I started a two week free trial at CrossFit Memphis around October 11, 2009. When that two week trial was coming to an end, I was starting to worry. I wasn’t exactly sure how I was going to explain to my wife how I was going to pay $150/month for this new gym membership that I was already convinced I had to have. There was no way I was going to stop coming back to this place. These people were awesome, and they made me feel like I could do anything.

It was literally on the last day of my two week free trial when one of the owners, Mike Bledsoe, sent out an email to all the people at the gym asking if anyone knew how to work on websites. He was looking for someone to help him build and maintain their website and help out with updates that needed to be made along with some other projects. I couldn’t respond to his email fast enough. Since my background was in web development, it was a perfect match. I was stoked! We got together and talked about my hourly rate, what needed to be done, etc. We ended up in an agreement that I would take care of whatever technical needs the company had, and I could come workout and get coached as payment. And so began one of the greatest experiences with one of the greatest teams ever. CrossFit Memphis, Faction S & C, Barbell Shrugged. This is where it all began.

When I first started training at CrossFit Memphis, it was a dump. I’m not exactly sure, but I think it was some kind of auto mechanic shop before it became a CrossFit gym. It was pretty typical back in the early days of CrossFit for gyms to be located in old dirty warehouse spaces or old mechanic shops like this one was. It’s a lot different these days, but back then it was dirty and unorganized. We loved it. Whenever I would have to go into a globo gym, I would feel out of place. I needed the bumper plates, the loud music, the other crazy CrossFitters.

This was the first CrossFit gym in Memphis, and anyone that has been a part of it over the years will tell you that it was and still is a special team and community. Almost every single CrossFit gym that is now in existence in the Memphis area has some sort of tie back to this gym. If you come across a CrossFit gym owner that’s in the Memphis area, there’s a good chance they use to train at CrossFit Memphis or as it later became, Faction Strength and Conditioning Home of CrossFit Memphis.

I guess it was a couple of years after I started working out there that the gym moved from where it was located in Memphis to a new facility in Cordova, TN. I seem to remember the name Faction being tossed around before we moved, but once the move happened the name Faction became the official name of the gym. I would continue training and helping Mike build websites for the next several years. If the gym needed a computer or there was a problem with the internet, I’d fix it or help the team figure out what they needed to do. It was really cool to be a member of the gym and also be part of the behind the scenes work. My day job was working as an IT Manager/Web Developer so it was easy for me to help out when needed.

My routine for years would be to wake up at 5:00 a.m. and drive to Faction to workout with my 6 a.m. crew. We had an awesome a.m. crew for sure. In the early days, I would sometimes be the only one working out at 6 a.m., but as the gym grew so did our morning crew. If you’ve never worked out at a CrossFit gym regularly, the members tend to bond with each other and make friendships. Especially with the other members in the class time that they attend regularly. Here is part of our 6 a.m. crew at a Faction Christmas party one year.

The experience at Faction would prove to be invaluable. Not only was I getting in shape, but I was learning how a gym works. I got to watch some of the best coaches you could find do their thing. I got to see the inner workings of a large CrossFit gym, and I got to learn how the business side of it worked as well. I was fascinated by i

Faction started hosting CrossFit Level 1 seminars, and the opportunity came along for me to get my L1 certification. The idea was that I could help out coaching if needed, and I could start building a Team Faction running team and doing running classes at the gym. I think I probably did 2 or 3 six week running classes. By this time Mike and Rob Conner were teaching me about coaching and running. I was following everything Brian Mackenzie was putting out, and learning as much about the POSE method as I could. It was a great experience, and I just kept getting more and more fired up about it.

Eventually Faction would open up another gym, CrossFit Collierville. My Friend Justin Lamance would be the man in charge of that gym, and would eventually turn it into his own empire here in Memphis, CrossFit Hit & Run. So not only was I getting in shape, learning to coach, but I also got to experience what it was like to open a gym from the ground up for the first time.

All of the great experiences with Team Faction would turn into the perfect foundation for what was to come for me in my future endeavors. I got to learn from high level coaches as well as high level competitive athletes, and I also learned a ton about gym ownership. I don’t think I could buy this kind of experience. Ok, well, today I probably could buy this experience, but it wouldn’t be as rad as it was for me then.

It wouldn’t be long before the guys would decide to start a podcast called Barbell Shrugged, and not long after that we would be talking about opening up a CrossFit gym where I live in Mississippi. But those are two humongous topics that deserve their own posts.