L.A. Fitness, Crunch, You Fit, Planet Fitness… All these gyms have one thing in common: they’re known as Big Box Gyms. Owned by large companies, and spread all over different corners of large cities, these gyms have people flocking to them to start new fitness goals, continue a fitness routine, or simply start a new journey.
At a Big Box Gym, a person is “just a number”; a faceless member that has their membership paid for automatically or the member can risk penalties as per what the contract states. For some member, they pay for the convenience of location, being able to come and go on one’s own time, and perhaps for anonymity.
But if a person is looking for more than being an anonymous number and for a workout experience that is designed specifically for them, then a small gym is the better choice. Robert Wheeler, a 10 year Navy Veteran and former police officer, knew this and dreamed of opening his own gym in order to personalize the workout experience. In 2020 after pouring his blood, sweat and tears into the laying the foundation for his gym, Battlefitted opened its doors.
Battlefitted is located outside of Oakland Park, off of Powerline Road. Wheeler is there every day making sure the gym’s members are getting the attention they need in order to meet their fitness goals. Wheeler is passionate about this because he knows first hand the importance of fitness in one’s life.
"Fitness literally saved my life. At my greatest weight I struggled physically and mentally, and I found fitness was an outlet to my stress, and worries, and it also got me in much better shape than I have ever been".
During his quest for a better version of himself, he knew he wanted to help other people find the better versions of themselves as well. Today Wheeler embodies this ideal by being an example to his gym members and helping them move closer and closer to their goals. Wheeler’s personal mantra and the gym’s slogan conveys the idea that fitness is a process and that by working out today you will be “Better than yesterday”.
Today, Battlefitted is a veteran owned brand that encompasses semi-private training, clothing and online personal training. Battlefitted is a strength and conditioning gym. Strength and conditioning is about helping people become stronger through weight training and various exercises, and conditioning for optimal fat loss. Wheeler also offers semi-private training by appointment only.
With the help and support of Coach Lawrence Gregory, who coaches some evenings, the two make a great team to help members reach their goals. They seem more like family and not just coaches. In fact, they have celebrated the last few Holidays together, and build each other up. Wheeler has also counted on their support for past “Toys for Tots” drives and Hurricane relief aid.
Coaches and members have participated in competitions like the Spartan Race, Soldier Rush, and Terrain Race. The gym is set to participate in another Spartan Race this April. A member favorite class is Savage Saturday, which is open to the public every Saturday at 9 am. But all of this changed when coronavirus reared its ugly head.
“I felt I was beginning to gain momentum and I was building a strong client base, when I was faced with another challenge: Coronavirus”, Wheeler said. Gyms became ghost towns. The equipment just sat there, unused, collecting dust.
Wheeler, however, refused to accept his fate. He called to his members for unity and divided his equipment allowing them to borrow it and bring it home. During lockdown, three times a day and once on Saturdays, Wheeler turned his living room into a gym, connected his laptop to his TV, and connected to his members on Zoom – they exercised together.
More than ever before, Robert knew that fitness would be the right medicine for the mental wellbeing for him and his members. During the lockdown, he believes meeting with his members gave him hope that together, they may come out of this stronger. He applied to small business grants and Covid-19 relief funds and used his personal money and stimulus check to continue paying the rent to stay open.
As the months passed and gyms were able to reopen, Battlefitted reopened too. Wheeler made sure all safety guidelines in place so that his members could safely continue to work on their fitness goals.
When the all clear was given that gyms may once again reopen, Wheeler had already been busy preparing his gym space to accommodate and adhere to strict CDC guidelines. He reduced the number of members per class, and rearranged his gym equipment, called squat racks, to make sure they were at least 6 feet apart from each other.
Each squat rack has its own sanitation station with disinfectant spray and towels that are sanitized as they are used. He keeps his thermometer handy and mists the gym after thoroughly cleaning it after each class. His members all understand that they must clean up after themselves and every Saturday, Wheeler stays after their Savage Saturday class to conduct an even deeper cleaning of the gym.
Despite being able to continue to hold his doors open, Wheeler is only bringing in enough revenue to do just that: be open. But it may not be for long. Despite all his efforts, and continued dedication to his members, Wheeler is on the brink of closing for good. Each month he feels he may be closer to losing the battle against Covid, though thankfully, not medically.
It is not the battle he hoped to fight. Like his gym’s name sake, the battle was to conquer one’s own mental or physical battles. It was never meant to compete against a world pandemic. Now more than ever, Wheeler needs the support of his members and looks forward to welcoming new members so they can mutually support in each other.
If you want to be better than yesterday then Battlefitted in Pompano is an ideal place to start. It’s small enough where the coaches will give you personalized training, and you can find like-minded people who share the drive to better themselves physically and perhaps even mentally while trying to navigate their own struggles during these times. At Battlefitted you’re not just a number or faceless member, you are family.
Battlefitted: 1905 NW 32nd Street, Pompano Beach
Anamaria Moreno is an Elementary school teacher. Born in Costa Rica, but mostly raised in Venezuela, Ms. Moreno came to South Florida in 1996 where she has resided ever since. She graduated from Lynn University, with a degree in Early Childhood Education. She has taught in the classroom for 18 years, most recently teaching the first grade for the past seven years. Before becoming a teacher, Ms. Moreno was involved in volunteer work with the Child Life Specialists Department at Miami Children’s Hospital. She also served as member of the Board of Directors for “A Caring Pregnancy Center” in Miami. Most recently, Ms. Moreno has taught at an elementary school in Oakland Park. Ms. Moreno also teaches ESOL to Adults in Night School. When Ms. Moreno is not in the classroom, she enjoys baking custom specialty cakes, face painting, and enjoys creating Arts and Crafts.