we knew we could. Our experience with the red tape and emphasis of “company over client” within the commercial fitness environment dictated our mission of becoming the “anti-gym.” When forming Bodymass we instantly knew there were a few things we wanted to change: we didn’t want membership fees, we didn’t want binding contracts and we wanted members to always be able to communicate with us so that we could cohesively solve their problems. Most importantly, we just wanted a place where people are nice and like to work hard - this applies to both members and employees. Over two years, we felt we had built a community of just that.
In December 2017, almost two years to the date of opening Bodymass, we were still small but running efficiently and smoothly. We regularly receive junk emails to our main Bodymass email address, one came across that said “Fitness Concept Wanted for 2833 Georgia Ave NW”. Dismissing it as junk, I just clicked through it. Later that day I briefly mentioned it to Kris in conversation, and he said “well, maybe it isn’t junk- let’s forward it to our broker and see.” On a freezing cold day in January 2018, we set foot in Bodymass DC. The floor was dirt, the windows were boarded up, there was a butane heater as the only source of heat/light and we stood in our winter jackets trying to imagine what the space could become. As we met with the building owner, we realized this was the right place for us. He told us that he loved the organic aspect of Bodymass, and didn’t want the space occupied by some big company. He also said that he saw Flex on Instagram, and loved that we had a gym dog. We always tell Flex he needs to pull his weight to earn his keep, and it looks like his efforts finally paid off.
It had been 6 years since Kris and I first met and talked about how this stretch of NW DC was deprived of fitness. Slowly we were living out a dream that I’m not sure we even had. Over the next several months we would “cross the bridge” from Arlington to come check on the progress of Bodymass DC. Slowly floors were being poured, plumbing was being installed, walls were being put up. Each time we came back we would see more and more progress. Eager to open in August 2018, we felt like everything was coming along according to plan. We had staff, we had equipment, we were just missing one important detail- the necessary permitting from the DCRA. For anyone who has ever experienced dealing with this, you can totally understand. While the gym was ready to go, we were held off for one week, then another, then another, but eventually were able to officially open and Bodymass DC was born.
Over the past year, we’ve been honored to become part of the Parkview/Pleasant Plains/Petworth community. We love how this area in DC is, in every sense of the word, a neighborhood - it is a place full of residents, business owners and customers who invest in its growth. Thank you for allowing us to pursue our dream every day, for being open to learning and making progress. Thank you for making us smile and making us proud. There are several days I leave Bodymass with a smile on my face because I’ve been able to spend my day with great people who want to work hard towards their goals!
Written By: Virginia Petersen