Inside 1st Platoon Garage Gym

The Origin of 1st Platoon Garage Gym

getting ready to work out in a garage gym

Some people will come by and say they want to work out but they see the intensity and I think they’re a little scared.

Leondre tell me about your background. You served in the Army—

I’m still currently in the Army National Guard, I just recently rejoined on the Marines’ birthday (10 November)

Yeah, I saw your swearing in for your re enlistment. Nice.

Thank you. But I’ve been in since 2003, I took a break between ’13 and ’16 obviously. I was a Cav Scout for the first five years and I was infantry for the last five years.

Okay, that’s good stuff. So is that where you began your fitness journey?

Mainly it was when I was in Afghanistan, I was on a counter insurgency team and we would work with different branches of the military. Besides going out on missions when we weren’t doing that we were doing different types of training and that’s where it started. One day we would do battle focused training and one day we would do CrossFit. I really didn’t like going to the gym and pumping iron for 45 minutes or an hour and a half. It was boring to me but we got out there and we would run, we would do burpees and tire flips and I was like, “This is kind of fun!” and I just built off of that. I mean I didn’t really know anything about CrossFit when I first started it, so I just kind of made my own workout regimens and I just slowly learned from there.

When I was deployed to Falluja, we had all of these guys who had never exercised. I mean you’d have to drag them— at least as much as you have to drag anybody in the military; but they wouldn’t do anything until it was time to do unit PT. And you’re sitting there in an artillery position with nothing to do; there’s pull up bars and dip stations in front of every cannon and people started to work out.

Right. Right.

american soldier in afghanistan

I discovered CrossFit in Afghanistan

So that’s why your story sounds so familiar. But unlike a lot of people in that situation, you continued to train when you got Stateside. So what motivated you to start the 1st Platoon Garage Gym?

I was at drill and I had caught a sinus infection on Friday and we had a PT test on Sunday and it was a record PT test. I didn’t know if I would be able to pass this. I was in pretty good shape. I could get up and take a PT test and pass it no sweat. But this one— I had missed it by 68 seconds. So I started running when I got home, I mapped out a little route where it was a mile and a half, sometimes two miles depending on what turn I took around my neighborhood and I would get up in the morning, 5am, go out run and I started from there. I said I’m never going to fail another PT test as long as I’m in the military! I got a kettlebell that Christmas 2013 and then I moved to Dayton where I’m living now and I was just like, I need to stay working out. Because when I get ten, fifteen years older I want to still be able to run around with my little ones. And that kind of just motivated me. So when I got here to Dayton, I was rolling around my neighborhood, just scoping it out and there was a house that just got bulldozed and in front of it were five tires. I went and asked the guy whose house was next to the vacant lot and he was like, “Oh that’s the city’s these guys are coming, you can ask them on Monday. Well, Monday came and went. Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday was the 4th of July. I went and got two of them Thursday. I was nervous a little bit but nobody said anything so I stopped worrying about it. So two tires and a kettlebell. My sister in law came and knocked on the door and said, “I need you to help me. I need to get rid of this pudge.” Every day she would come over and I would do these different circuit workouts. I got on the Internet and started learning about this workout regimen that I was doing that ended up being CrossFit so I incorporated it into what I knew and next thing I knew I had 1st Platoon Garage Gym.

So seeing that it looks like I’ll be contacting Ohio Crimestoppers about the theft of some tires—

Oh man! Ha ha!

Location, Location, Location

garage gym crossfit box

I have regulars but occasionally someone new drops by to train

So where’s your gym? I mean is it in the garage or is it in a separate building?

It’s a detached garage and it’s not insulated so when it’s below 45 degrees, I’m kind of iffy about going out there.

I got you. Semi-private, private or invite only?

It’s semi-private meaning, people who are friends and friends of friends.

I ask because I’m a fan of the podcast Barbell Shrugged . . .

Yeah, I listen to them too.

Okay, yeah, so I was listening to one of their earlier episodes and this guy was describing how he started his CrossFit box and he said, originally he had it in his house. He thought it would be cool to put it up on the CrossFit main site and he said somebody showed up at his house at 6am wanting to work out!

Hey! That’s not cool! I’d be like, “I’m asleep”!

Like, “Good morning! I’m here for the WOD? Ha ha! Anyway, my brother put his backyard gym on the Starting Strongman site and he’s had people show up to work out because they saw it on there. Fortunately, I think they called ahead but I always wonder whether or not you guys do that. Throw your information out there so other Crossfitters can stop in when they’re in town.

I throw my information out there, I work out on these days, these times but I usually get the same people. Some people will come by and say they want to work out but they see the intensity and I think they’re a little scared.

It’s difficult for people because, you’re home so you’re comfortable, but they still have to get up and drive over.

They still have to do it. Yeah.

So they do what they would do if they trained at a commercial gym but without the amenities so I think it takes a special breed of person to be a part of a barbell club like 1st Platoon Garage Gym that’s in someone’s home. 

Owner Financing

As a barbell club not a for pay facility how do you pay for new equipment and gym maintenance?

It’s mainly me. Right now, I have six kettlebells. One of which I just got from one of my members actually, he brought it like, “Hey, I’ve got a gift for you!” He’s out, he recently had surgery on his ACL so he’ll be out until spring at least. But usually it’s just me. I’ll buy one piece of equipment here and another there. Because let’s face it, I’ve still got three kids and a wife—

row of kettlebells in a garage gymYeah, I understand that. I mean my wife’s into cycling so she gets stuff that’s related to that. And I’m sort of a miser too so I get stuff but I’m always trying to see if somebody could make it for me, if I could get it used.

Ha ha! Me too! Me too.

What’s on your wish list to get next?

I want either an assault bike or a rower. Because you can only do so much running; so many burpees and double unders. You get a different type of burn when you’re on a rower or on an assault bike than you do if you’re sprinting or you’re doing burpees. You know what I’m saying?

Who’s been your main supplier of equipment? We talked about being thrifty.

I’ve purchased a few kettlebells from Play It Again Sports. They have new and used, so I’ve purchased three from there. Two from Wal-Mart and then like I said, one got donated.

Have you had to replace or upgrade anything to accommodate group workouts?

Not yet. We have replaced a couple of sandbags but I can just go to the Post Office for that.

Training Philosphy and Set Up

How many members do you have training at one time?

It’s just two because I only have one barbell right now.

It’s small group training so that works. Dan John works out in a garage with a small group of people every day that he’s not traveling. And he said, he on purpose gets people from different backgrounds because everyone gets to pick one movement. So let’s say the yoga person would pick something that they’re good at so the questions that people ask when they’re trying to figure out how to do it are important. It’s like a mental stretch for the yoga person because they have to explain it—

So everybody’s learning . . .

Right and I had heard something similar when I’d been doing martial arts for a while and Joe Lewis came in, I forget how the question came up but as a 10th degree he said, that he learns from beginners because a beginner would do something that it would never occur to me to do!

Because you’ve got it figured out and they don’t! So for them it’s trial and error.

So that mix sounds good because if there were just two of you then it would be a case of let’s just do what Dre’ says but with three people start to research—have you experienced that?

Oh yeah! Because I’ll listen to WODCast Podcast or Barbell Shrugged; just something about weightlifting or fitness or calisthenics and they’ll just say something and I’ll just go, “Huh! I never thought of that or let me look that up!”

Tell me about your certifications and/or training philosophy. Are you strictly CrossFit or do you guys incorporate other training philosophies?

Strictly CrossFit and honestly I don’t have any fitness certifications. I do have a friend who’s a fitness trainer in Chicago and he says sometimes he
copies my workouts and gives them to his class. I thought that was pretty awesome. I’m not going to let anybody do anything that one they don’t feel safe doing or two that I don’t know how to do. I’m not going to say we’re going to do muscle ups and handstand walks and I can’t do either. Or we’re going to do power cleans and squat snatches and I don’t know the first thing about it because that doesn’t look good on my part.

That makes sense because you have to stay in your lane—

Your scope of practice, yeah.

Are you a licensed massage therapist? You said on IG that you’re nice with your hands.

I am, that’s kind of how I make my living. I do it on the side now but that’s what I was doing when I first started. Actually one of the girls that was coming; she’s a licensed massage therapist too.

So not being certified, if you want to know the answer to something, who would you reach out to or what website would you look on for the answer?

I follow Catalyst Athletics. And then one of our local CrossFit coaches, I touch base with her. I have a friend who’s a fitness trainer in Chicago and he says sometimes he copies my workouts and gives them to his class. I thought that was pretty awesome.

Does 1st Platoon Garage Gym compete or are you simply training for life?

No, we don’t have the team for it yet. The one that is a massage therapist she was training for a 24 hour obstacle course challenge in Las Vegas and she just continued training with us afterwards.

How did she do?

She was on a team with two guys and another girl and she said she didn’t finish it. She said the people that were there weren’t as motivated as she was. But I want to do a Savage Race, a GORuck Challenge and a Tough Mudder.

motivational quoteWhat motivated you to post, “I don’t understand why people are so scared to discover how strong they actually are?

I guess that you kind of see that I’m full of quotes. That was one that stuck out to me because it seems that we as a people are scared to take risks. And there are a lot of people that are scared to jump out the window. And some people just don’t know what they can do until they’re faced with doing it or running away from it.

How much are you actually around people like that?

It’s just at work or if I’m at the store. People will say I saw your workout on Instagram or Facebook. And I’ll say, “Oh! Want to come get down?” And they’re like, “No, working out will make me sore, you can have that!” I’m like, “Really?”

I’m a fan of Zach Even Esh, Ross Enamait, they both talk about how people just don’t want to work hard. I think we do have a culture that kind of fosters that because we have gadgets. I’m not just talking about fitness gadgets either. It’s like we want to speed this up. Take a car, we want our cars to go faster. Why? Because you want to get where you’re going faster and when you get there, you want everything to happen fast while you’re there. And then when you’re ready to leave, you want to leave quickly. It’s like we don’t enjoy the process anymore! It seems like you enjoy the process. You enjoy the training itself.

Sometimes I could be having a bad day, or I could be having the best day ever. I just stop and take a couple of fresh breaths and realize I’m in that moment. Because we never do that! It’s always, I can’t wait until vacation. And then as soon as vacation comes, it’s over and we’re like, “Man! Vacation’s over that fast?” And it’s because we didn’t cherish the moment.

You’re on vacation thinking about work! Or you’re looking on your phone looking at what other people are doing, not enjoying your vacation.

I learned that from Sade. Cherish the day.

Before We Go

Tell me about 1st Platoon Garage Gym Beer and WOD Fridays.

Just to have a good time. Socializing and a nice ending to the work week and the start of a good weekend. And what I’ll do when I do a Beer and WOD

crossfitter after a wod

Cherish the moment.

Friday is take the movements of the week and keep the same scheme but make a more intense WOD. After that: two beers!

So it makes it an experience.

Right. We might do farmer carries and power cleans and running throughout the week and then on Friday we’ll run a mile and a half with a sandbag. Plus in between each movement we’ll do some burpees.

I’m a reader and I can tell when someone else is a reader. What’s the name of the book currently on your night table?

It’s called The Map of Heaven. It’s by Dr. Eben Alexander. I think he was on Oprah and he didn’t really believe in God. He was a neurosurgeon and he believed that you don’t have any cognitive memory when you’re in a coma. Well, he ended up in a coma for seven days and he was supposed to be brain dead. He came out of the coma and he was remembering all of these memories from when he was in the coma. I read his first book, “Proof of Heaven” I haven’t really gotten through it because I’ll read a couple of pages and I’ll get sidetracked.

The Map of Heaven by Eben AlexanderI get it. It may seem strange to people that you’re reading that but you’re reading about the transformation of someone’s belief system because of a life changing event. You’re all about metamorphosis.

I want to motivate people because I was one of those people once upon a time who didn’t want to exercise. I’m a regular person so it’s something that everybody can do. If you have two legs and two arms and you can walk, you’re an athlete.

Well, man I appreciate you taking time to talk to me. How can people contact you to follow the training or come work out at 1st Platoon Garage Gym?

On Instagram: @1stplatoongaragegym


About the author

John Greaves III is a writer based in North Georgia with nearly two decades of experience in training at home. A former amateur kickboxing champion, John now competes recreationally in powerlifting. He takes a physical culture approach to training; believing that strength and health need not be mutually exclusive. In addition to his nonfiction work, John has written two fiction books, A Different Kind of Giant and A Little Lesson in Manners that are available on