being a retired Master Sergeant and SWAT Team Commander
the United States Air Force and entering the fitness industry during
early 1990s, just when the industry was poised for friendly takeover by
style boot camps. You’d definitely feel like you were in the right place
the right time and nothing could stop you, right? Unfortunately, then-42-
Ron Holland didn’t have the benefit of hindsight and, instead, with
optimism and uncertainty, looked for where he belonged during the second
of an already notable life.
Officer and a Fitness Man
1978, Holland was selected as one
the first Air Force SWAT members. As an honor graduate, he went on to
an Air Force SWAT Team Commander and Instructor, leading and
teams all over the world. In 1983, Holland was deployed to the Philippines,
he was a non-commissioned Officer in Charge (NCOIC) for one
the largest security forces in the world. He was also the NCOIC of the “Fat
program, where he worked with hundreds of overweight airmen and
that would be discharged if they didn’t meet physical fitness standards.
retirement, Holland joined the police department at the University
Arizona. He was used to leaving his fitness fingerprint in every area he
and law enforcement would be no different. While on campus, he
one of the first bicycle patrol units in the nation, training fellow officers
to ride their bicycles for 10 hours a day and still have the energy to
any life-or-death situation.
department soon chose him to be an instructor and sent him to The
Institute of Aerobic Research for certification. While there, Holland
compelled to find how he could use this new certification beyond his
in law enforcement.
in Arizona, his former police sergeant, retired and an
in the University Medical Center, contacted him about some
who needed to lose weight. Holland agreed, and with no idea what to
for personal training, decided to ask $17 per hour.
client dropped 12 pounds in two weeks. Other nurses took notice,
soon Holland was training four or five nurses a day, six or seven
a week, either outdoors, at the university rec center or wherever they
find space. He soon bumped his per-hour rate to $27, well above what
area trainers were asking, but Holland had proved at that point that
was worth every penny. Before long, Holland was making more money
training than he was in his full-time job and felt rewarded by making
a difference in his clients’ lives.
1993, Holland decided to pursue fitness full-time. Having made fitness
an integral part of his past two careers, it seemed the obvious next
to follow his calling. Holland resigned from the police department and
hired as a manager in a big-box gym in Tucson. But his calling was in
clients, not managing a gym -- so, in 30 days, he started his own
training business within that gym and, as the only trainer there,
10 training packages his first day.
the training hours in his schedule surged, Holland hired other trainers
assistants. However, those trainers didn’t train in the same manner
Holland, and his clients weren’t getting the same experience or results.
wife, Jana, a juvenile probation officer, suggested that he use his
background to conduct group training sessions, which they jokingly
to as “boot camp.”
1996, when the idea of a fitness boot camp was still years
Holland launched his, not knowing if the idea would be a hit or if it
scare folks away. His first group of 20 was trained military style…
They ran in formation, carrying body bars (simulating rifles) and
military cadence through the desolate 5:00 AM streets. When they
at the park, they low-crawled, high-crawled, crab-walked, did team
pulls -- just like a true military boot camp.
says word began to spread. “There’s this crazy ex-military guy running
program he calls ‘boot camp,’” they would say. He received local and
press, and similar programs began sprouting up across the country.
changed his business name from Fit-Tek by Ron Holland to
Fitness. The gym he was at began to recognize the power of the boot
model and began emulating it. Holland knew it was time to move on.
in the Dark
no business, marketing or accounting experience
now recommends to learn the business first!), Holland and his wife
their business into a 700-square-foot space in an industrial park. By
2001, they were running five group sessions a day, had initiated a marathon
program and hired a young, aspiring trainer to help out. He
Jana would open the studio at 5:00 AM; she would leave to work her full
job and then return, where both would remain until 7:00 or 8:00 PM.
were long, hard days, and there was a steep learning curve,” says
“Because there wasn’t anything to copy, we built our business on
instincts, intuition and hard work, taking a lot of risks along the way.”
as it always does, followed their hard work. They soon doubled
space and, within a year, rented a second location across town. By 2004,
moved into their first “real” studio, says Holland -- a 1,600-square-foot
in a brand-new medical facility.
though their military-style boot camp model was doing well, Holland
that more fitness-oriented boot camps were taking over. He
into the Adventure Boot Camp model in an effort to breathe new life
the program. He says that system gave him lots of new ideas as well as
trainers to learn from.
two locations, a thriving indoor training business, boot camps and
training, Holland discovered kettlebells in 2008. He instinctively
maybe because they originated in the military, that kettlebells would be
core part of their business. The only ones in the area to offer kettlebell
Fitness soon offered a program they called “Kombat Kettlebells.”
the same time, Holland began researching CrossFit and liked how it
him of the military. He and Jana became CrossFit-certified and
their third facility, SWAT Fitness South, becoming the first Crossfit
with three studios and 20 trainers, Holland has the luxury of slowing
just a bit. He no longer does the early morning boot camps, but
still trains three clients, who have been with him 15 years.
believes the military-style boot camp will soon make a resurgence,
he will begin offering his SWAT Boot Camp again within the year. Also,
believes kettlebell workouts will continue to grow in popularity.
in the end, Holland just wants to be remembered as the one who
made a difference. “I just want to be the guy that got
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