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Drew Girton

Episode 095

Fitness Reset, like a Pendulum

Coaching people is a hobby for some, but Drew has been coaching since 2001. He was one of the Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coaches at Western Michigan University from 2002-2004, then went on to personal training and management of a corporate gym from 2007-2013. In 2014 he founded and opened Pendulum Fitness gym with his wife and business partner. Outside the gym Drew and his wife, Chris, have two children, and he loves to pour over coffee, & Michigan Football.

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Drew Girton Quotes

  • “My dad said, “Well, maybe you’ll use your undergrad degree to open a business to run during the week and help out a church on the weekend.” And it came true.”
  • “Equinox offered me a management position, but I didn’t want to live on the west side. I wanted to stay in the San Gabriel Valley, so I took a job for way less money at 24-Hour Fitness in Arcadia.”
  • “We had a scam and a fire, and on paper, things looked bleak. But these were just speed bumps. It’s how you respond to these difficulties that matter.”
  • Drew is the founder and owner of Pendulum Fitness.
  • Coming from a family of pastors, Drew came to California to attend Fuller Seminary. 
  • After losing out on Pastor positions and needing to earn money, Drew turned to his undergrad degree, exercise science.
  • He took a job at 24-Hour Fitness to stay in the San Gabriel Valley.
  • After getting bit by the CrossFit bug, Drew designed his own CrossFit gym designed for beginners.
  • Now he customizes his clients’ plans to ensure success and even guarantees results, or they will coach you for free until you reach your goals. 

What is your connection to the San Gabriel Valley?

I own a business, Pendulum Fitness, in the San Gabriel Valley off of Villa Street.

pendulum-fitness-in-pasadena
 

Can you tell us about your childhood?

I was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan, I’m a Leap Year baby, so I’m pumped I get a birthday next year.

My dad, grandfather, and great-grandfather were pastors, and I came to California to be a pastor. I attended Fuller Seminary.

But before that, I was a strength and conditioning coach at Western Michigan University.

I’ve been in fitness for 22 years, and I came out to California for grad school and decided to stay.

After trying to make it in a band, I ended up using my undergrad degree. I moved up the ranks of 24 Hour Fitness, where I met my wife.

After one year of marriage, I wanted to open a CrossFit Gym, but we got pregnant, and I decided to put off opening the gym.

About a year later, I opened the gym, and we found out we were pregnant again.

So my daughter is 10, my business is 9, and my son is 8. We were very busy there for a few years.
 

Where did your journey in fitness start?

There was a guy in my dad’s church, Bill, who owned a greenhouse, and he was jacked.

This was back in the day when you only lifted weights if you were in bodybuilding and wanted to look like Arnold Schwarzenegger.

So I asked him, ‘how do I look like that?’, and there was a small weight room in the church, and he showed me a few things.

But it really wasn’t until my sophomore year of college when I met this guy who turned me onto the book Body For Life by Bill Phillips.

That book changed my life. In one summer, I went from 126 pounds to 140 pounds.

But the real reason I got into fitness was out of insecurity. I’m short and wanted to be bigger, so I couldn’t grow taller, but I could control my appearance.
 

Do you do a lot of personal training, or are you running your gym?

Personal training was my background. I started as a strength and conditioning coach, where many people want to end up. But there is actually more money in personal training.

I don’t coach anymore. Right now, I’m focused on growing the gym.

What was it like at a D1 School? Were you still trying to prove yourself to everyone?

Yes. That is exactly what happened. The head strength and conditioning coach had just won the strength and conditioning coach of the year, and he said, “I’ll give you a chance. You have one shot. Today. If these guys eat you alive, you don’t have a job.”

At the time, I was still a small guy; the team’s smallest guy was still forty pounds bigger than me.

However, I was able to control the section I was given and created buy-in very quickly. The players went over and told the coach that I knew what I was doing, and I got the job.
 

So you left Michigan to come to fuller. Did you intend to become a pastor?

I did. I thought I had heard the call to the ministry. Being that it was kind of our family business, I thought that was what I was supposed to be doing.

When I moved out here, I questioned why I had bothered to get my undergrad degree in exercise science, and my dad said, “Well, maybe you’ll use your undergrad degree to open a business to run during the week and help out a church on the weekend.”

And it came true.
 

When did you decide that you weren’t being called into the ministry?

In 2007 I applied to multiple churches, and I would get to the very last stage of the interview, and something wouldn’t work out.

I needed to start earning money, and I knew how to train people, so I applied to 24-Hour Fitness in Altadena and Equinox in Westwood.

Equinox offered me a management position, but I didn’t want to live on the west side. I wanted to stay in the San Gabriel Valley, so I took a job for way less money at 24-Hour Fitness in Arcadia.
 

What happened next?

I kept applying to churches to get into ministry, but I was having more and more success at 24-Hour Fitness. I had a full client load and was having a lot of success.

The manager there really taught me how to sell. He told me, “you’re not selling people anything. You’re offering them a better life.” That changed everything for me because it’s true.
 

Did you jump from having your own clients to having your own gym?

It took me about three months to get ramped up to full-time at 24-Hour Fitness. My district manager wanted me to become the fitness manager at a different club in West Covina, and I took it.

However, it was a horrible three months. I hated it. I hated being a manager.

So I stepped back down to being a trainer. I built my business back up.
 

You lost all of your clients and came back at zero?

Yeah, and I rebuilt it in one month.

I was only there for six or seven months until I was given a significantly better opportunity at a new club in Walnut in 2009. I built that location from zero to $50,000 in revenue every month.

It was unique because I got to hire and build it up from nothing.
 

Did you enjoy that process?

That was when everything started to change for me. I was learning the management and HR side, and it ended up really helping me. Now a lot of people ask me if I went to business school, but it was all from the experience that 24-Hour Fitness gave me.
 

Did you quit trying to be a pastor at this point in your career?

Yes, I stopped at this point. I found that when I was a youth pastor in 2007 that I enjoyed making money, but I had quite a conviction that the church shouldn’t be used for your personal gains.

What I really love about business is that you can do all those things, which led to me opening Pendulum Fitness.
 

When did the seed for Pendulum Fitness begin?

I had my first experience with CrossFit was in 2009, and in 2010 I went to a CrossFit Gym. I ended up only lasting a month because I hurt my back. It was not enjoyable, but I kept coming back, and another gym opened in Pasadena, and that’s when I wanted to open a CrossFit gym.

I saw that there wasn’t a beginner’s gym for it, and at the same time, my wife and I wanted to buy a house in Pasadena. Working for 24-Hour Fitness wasn’t going to allow us to do that.

In February 2014, we opened our gym.
 

Did you buy a house?

We bought our house last year. In 2020 when the pandemic happened, we saw what happened in the market and knew we couldn’t keep up with it.

So we moved to Austin, Texas, in 2021, built a home, and ran Pendulum remotely.

My wife started training people out of the garage, and I missed being in the gym.

At the same time, two of our staff approached us about buying the gym, but the landlord blocked the deal.

The two staff members ended up leaving and opening their own gym, and we had to sell our house in Austin after being there for six months and used that money to buy our home in Pasadena.
 

How was the business when you came back?

It was decimated. Because of the failed transaction, we lost half of the business overnight. We ended up only having 60 people left.
 

How did you turn it around?

This became a defining moment, and you can do one of two things. You can walk through the fire and bring it back or quit.

I wasn’t going to go down at the hands of something else. I control my destiny.

When we moved back in January of 2022, we got a message that one of our moving trucks burnt down to the ground. We lost everything in that truck.

My coworker Alex had all of her things in that truck too, and she lost everything.

On top of this, a guy stopped by and said he could redo our driveway for the gym for $2,000. It ended up being a complete scam.

We had a scam and a fire, and on paper, things looked bleak. But these were just speed bumps. It’s how you respond to these difficulties that matter.

So we just kept showing up. I was working 6 am to 8 pm every day.

In April, everything started to change. My Facebook ads took off, and by July, I had replaced everyone that had left.

And we’ve doubled it since then.
 

Do you call yourself a Crossfit gym?

We consider ourselves a CrossFit boutique. We offer group classes, but we also offer semi-private training and nutrition, but what separates us from the competition is that we customize people’s journeys.

You come in and tell us what you want, and I will tell you how long it will take and customize the program for you.

We guarantee the work, or we’ll be coaching you for free until you get your results.
 

What does Crossfit mean?

It is constantly varied functional movements (pressing, pulling, squatting, pushing) performed at high intensity. Every day you’ll get something different that will prepare you for everyday life.
 

Drew, if people want to come check out your facility or contact you, what is the best way to do that?

Our Instagram is @pendulum.fitness, and our website is www.pendulum.fit. We are located at 2041 E. Villa St, Pasadena, CA, 91107.
 

Picture of Drew Girton

Drew Girton

Copa Vida Coffee. My friend Steve is the owner, and I love it. This is where I wrote the business plan for Pendulum Fitness.

Lee’s Hoagie House. I love what they do, and I enjoy going there. The protein burrito is fantastic.

The Rose Bowl. I’ve been running there for around 18 years now. My family goes with me, and we’ll do a workout in the little workout area.