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Local Entrepreneurs Hit The Gym

Karen Richards

The fitness industry has a history of reinventing itself. Jazzercise was all the rage in the 1980s. In the 2000s, CrossFit became mainstream. One current trend is toward more targeted workouts. Here we check in with three specialized gyms opening or expanding in the Eugene / Springfield area.

Ramrath: “Go girl, go. Up up up … ohh ... If it was like a six foot wall you'd be there!”

Dawn Ramrath coaches her daughter Maycie up the eight-foot warped wall at Springfield's Northwest Ninja Park.


Ramrath: “You ran into the wall again, you've gotta run up it.”


Credit Karen Richards
Maycie Ramrath tries the eight foot warped wall at Northwest Ninja Park.

Ramrath says her six-year old has been obsessed with the TV show American Ninja Warrior since she was “itty bitty.” Owner Sloane Cameron holds classes for kids as young as four, on up to adults. Aside from the wall, there's a salmon ladder, aerial silks, and other obstacles.

Cameron: “You really get to use your full body and try to get from point A to point B. The classes that I teach, the hours fly by like they're nothing 'cause people are just having so much fun.”


This place is the only one of its kind from here to Portland:


Cameron: “I think that Ninja training and Ninja style gyms are kind of where CrossFit was 15 years ago, and I think that this is kind of the next big thing.”


Her studio may also be part of a trend in fitness toward custom training. One reason for the success is that franchise gyms, with rows of generalized equipment can be intimidating: 


Credit Karen Richards
Trevor Hoke owns Strength Lab Eugene.

Hoke: “Especially when you're putting yourself possibly in a place where you're not comfortable. You want to go to a place where you feel the vibe meets your expectations. I think you're going to see more of this.”

Trevor Hoke owns Strength Lab Eugene. He's in the process of expanding his 3rd Avenue location to offer a drop-in workout space. Strength Lab's focus is kettlebells. They're the round weights with wide handles on top.

Hoke: “I just think the kettlebell has so much flexibility. I mean, I've got issues, and I'm still able to move kettlebells and move well and stay fit.”


Two blocks from Strength Lab, construction continues on a new 17,000 square foot bouldering gym called Elevation.


Hudson: “Bouldering is just the simplest form of climbing. There are no ropes. It's low to the ground. Every fall is a ground fall, but that makes it quite intuitive.”



Credit Karen Richards
Michael Hudson wants Elevation Bouldering to feel like an adult playground.

Owner Michael Hudson says climbing is a rapidly growing sport. He says people are learning it's not as dangerous or extreme as Hollywood portrays it. He wants to provide a place where people can practice without feeling like they're on display:

Hudson: “Climbing is already inherently intimidating. We really want to make people feel comfortable. So that's why it's designed with so many different lines of sight, broken up areas to be in.”


Hudson's aware he's taking a risk with this buildout, it occupies the space of three former businesses, but he feels there are lots of people who want to try climbing but haven't had the opportunity:


Hudson: “When you look at the larger industry, no one really knows what the saturation point is.”


Hudson, along with many local entrepreneurs, hopes the market for specialty gyms isn't near capacity either. Elevation Bouldering plans to open this fall. Strength Lab expects to add its new space in October. Northwest Ninja Park has been up and running since June.



Karen Richards has been a KLCC reporter since the fall of 2012.
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