We are Strength and Muay Thai: A Rebranding

The first time I hit a pair of Thai pads in the spring of 2002, I felt an immediate and visceral connection to something bigger than myself. I had found something inside of me I never knew existed. I had no idea how big a part of my life Muay Thai would become or how it would mold me gently yet firmly into the woman I am today.

In 2008 I was at the height of my amateur Muay Thai career. I was small for my weight class and decided to focus on strength training, which was different than my previous goal of always trying to be smaller, to weigh less. When I picked up the kettlebells, I had that same feeling of connection and satisfaction. Muay Thai is my first true love and Kettlebells my second. Wanting to be stronger and more powerful felt right to me like I was becoming the person I was supposed to be.

In 2011, I opened F5. I envisioned a gym that was welcoming and not intimidating to students. I used to train a lot of women when I worked as an independent trainer, and I didn’t want a gym where there was a vibe of shirtless machoism, bravado, cages, flames, chains or other intimidating images in the branding.

I called the gym Function 5 Fitness because I wanted to be more inclusive and to generate interest from a broader population than just the fight community. My vision was basic: to create a place where people functionally use their bodies to be healthier and fit while having some fun.

The boutique fitness industry had only just started to blossom, and most people still thought Muay Thai was a tiki drink and not a martial art or sport. People get fit with Muay Thai, I reasoned. They just don’t know what Muay Thai is yet or if they will like it. So, we began as Function 5 Fitness. The “five” stands for the five pillars of health and fitness.

In 2012, we had decided to affiliate with StrongFirst an organization that certifies coaches in kettlebell, barbell and body weight training. They emphasized the importance of strength training, and that appealed to us.  More women than ever understood the importance of getting stronger. Strength became a big part of who we were, and our small group classes evened out, offering an equal number of classes in both Strength and Muay Thai.

Flash forward to 2015, and something felt off with the brand and the gym. I couldn’t put my finger on it at the time, but I knew something needed changing. The boutique fitness industry was now booming with spin, yoga, and Pilates at the forefront. Thanks to the popularity of Mixed Martial Arts and the UFC, most people had heard of Muay Thai and understood you could train in it for fun and fitness.

At F5, we had successfully coached two fighters to championships belts, a handful more in their first few fights, and trained multiple powerlifters to compete in meets and place with medals. However, once a week we’d get a phone call asking how much a day pass to our gym was to use the cardio equipment and weight room or if we offered Zumba classes. I began to realize I had made a branding mistake.

My two passions, Muay Thai and Strength Training, were becoming more widely accepted. It made sense to align more closely with those aspects of what we offered than “Functional Fitness, ” but it wasn’t until 2016 that I finally started implementing significant changes to the gym, thanks to the business coaches I hired.

I began to refine my brand’s message and marketing. I wrote our core values, added a system for everything from programming to prospect follow up to inventory. I improved my hiring and training practices, engaged the community and started gym seminars, events, and challenges. I felt like a real business owner and entrepreneur, but all the past mistakes and changes to the company cost me. I borrowed over $75,000 in 2016 to keep the business afloat while I ironed out the kinks and went through growing pains.

Remember that viral video of the Chris Farley movie clip of him rolling down the hill over, and over again for what seems like forever only to get up stumbling at the end and keep walking and the caption said, “When people ask me how my 2016 was”? That was exactly how 2016 felt.

It’s not until today that I am ready to shout from the rooftops exactly who I am and what my gym means to me. I am okay if my vision repels some and instead only attracts a small, loyal group. I want my students to feel the same awakening I felt the first time I kicked a pad and hit a strength PR. My incredible team feels the same and understands my vision for the brand.

At F5, we get people strong and confident by lifting barbells, swinging kettlebells, kicking, punching, kneeing and elbowing. We are not fitness as you might conventionally think of “fitness.” We don’t have long lines of shiny ellipticals. We don’t have weight machines. We don’t have pink weights, hard to follow along with aerobics classes or scales in the bathroom for you to compulsively check daily.

You can’t buy a “day-pass” to our gym and do 30-minutes of mindless cardio after which you will wander around the weight room wondering trying what the hell you’re doing, spending more time on your phone than you do lifting anything.

We don’t offer any quick fix solutions. We don’t believe in selling you any 30-day “transformation” crap. We don’t tell you that you need to get “bikini-ready.” We refuse to make money off selling you self-loathing and fear. We just want to make you strong and confident in the gym and life.

The fitness industry makes money off your fear and doubts. They want you to feel less than, they want you to be afraid that you are not good enough and that you need immediate fixing. We don’t like that. We don’t think you need “fixing: we believe that you need coaching.

What is the difference between a coach and a trainer? A trainer tells you what to do. Do this exercise, do this number of reps, eat this not that. A coach listens, gets to know you and makes sure that you learn and understand what’s important to get you to your goal, whatever that may be.

At F5 you get to decide what your goals are. Want to focus on getting more energy, better sleep, improved self-confidence? Great! Want to lose body fat or gain muscle? Awesome, we can help with that too, after all, we train fighters who must get extremely lean and strong. Want to squat double your body weight or train for an amateur Muay Thai fight? Yup, we got you. Maybe you just want to make new friends and have fun while learning new things? Perfect. You’re in the right place.

Goals are individual, not universal. “Fitness” wants you to believe that every girl should want to be lean, skinny, and “toned” in her “bikini body” and that every guy should want to get ripped, muscular, and have six-pack abs.

“Fitness” is wrong. YOU get to define your goals, not fitness propaganda.

We are a supportive community of coaches and students who value being strong in mind and body and redefining what “fit” means to us. We want to help our students find their bold confidence, channel their aggression, and discover their strengths through Muay Thai and lifting.

For this reason, we have decided to truly become who we are and give up the “Fitness” in our name.

We are now, F5 Strength and Muay Thai.

Want to get strong and confident with us? Awesome. Join us. We know exactly who we are now and we want to help you find your strength too.

F5 Kettlebells and Thai Boxing F5 Logo