BarnFit Gym is the passion project of Dillon Giesler a former high school athlete who is passionate about helping young people succeed. Funded out of pocket and built with sweat equity, BarnFit Gym is Dillon’s way of helping the youth in his small home town of Huntingburg, IN achieve their goals.
What’s your background including your personal background as an athlete and as a strength and conditioning professional.
In high school I played football, swimming, and track so I was no stranger to the weight room.
About three years ago my dad and I decided to start working out. My dad bought the Body Beast program and there was a small area that was clean where my brother and his friends would hang out and play Xbox in our barn so we put some dumbbells and a few benches and used the TV to start working out. When we first started, we had to climb a ladder to get to the second floor where we worked out. So we would work out after work every day for a few months and although the Body Beast program was good I really wanted to do Barbell work. I wanted to squat and deadlift and bench.
I read every T-Nation article that would come across my Facebook newsfeed along with other articles and videos and I would implement the things I learned into my dad and I’s training.
There’s a big difference between having a home gym for your family and owning a gym. Tell me about why you decided to start Barn Fit Gym.
As we progressed we started buying more equipment. We started out with a cheap bench with a leg extension/leg curl attachment. Anyone who’s had a home gym knows what I’m talking about. But I wasn’t a big fan of the style of bench. I’ve always used a power rack for all my lifts in high school. So my dad and I built ourselves a power rack to allow for safer lifts. We bought more dumbbells and a multi-station lat pull, leg ext, cable curl. As we expanded our equipment we had to clean more of the barn to make space for the new pieces. My dad used the barn for storage and he likes his junk ha ha!
I was working mornings at UPS and working afternoons in maintenance at a factory. So after I would get off work, my sister’s boyfriend at the time would meet my dad and I at the gym and we would lift every evening. Eventually my sister’s boyfriend started bringing some of his high school football and track friends over to get better for the season. During this time I was taking a course through National Academy of Sports Medicine to get my basic training certification. I passed the test and got my cert. but I don’t know if I’m going to renew it because I really haven’t changed much because of the certification. I’ve learned much more through trial and error and articles and videos.
Tell me, who is your ideal client?
I don’t mind expanding a little bit but my ideal size is a small-medium group of people who are like a family. I really like working with high school aged kids. They are still very impressionable so I can teach them good movement patterns and they progress so fast, so it’s really fun to see how far they can progress.
Just about everyone who’s worked out seriously has dreamed of owning their own gym. But the reality of gym ownership is far different than people believe, especially if that gym is at your home. What are some things that surprised you about turning the gym into a business?
Once the kids started coming, I figured I needed to get some insurance in case someone gets hurt. I filed for my LLC so that I could charge people to be able to pay for that insurance and to hopefully be able to make some small upgrades to the gym.
So far I really haven’t run into any problems with the gym being that it’s so small that it is kind of a low key under the radar type of place. So I haven’t really had any surprises with the business yet. A quick pretty cool story is I listen to Louie Simmons’ podcast a lot and had a few questions on the conjugate method so I emailed the Westside website. They asked for my number and said “I’ll just have Louie call you.” The next day I get a phone call from Ohio and I got to talk to Louie about conjugate. After I hung up I was freaking glowing and my girlfriend was like “who are you fangirling over?” Ha ha!
What’s your square footage and how many clients can you accommodate at one time?
In the last year, my girlfriend has picked up CrossFit and some of her friends have been coming over to work out with her, so I expanded my 36’x36′ main level to the next level up. This also took some cleaning being that this was where the stuff that we didn’t throw away from the first clean up found a home, on top of the junk that was already there. I was able to clean up enough space for the cardio equipment and some padded and mirrored space for burpees and other fun plyo shit. I’ve had up to eight people working in the gym but if you do circuit style training or some other style to accompany a large number of people it can comfortably accommodate more than that.
You’re located in a small town so your target market is limited. How do you attract customers? I saw some young athletes on your Instagram profile; do you have a partnership with the local schools?
My biggest advertisement I have is word of mouth. The kids come over and love the environment and the intensity that we push and in a way it’s kind of like survival of the fittest ha ha! Usually my gym has a way of weeding out the kids who don’t want to put in the work. I charge very low fees because I just want to cover my electric and insurance as well as make it affordable for these kids in high school. I just want to have an environment where these kids can come and learn proper technique and be around people who take training as seriously as they do.
I don’t have any kind of partnerships with schools or other gyms or equipment companies. But partnering with a school would be really cool, I’m just not sure it’s something that’d be plausible for such a small gym and dealing with athletes under 18.
Do you ever have conflicts with the local coaches and or do you just train athletes when they’re not in season for their sport?
Because the gym is low key like I said I’ve never had any trouble with local coaches. We’re in a very small blue collar town so the majority of people around here aren’t afraid of some hard work.
Your set up is pretty cool; two floors of a barn with a combination of free weights and selectorized equipment.
A quick overview of the equipment I have is:
Approx. 5,000 lbs of DB
Approx. 5,000 lbs of plates
2 power racks
5 adjustable benches
2 flat benches
Preacher curl seat
6 preset curl bars
1 trap bar
2 deadlift stations
1 safety squat bar
Temporary belt squat attachment for cable machine
Cable machine including lat pull, leg Ext, flys, etc.
1’, 2’, 3’ boxes
3 wrestling mats
1 sit-up/exercise mat
2 sets of lockers
Dip attachment for power rack
3 pull-ups bars
45 degree back extension
Land mine row/press
Homemade earthquake bar
40lb adjustable weight vest
Harness for pulling sleds/etc
How do you decide on what pieces to include in your floor plan?
As far as equipment most of it is acquired through watching Facebook marketplace and acting on deals or just buying the equipment from whichever dealer I can afford at the time without compromising quality.
Talk about financing your dream. Did you bootstrap it or did you go after micro investors through platforms like Kickstarter?
Usually if my dad and I can build it we prefer to do that to save some cash. Everything in the barn is bought and paid for with our own money.
What’s on your wish list of equipment to buy next?
The next projects for us would be a belt squat and a sled. The next buys would probably be a reverse hyper and some more specialty bars.
The first barn gym I remember seeing was in a YouTube video on Buck’s Gym in Tennessee then I interviewed Anna Woods of sheStrength who has her gym in a barn. Besides heating such an open space, what are some challenges associated with having your facility in a barn?
Like you said the temperatures are the hardest part. Being that the barn is very old there are some gaps between the walls and the old floor. We went through and reinforced the floor but air still gets through. In the winter the only difference between inside and outside the barn is that there’s snow on the ground outside ha ha! The summer gets up to 100 plus degrees. Other than that I’d definitely say the dust, dirt and if you’re working out at night the bugs get pretty bad with the doors open and the lights on. It’s almost a lost cause to try and keep things clean.
What are your goals for Barn Fit over the next five years?
My biggest goal for the gym is to find a small group of young athletes to grow together and push each other. I’m happy with where my gym is because it was never supposed to get to this and ultimately it’s still a home gym for me. But the gym is something like no other gym I know of. You come in and slide open the doors and look out across the horse pasture and corn fields. You can’t see any roads from the gym and you look around and see the old barnwood walls and it’s hot and smells faintly like manure and it just almost gets you in that isolated meditative mindset for your workout. I had a cousin visit from Alaska and I’ll never forget what his comment was about the gym. He said “it’s definitely not a pretty boy gym!” I’m just going to let it grow naturally and see where it ends up.
How can people get in touch with you or follow the training at BarnFit Gym?
The best way to get a hold of me would be to either text me at tel:1(812)630-4794 or message me on my Facebook “BarnFit Gym LLC” or my Instagram, @barnfitgym. If someone chooses to use my phone number texting is better than calling because I do drive throughout the day.