I think the question I get asked the most is how I ended up co-founding Athletes Authority. The second most popular questions is ‘wait, you own this?’
I’ve learned to take that as a compliment.
I have a terrible dress sense, dance badly on the gym floor, have a very limited music selection and drive a doof-doof car – not exactly the charismatic businessman most people would assume to own and operate the gym.
But Athletes Authority is the amplification of me, it’s growing to become everything I (and Lachlan) have ever wanted in a gym and it’s fast becoming the best gym in the world.
If you can’t already tell from the outside, we do things differently here. In fact, I’ve made it my mission to be disruptive; to shake up everything that you’d ever consider ‘set-in-stone’ when it comes to running and operating a gym.
This gym is for the people, not the bottom line. You aren’t a number here; you aren’t a weekly debit. You’re you, and we do everything we can to bring out everything that makes you unique, strong and capable, in a gym environment built on community and innovation, not competition and isolation.
It’s my mission to build the best gym in the world because by chance, I happened to have one of the most ‘mediocre’ experiences when I joined my first gym.
The day I joined the gym was a big turning point for me. That morning i’d been beaten up (again), and I was feeling as small, insignificant, and useless as I think i’d ever felt in the 14 years I’d been alive. I was overweight, a ‘brown nose’, nerd and lead choir boy. A formidable combo.
That afternoon, my mum walked me down to one of those big globo gyms and I signed up.
Excited, scared, confused and overwhelmed were all feelings I felt as I sat down on the bench press for the first time.
Thankfully for me, a much larger human being approached me thereafter and instead of offering some words of advice or encouragement, eloquently told to to go play in the dumbbell area because he needed the bench – something along the lines of: “If you’re going to f*** around with that kind of p***y weight go play with the dumbbells because I need the bench.”
If you thought I was already at a pretty low state, somehow the world found a way to dig out an extra level in the basement and I dropped another story.
But with that extra level of depression I also found more fuel.
Years went by and I changed myself.
I became strong and capable. But I hadn’t really dealt with my problems, and I began engaging with ‘those guys in the gym’ that talked in low tones, wore y-back singlets and competed for the best lighting.
We spoke of steroids, getting jacked and being sickly lean.
Lifting heavy and getting huge had given me a lot of armour. I remember walking around sometimes and people feared me. I liked it. But behind that perception of authority and dominance was a dark young man; I was heavily abusing steroids and my social circles were becoming more toxic.
Have you ever heard of the saying ‘feather, brick, truck.
It’s the idea that in life, one of the fundamental parts of our existence is to progress. To become better. In that pursuit, the universe/god/whatever you believe, is there to help us in that process.
Like any teacher, when you try and teach someone something, you usually choose the softest, less confronting approach first.
When that doesn’t work, you apply a little bit more force, in hope they’ll get the message. In the event that being more firm doesn’t get the message across, you take more dramatic action. My mum never smacked me, but I did get the belt from my dad once and I assure you I didn’t take another cookie out of the jar.
In all seriousness, the world was trying to teach me to love myself. Despite my past, I was good enough, I was capable, and I was deserving of opportunity. But I resisted – hard, so the universe hit me with a truck.
A friend of mine at the time who I took (performance) drugs with wasn’t happy with me. I owed him either money or drugs and he knew where I lived. He turned up to my Mum’s house and for the first time, I felt like I had put the one person who loved me unconditionally at risk.
I was told to pack my bags and leave. Looking back it was just as hard for her as it was for me, but it was a necessary decision.
I moved out of home, bunked up in my grandparents garage, and plunged into a pretty depressive existence. Train hard, eat chicken and potatoes, sleep, frequent bodybuilding forums, repeat.
I did this for what felt like a long time, but perhaps it was only about 6 months.
My mum threw me a lifeline and bought me my Cert III and Cert IV in Personal Training as my 18th birthday present. While I was studying, I was allowed to live at home which was up the road from where I was studying, and, on the final week, I was given a job as a sales consultant at a little yoga studio with a small gym.
I turned my life around in that gym.
I saved enough money to buy a house and forged a career as a Personal Trainer.
I hadn’t completely faced my demons yet. I still never ever really felt good enough, but at least I had a career, a more balanced relationship with exercise, and I was creating a level of independence.
A few years later, I sold my PT business and went to University to study Sport and Exercise Science. I met the co-founder of Athletes Authority there Shawn, who, although not part of the business anymore, gave me an incredible amount of support in the early days and I wouldn’t be here without him. I sold my investment property and with the equity I started AA.
The first iteration of AA was a hole in the wall.
We moved into a 170sq/m converted apartment above a smash repairs and next to a 2000sq/m gym 3 doors down the road with 2000+ members. I slept on the floor of what we told people was the ‘store-room’, although I don’t think we fooled anyone. There were many early mornings, late nights, and sleepless ones too.
A lot of people thought I was idiot. Funnily enough, I never really thought it wouldn’t work. I had a vision to be different, so I would tell people “I don’t do anything that they do, and vice versa.”
People looked at me and genuinely seemed perplexed.
History would tell us that my little 170sq/m gym packed out and we’d need to move into something much more growth-proof. So we moved without even being able to afford the rent.
8 months later, AA employs 6 people, our gym is home to over 150 members, and the vision is fast becoming a reality.
We aren’t done yet – I want to make this the home of many more busy coaches, many more happy members, and a hub of innovation. I also want to leave a legacy for men and women who have lost their movement like my best mate Scott.
At the heart, Athletes Authority stands for unleashing greatness. We value building an unparalleled, ever-expanding community, delivering excellence in coaching, sharing knowledge and being concerned with generativity and the legacy we leave.
We want to leave a legacy of greatness. I welcome you to join us.
Train with Karl Goodman