“This group has made life richer for our family. The garage guys look out for each other’s kids and property, we help each other out with projects, we laugh and argue, we talk religion, sports, politics, family and work, and we hang out at our neighborhood park and pool with our families and each other. Some of us have spent vacations together and shared holiday meals together. I feel lucky to know these guys."
-Chip Lusk on the RRLanta
Chip Lusk and the birth of a garage gym
Recently we ran the Ragnar Trail race which is an event that goes on all night. We have done these events before but on the roads and each team has vans and leap frogs through the 100+ mile course. The trail event was much different as all teams simply camped in a central area and sent runners out from there. This format allowed for way more camaraderie and fellowship.
We were fortunate to camp next to Chip Lusk, RRL alumnus who moved away from Chattanooga for a job opportunity and quickly recreated our setting in Atlanta. I was very impressed with Chip’s RRLanta group as they were just like ours. While we all miss seeing Chip, I have to say that I am very impressed and proud that he has been able to build a strong community right out of his garage. I caught up to Chip to ask him how he did it and learn more about his group.
TR: Hey Chip, great to see you at the Ragnar Trail event! I loved seeing what you have created from your garage. Tell us a little about your group.
CL: Hi Tom – RRLanta is similar to the original RRL. I learned from your leadership. I am confident that much of what I say will sound familiar to you.
Our group is mostly a bunch of dads. Their ages range from mid 30s to mid 50s, but I think most of us are in our mid to upper 40s and feeling younger each year. We have lawyers, bankers, business owners, sales brokers, a doctor, and (it is the ATL) some commercial real estate guys.
TR: How long have you been hosting workouts from your Garage?
CL: We moved into our Atlanta home in July 2011. I worked out on my own five days a week until approximately Thanksgiving. That’s when I was joined by a friend who wanted to get back into shape. Within a month, he had lost 25 to 30 pounds. From December to April, it was the two of us. Then, we were joined by two more friends, who also saw immediate results. Next, word of mouth took over. Neighbors saw guys losing weight and getting stronger and wanted to be involved.
TR: Why did you want to set up your own rather than just joining a gym?
CL: The main reason I wanted to set up a garage gym was to develop community. I missed the workout community you developed and I wanted to recreate it in Atlanta.
I welcome anyone. While we have only a few rules, one of them is no ‘a-holes’ allowed – this one has never needed to be enforced, but I’ve joked around about it a couple of times.
TR: Tell us about how it started? How did you get the first few to start coming regularly?
CL: It started in a bar over a couple of beers in the Fall of 2011. The friend I mentioned before was between relationships and looking for some positive changes in his life. We agreed to meet at 5:30 am Monday through Friday. The results followed and spoke for themselves.
Honestly, the best sales (I use that term loosely) tactic is when our community swimming pool opens each summer. Suddenly, neighbors are noticing that the new ‘garage guys’ have lost their beer bellies and now have abs and upper body strength.
TR: How much does it cost?
CL: I don’t charge anything for the workouts. It is my gift to our community. With that said, good CrossFit equipment is expensive. To get started, I bought the first round of equipment (about $3k) for the garage which arrived on two wooden pallets from Rogue. Since then, the guys usually pass the ‘equipment replenishment fund’ hat every six months to collect money for new equipment. These donations are completely optional and capped at $200 per person.
TR: What time do you workout?
CL: Guys start arriving at the garage between 5:15 and 5:30 am to stretch and warm-up. During the school year, we are done by 6:30 am, so everyone can get home to help get kids ready for school. In the summer, we have been known to go until 7:00 am.
TR: You probably have lots of different athletic abilities at your garage. How do you create workouts that all of your athletes can do?
CL: We have all different fitness levels. The beauty of CrossFit workouts is that they are easily scalable. I like it when we have eight or more guys because then usually everyone has someone at his level. If we have a new guy, then I always do a form demo, encourage him to scale and tell him what that looks like. It is smart to scale. I often scale workouts myself.
TR: Did you, or do you face any challenges with neighbors/your wife/children/police?
CL: My wife is a tolerant champ. She understands that this community is important to me. These guys hold each other accountable and help each other out. We have become great friends.
My kids think I have an obsessive addiction to CrossFit – they’re probably right, but I see it as a way to stay fit and build a kick-butt community of trustworthy men.
My immediate neighbors are intrigued and (fortunately) good sleepers. I reserve tire flipping, sledge hammer striking and heavy weight dropping workouts for special late workout days.
We live in an active neighborhood. There are bikers, swimmers, runners, speed walkers, and dog walkers. Many regulars pass by the garage to say hello. Overall, the neighborhood has been supportive of the garage/street workouts.
TR: How many people show up on a regular morning now?
CL: We typically have about eight to twelve guys.
TR: How do you determine your training?
CL: Training is determined by what we have on our event calendar. If Ragnar, then we do more running. Our typical week is a CrossFit WoD on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Cardio (run, swim or row) on Tuesday and Thursday. And, a small group long run on the weekend.
Lately, we have been focused on Hero WoDs, but my favorite format is a team WoD.
TR: What events has your group done together?
CL: We did the Atlanta GoRuck Challenge in 2012, the 2013 Tennessee Ragnar, the 2014 Atlanta Ragnar and the 2014 Atlanta Tough Mudder. We do the Peachtree Road Race together each year – it goes right by our neighborhood. We also do family workouts in our neighborhood park several times a year. And, we’ve had lots of parties together to celebrate events and life.
TR: What events are you currently preparing for?
CL: We have a small group planning to do Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim in the Grand Canyon in Fall 2014, so I am adding long(er) runs on the weekends. We have two 12 man teams going to Miami for the 2015 Florida Keys Ragnar. But, our next fun team event is this coming weekend – the Best Butt in Brookwood Hills – it’s a BBQ cooking competition to raise money for Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. The garage has several four man teams who are each cooking butts, ribs and briskets on our Big Green Eggs. One team is doing an open pit whole hog. We plan to set up an outdoor movie theater and watch classics, like Fletch and Caddy Shack while the BBQ cooks.
TR: What does this group mean to you?
CL: This group has made life richer for our family. The garage guys look out for each other’s kids and property, we help each other out with projects, we laugh and argue, we talk religion, sports, politics, family and work, and we hang out at our neighborhood park and pool with our families and each other. Some of us have spent vacations together and shared holiday meals together. I feel lucky to know these guys.
TR: How big is your garage and what equipment do you have?
CL: I have a normal two car garage, which will still hold one car when no one is working out.
We have two pull up bars, two sets of rings, seven Olympic bars and lots of bumper plates, three pairs of kettlebells, two sets of dumbbells, two plyo boxes, three med balls, a squat rack and bench, two C-2 rowers, one GHD machine, and lots of jump ropes, logs, sand bags and AbMats. I’m sure that there are things that I’m forgetting.
TR: How did you collect equipment?
CL: I am always watching for a good deal on a piece of equipment we can use. Occasionally, I’ll find a good opportunity on Craigslist. Most of my equipment came from Rogue Fitness.
TR: Many people follow our facebook page and this blog that have expressed interest in starting their own RRL-style group. What advice could you give someone who would like to get a group started?
CL: Building a RRL-type garage is a good way to develop community and stay in shape. Here’s what worked for our group:
Find resources – find a few go-to websites for workout ideas.
Be consistent – set days and hours that are easy to remember and then rarely deviate.
Communicate – establish a google group email distribution list and then add the guys that have been to the garage. We use the list to organize events, long runs or even to ask who’s going to the pool on a Friday afternoon.
Communicate, more – establish a forum to communicate the daily workout. We use a Facebook page – RRLanta. Guys that miss the workout want to know what it was.
Encourage – it is okay to critique form, but do not criticize performance
Have fun – we bought a 40 cup coffee urn this past winter. Now, we usually have a cup of coffee at the end of the workout. I can’t think of a better way to start the day.
TR: Thanks Chip and congratulations to you and your group for creating a rich community!