What started last February as an effort to get healthy has taken Scott Hamann to California and back. But the biggest change came just last month, when he purchased Elite Health and Fitness and began transforming it into New Beginnings Fitness Center.
The North Kenai resident said the need for change struck him after his father and youngest brother passed away last year.
“I was way, way, way heavy and I just knew I had to get healthy,” Hamann said.
In February 2011, he started working with a personal trainer at Elite Health and Fitness.
“When I started I couldn’t even make a full lap around the track,” Hamann said.
Now, two weeks before his one-year anniversary of working with his trainer, Whitney Martin, Hamann weighs in 120 pounds lighter.
“I’ve still got another 60 pounds to loose, but I’m working on it every day,” Hamann said.
Then he decided to take a bigger step, and left the Peninsula, heading to the Biggest Loser Ranch in Malibu, Calif. for two months.
But his biggest step yet came in January, when he purchased the gym. It was either that, or see it shut down, he said.
“I ended up buying the building and then I bought the gym itself,” Hamann said.
The transition was quick: he made a deal with the owner, and started that same night, Hamann said. Jan. 26 was his first day at the helm.
Hamann said he started in on maintenance and cleaning right away. The gym needed leaky valves fixed, rust removed, and other odds and ends accomplished.
“General elbow grease, scrubbing and cleaning,” Hamann said.
Some of that preliminary work is just getting finished. Last week, every cushion in the gym was replaced.
Hamann said he was tackling those basics to make the gym inviting and appealing.
“I definitely did talk to a lot of people — what don’t you like about the gym, what do you like about the gym,” he said.
He’s taking his cues from members — and from his own experience.
“I was at a point where I could barely walk anymore, and now I’m running around,” Hamann said.
At the time, Hamann didn’t realize that he was constantly in pain. As he regained his health, he realized just how rough of shape he had been in.
“I can fit better in my hot rods, I can ride my motorcycle,” Hamann said.
Martin said Hamann has gotten healthier step-by-step. At first, they had to stop for a break when walking.
“There were only a few things he could do mobility-wise,” she said.
It takes 24 laps around the gym’s track to make a mile. He couldn’t finish one.
“Now he can just boogie for 45 minutes straight,” she said.
Martin said the biggest change has been in Hamann’s attitude.
“You can just see the change in him,” she said.
And he agrees.
“People say they see it in my eyes and in my attitude,” he said. “I want to help people.”
Hamann said his experiences have prepared him to help others. He knows the importance of taking it slowly, and of surrounding oneself with people who can help.
“I want the gym to be a place where people who need help can come,” Hamann said.
His own weight loss journey showed him how many other people were struggling with their weight, he said. Some people had already lost the pounds and were working to keep them off; others were taking tentative steps toward fitness.
“They need that gym,” he said.
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Owning the gym uses a mix of old skills and new ones. Like his weight loss, he’s taking it one step at a time.
“I started out as a member and I think that gave me a really good perspective,” he said.
Hamann is already comfortable in the business world.
“I’ve been in business for 25 years,” he said.
Getting in shape, he said, has prepared him to help others do the same.
“My personal journey has really educated me a lot,” he said.
His initial efforts have been to make the gym as appealing as possible.
When Hamann took over, the treadmills weren’t adequate. A different one was broken each morning. He’s since replaced those with Percor treadmills, which he said are a top-of-the-line machine.
“I use the best stuff,” he said. “… There’s no value in stuff that’s broke down.”
He’s also adding entirely new equipment to the facility.
“I ordered two Jacob’s Ladders, and they’re coming,” he said.
That machine lets a person emulate what it’s like to climb a ladder.
Those machines are popular Outside, but not yet common in Alaska. Hamann said they’re often used for military training, and by firefighters.
“It’s an intense workout on one of those things,” he said.
Not all of the changes are so glamorous. Hamann said he was excited about a new ID card system and new laundry facilities.
“Gyms are about towels,” Hamann said. “It’s all the things you don’t think about.”
Hamann said the next phase of work includes bringing trainers -— and more members.
Since he took over a month ago, 30 to 40 people have joined. Now he’s ready to start an ad campaign and increase that figure.
“I think the community wants that gym to be there, and maybe more than that, they need it to be there,” Hamann said.
From here, Hamann expects the changes and growth to continue.
“Fitness is a big thing now,” he said.
Right now, the building is one story. But Hamann said it’s structurally sound, and he can envision adding a second floor down the line, if demand warrants. That’d make it a 22,000 –square-foot facility.
“I can see a lot of potential growth even for us here,” Hamann said.
In the immediate future, Hamann has more renovations planned, and he wants to bring in more outside knowledge.
“I want to bring in the right people to be able to counsel people, to help ‘em with their diet,” Hamann said.
Martin said she was happy when she heard her client was buying the gym.
“I was excited,” she said. “I was stoked.”
Martin said she and the other employees had long felt the gym could grow and improve.
“There’s so much potential in this gym,” Martin said.
She thinks he has a similar vision, she said.
“I’m glad that he is the one that ended up taking over,” Martin said.
Hamann said that creating a good working relationship with his employees is paramount to business success.
“I want people to want to come to work,” he said.
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Hamann is still making plans for how the gym will grow this spring and summer.
“I know one thing that’s for sure,” he said. “There will be a mud run.”
Renovating a gym and himself at the same time is a challenge, Hamann said.
He said he relies on people around him to help with both efforts. The same Metal Magic staff that took care of business while he spent two months in California are a big help keeping that business going now.
He sees his trainer about five times a week, but he’s looking forward to a time when his gym visits can be fit in more than once a day, he said. He makes it to the gym every morning, but doesn’t always get back for an afternoon or evening visit.
“I do miss it,” he said.
He’s also focused on his diet, every day.
“I’m still eating good healthy stuff, I’m just not eating as regular as I should,” Hamann said.
Martin said she sees Hamann five days a week.
“He works out pretty hard,” she said.
The two have a good rapport, one that allows for joking as they go.
“He’s a joy for me,” she said.
Martin isn’t the only person Hamann credits with helping his journey.
“I can’t say enough about the people that are professional trainers,” he said.
Next month, Michael Castrogiovanni is coming to visit. Hamann worked with him at the Malibu fitness ranch, and again here in Alaska in January. Now Castrogiovanni is going to help Hamann get organized at the gym, and also teach classes for others interested in improving their fitness.
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Castrogiovanni was a major factor in Hamann’s success at the California camp, Hamann said.
Hamann said the camp was structured as a week-long program, as most participants just spent one week there. While he was there for several weeks, he essentially just repeated the grueling week over and over.
Every day, Hamann would wear his body down. Then he’d go to Castrogiovanni.
“He does what’s called muscle activation techniques,” Hamann said.
Years of disuse made it hard for Hamann to even attempt some movements. Castrogiovanni helped him retrain his brain and his muscles to work together and accomplish those tasks, working with small adjustments at a time.
“It takes a certain amount of time and a commitment to make it happen,” Hamann said.
By the time Hamann left California, he said he was walking better and using more of his muscles.
The opportunity to work one-on-one was something Hamann paid extra for, but incredibly valuable, he said.
“I got the most out of it when it was a one-on-one with the trainer,” he said.
When Hamann came back from the camp, Martin said the change was significant.
“He was pretty much unrecognizable,” she said.
Since then, the two have continued working together daily.
Castrogiovanni also came back to Alaska to help Hamann stay on track.
Just before agreeing to buy the gym, Hamann had about three weeks with Castrogiovanni, who helped him lose 30 pounds.
The trainer came to Alaska to work with him from Jan. 2 to Jan. 23. To Hamann’s surprise, they didn’t head straight for the gym.
“He spent more time working on my attitude than we did at the gym,” he said.
The two also spent time at the grocery store, reading labels and finding healthy food.
Hamann said they talked about all three tenets of health: spiritual and mental, not just physical.
“The better I feel physically, the more I’m in touch with those other things,” Hamann said.
Now Hamann wants to help others find the balance he’s seeking in his own life.
“I’m really excited about it,” Hamann said. “I really am.”
“It’s good for me, it’s good for the community.”
Molly Dischner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.