Local athletic couple want to keep Santa Cruz strong
Santa Cruz Strength is located in an unassuming industrial building off of Harvey West Boulevard. It’s not like a 24 Hour Fitness or a Gold’s Gym; there aren’t miles of exercise machines and there are no televisions lining the wall. It’s a stripped down sort of place where you’re as liable to see someone lifting weights as you are to see them lift concrete spheres or a length of rope that looks like it should be attached to a ship’s anchor.
It’s one of the newer gyms in town, though owners Kyle Haynes and his wife Jocelyn Forest are no newcomers to the local fitness scene. Haynes, 24, describes his college self as “pretty unhealthy,” and more of a musician than an athlete. Yet after “working with some great coaches” who he credits with teaching him a lot, he was able to drop more than 50 pounds. Haynes attributes his newfound interest in working out primarily to his discovery of cross fit, a strength and conditioning workout program that started in Santa Cruz in 1995. Cross fit is used largely in police academies and military organizations as a general fitness program that can be scaled depending on one’s background. It was a year after this discovery that Haynes then decided to become a Level One-certified cross fit trainer, and, eventually, as of May 2011, open Santa Cruz Strength with his wife.
“We’ve worked at gyms in the area before, and it was just time for us to break off and start our own thing,” says Haynes. “We definitely felt like we had something to offer to the community—our own kind of niche, in that there are no other Olympic Weightlifting Teams in Santa Cruz, and we’ve been happy to fill that void.”
Haynes and Forest both compete and coach in Olympic weightlifting. Haynes admits to having some trouble keeping up with his own Olympic goals since opening Santa Cruz Strength. However, Forest, who spent most of her athletic career playing softball at the collegiate level with UC Berkeley, nationally with the U.S. Women’s Softball team, and internationally in the Netherlands (garnering championships, medals, and personal accolades at each level) is currently ranked within the top 10 female weightlifters nationally.
Forest says that the best aspect about Olympic weightlifting, which became an Olympic sport in 1886, is how transferable the workout is to other sports.
“What’s pretty cool about Olympic weightlifting is that it’s a training tool for other sports but it’s a sport in itself,” says Forest. “So it’s kind of fun for people who get into weightlifting, because they can decide if they want to become a multi-sport athlete.”
Though the gym can lay claim to being the only USA Weightlifting-certified gym in Santa Cruz, they also offer programs for those who are simply trying to lose some weight, or want to work on key areas such as flexibility, mobility, and injury rehabilitation.
“We try to cater to everybody, so it’s highly individualized and personalized depending upon your goals, your prior training history, prior injuries, age, gender, all that kind of stuff,” says Haynes.
Forest echoes her husband’s sentiments on the importance of tailoring programs for each individual.
“We had this idea that everyone’s needs are different, and to have some cookie cutter program that’s the same for everyone, we just thought wasn’t the best way to do things,” she says. “Instead of trying to put them on the same program as one another we try to individualize it, for each of their goals, so you get all the benefits of private strength and conditioning training but within a group setting where there’s a lot of support between athletes.”
While the idea of opening a business during an economic slump may cause many to think twice, Forest has been pleasantly surprised with the success the business has had thus far. She attributes it largely to word of mouth.
“It’s scary starting out, because you know what you’re capable of and you have these visions and you want to see them come to life, and you don’t know if the people are going to come, but what we found is that they did,” says Forest. “We’ve done virtually no marketing. It’s been all word of mouth, and that’s something that we are pretty proud of.”
Haynes admits that the two were “lucky enough to start our business already with a lot of clients,” who, he says, have “helped out a lot.” Still, he concedes to feeling the pressures of running one’s own business.
“I wear a lot of hats around here,” he says. “I’m coaching classes, I’m doing the books, and I’m dealing with the city and all the permits that we have to go through, trying to recruit new members, client relations. It’s a lot. [It’s] a good thing that I love doing what I do or else it would be a nightmare, but it’s been a huge learning experience.”
The gym currently has around 100 members—small by many global gym standards. However it is the small amount of members that allow the two to conduct business at such an intimate level.
“It’s no b.s.—all of the stuff we have here is meant to get you stronger, put you in shape, turn you into a better athlete. It’s kind of old school really, back to the basics,” says Haynes. “So it’s almost like going back to the pre-1970s, and just doing real stuff again.”