TRAIN LIKE A CHAMPION
By Mitch Hurst
PHOTOGRAPHY BY IAN MCLEOD
By Mitch Hurst
PHOTOGRAPHY BY IAN MCLEOD
When you’ve been a strength coach for the football teams at The Ohio State University, University of Florida, and The University of Toledo, you’re going to run your fitness company with tenacity.
That’s exactly what Cam Paulson of Strive does.
After helping elite college athletes develop physically and mentally, Paulson moved to Chicago to work in the private sector. He initially worked with some former colleagues but struck out on his own with the help from some investors in and around Chicago.
Paulson is the owner of Strive Village Strength and Conditioning, a gym he originally founded in 2017 in downtown Chicago, He now also has locations in Wilmette, and Western Springs. The business focuses on full-body workouts for individuals who are fully committed to becoming or staying strong. It’s not for those looking for a casual workout.
“We pride ourselves in providing simple, efficient strength training in an environment that has a lot of energy and people who just love to work hard,” Paulson says. “We’ve got really hungry clientele who want to learn how to train or have a place where they know they can come in and really get pushed and have a workout that can complement their lifestyles.”
Paulson says you can see the company’s philosophy on the door when you walk in. It says if you don’t like discomfort and a chaotic environment, then Strive isn’t for you.
“That’s a little bit of an edgy statement but I don’t like to waste time with people who aren’t ready to work,” he says. “I tell people right away on the phone or via email that if they don’t know about us, what they should know is to be ready to work.”
Paulson says he’s had two good mentors— mentors who taught him you have to be committed to a process and live and work in a certain way that promotes health and strength.
“The gym training to me is as much mental as it physical. We’ve got a lot of high achievers throughout the three gyms, and I really pride myself on that,” he says. “We’re successful because we find like-minded people and it sharpens their edge. It’s been wonderful, and we’ve been really fortunate to be able to take that theme and roll with it.”
Many health clubs and gyms have processes that are similar to a factory, Paulson says. They sit down and ask members what their goals are even before they’ve done a single workout. Then they get plugged into a cookie-cutter work-out routine. Strive takes a different approach.
“When somebody comes in for a first time for a complimentary session, we’re analyzing them throughout the workout,” he says. “We’re not really into what people may think they need before I even see them workout. We get right to it.”
Paulson says Strive keeps it simple. It focuses on a total body workout going through every motion—squatting, pressing, pulling, and assessing clients’ workouts in real time.
“After that first session, it’s all relative, because you might have somebody that knows what the deal is, and they’re ready to go right away,” Paulson says. “Or, you could have the person who’s never lifted before, so you’re taking different approaches.”
Strive Village’s membership model does not include the monthly fee structure that many gyms use—a model where gyms rake in the cash from people who rarely use their facilities. At Strive, clients purchase blocks of sessions at a time, ensuring they’re going to actually use the work-out opportunities they purchase. Clients workout individually or in small groups, always with a trainer.
The ideal client for Paulson is anybody who has a family, a demanding job, and who’s flying around on a regular basis but knows they need to get workouts in.
“They know they’ve got to go lift weights and they’ve got to lift weights hard, that it’s something they need to do. It’s like brushing your teeth,” he says.
It’s an uncommon breed of people who are drawn to Strive Village and that has allowed the gym to grow.
“It’s client by client, built brick by brick, with special people having fun and telling others that we’re building a special place,” Paulson says.