5 Things to know about Chris Wade, founder of Nexus Fitness
For Chris Wade, playing football at Clemson was a no-brainer. So, it seems, was opening a highly-successful gym in West Homewood.
Wade, who comes from a Clemson Tigers family, and whose grandfather is in the Clemson football hall of fame, walked on to the team with the fastest 40 time in tryouts. He eventually earned a full scholarship by his senior year. He had a successful career as a starting member of special teams, and refers to coach Dabo Swinney as “the man.” (You can find a quote by Swinney printed on one of the walls inside Nexus Fitness.)
Special Teams To Specialty Gym
Wade graduated from Clemson and moved back to his hometown of Newnan, Georgia. He was at his neighborhood gym one day when he met his first “Crossfitter.” Wade was doing the type of workout he learned in college athletics, which he describes as “bicep curls, bench presses, and squats” when he noticed an ex-military guy who was using chalk and doing a workout that Wade had never seen. He went up and asked the guy what he was doing, and he told him he was doing “this workout called Crossfit.” Wade declined the first offer to try it out, but eventually started working out with him everyday and realized he loved it.
When Wade moved to Birmingham later on, he continued working out, and decided that he ultimately wanted to open his own gym. Thanks to two of his first members, John Giffin and Jeremy Hackney of Front Porch at Ross Bridge, Wade got a job waiting tables in order to immerse himself in the community and get to know them well. Shortly after that job, and many sacrifices later, he was able to open Nexus Fitness in West Homewood.
Growth From The Get-Go
“275 members signed up before I ever opened, and I’m so thankful for that.”
Because of his work ethic and focus on community, Wade had 275 members sign up for a pre-sale membership to the gym. This is no small feat — and a huge testament to his ability to connect with others.
Though work ethic and building connections in the community were huge factors in his ability to open a gym like Nexus Fitness, Wade made many sacrifices in the process of opening. The process of getting the gym ready to open had to start from the ground up — Wade literally had to tear down the existing building and rebuild it for the gym. In addition, the opening process took a financial toll. Wade has shared that he used every cent that he could from his life savings in order to make this gym — his dream — happen. He relied on community throughout the entire opening process and is excited to be able to give back.
“All my life savings are in this. I did anything and everything to make sure Nexus Fitness took off, because this has been my goal the whole time.”
Mostly, Wade wants it to be clear that his focus is on community. His ultimate goal in building Nexus Fitness from the ground up is to foster community and to serve as a positive influence in his members’ lives. He wants people to know they are welcome to the Nexus Fitness family and that he cares about them. He employs two full-time coaches, which he believes is a huge key to the success of Nexus Fitness. Here’s what he had to say about the importance of having full-time coaches on staff:
“These coaches are going to know you personally. They know your injury history, they know what your modifications are, but they also know you personally in the sense that they know how to coach you well. At Nexus Fitness, I just really want community to be the base … [I want] people to feel loved.”
A Holistic Approach
Wade set up the programs at Nexus Fitness to revolve around whole-body health and wellness. He wants to make sure people know that his goal is not to train people for the Crossfit games, it is to train people so that they are happy and healthy — so that they can eventually dodge the nursing home or chronic illness because they have built a foundation of health based on preventative maintenance. The gym environment echoes this.
(Author’s Note: Yes, it’s a loud, sweaty gym. And there are people grunting and squatting and the coach is yelling. But it is one of the happiest, most positive gym atmospheres I have encountered in a long time. There really did seem to be a sense of – there’s that word again – community, during the workouts.)
“It’s for the benefit of the people. It’s for the benefit of Birmingham, you know, and to create this great product for these people to enjoy.”
So, other than community and positivity (and a huge Dabo Swinney quote), what can you find at Nexus Fitness?
Two things: Crossfit and Xcel. The Crossfit side of the gym is in a spacious room with garage-style doors. The floor is largely open and free of machines. It is an entirely functional space where all Crossfit-style programs and training take place. Then, walk through a door and into the blissfully air-conditioned Xcel studio. The music is LOUD and the energy is up. The Xcel programs are circuit-based workouts consisting of rowing machines, TRX stations, Torpedo weights (similar to dumbbells), and the piece-de-resistance: the Trueform Runner treadmills. These state-of-the-art treadmills contain belts that are propelled by the user, rather than the usual ‘conveyor-belt’ setup of traditional treadmills. The Trueform Runners improve running form and help users quickly drop time on their distance running.
In addition to the two programs, Nexus Fitness also provides childcare for parents who have memberships to the gym. Childcare is located in a separate room from the workout area with toys and snacks. Every Nexus Fitness childcare employee is CPR and first-aid certified, so you can rest assured that your child is taken care of.
Oh, and beer Fridays. Yeah, we think that’s pretty awesome too.
Can we expect more of Nexus Fitness around Birmingham?
Definitely. According to Wade, this gym model is something he wants to replicate, especially the Xcel program. He plans to continue to create gathering places, places for people to “congregate” and be together while being active and healthy. And with the growth Nexus Fitness has seen in the five short months that it’s been open (they are already at 500 members!), we are thinking it won’t be long until members of the community are requesting another location.