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Inspiring Conversations with Matt Leu of San Pedro Fit Works

Today we’d like to introduce you to Matt Leu.

Hi Matt, thanks for joining us today. We’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
In early 2020, my business partner and I were separately personal training our own clients as independent contractors. We both rented from the same gym facility in San Pedro. The gym at the time depended entirely on contractors renting space at the facility to generate income. When the initial COVID-19 shut down occurred in March 2020, the contractors stopped paying rent. When the gym finally reopened, we were still limited by lack of management because the owners were “hands off”. There was directions when it came to COVID protocols and safety.

My partner and I put our heads together and read the writing on the wall about how the pandemic was going and the likelihood of another shutdown. We agreed that the current owner of the gym wasn’t going to financially survive another closure, and we would attempt to buy the equipment from them and build our own personal training business. Sure enough in late July 2020, we had another COVID wave and the owners approached us about buying the equipment in the facility. In a matter of a few weeks, we were able to get a great deal on the equipment and establish a new business called San Pedro Fit Works.

When we started things in August of 2020, we immediately began working with the landlord to use outdoor space for training our clients. We began writing cleaning and safety protocols then completely reorganized the gym. My business partner and I both have our degrees in Kinesiology, so we wanted to focus on science-backed exercise practices to promote injury-free and life-long fitness. We also combined our clientele to create one client system that we now share in our schedules. This model has really established the San Pedro Fit Works environment and produced what we feel is a consistently high-quality result for our clients. Over the last year, we have been able to pay ourselves and even begin building another location that focuses on group fitness activities.

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
The COVID-19 pandemic obviously has and still does present many hurdles. Businesses in the fitness industry as whole were hit incredibly hard and perhaps in some ways unfairly. As a new business, we had to watch out for every little restriction, protocol, signage change, etc.; on top of everything else involved with starting a new business! The last thing we needed was bad press before anyone knows who we were. During the closures, it was a bit challenging coming up with ways to adapt the space we had. But, we were fortunate and have a great landlord that allowed us to use any square inch of outdoor space to train our clients and put our equipment.

The state guidelines and closure requirements presented a unique challenge for our new business. There became a paradox for us because the protocols we had to follow were grouped with large gym membership-style facilities such as the YMCA or 24-Hour Fitness, which have a much larger client turn over than we do. At the same time, appointment only personal care facilities such as nail or hair salons were held to different standards. In many ways, our facility and business model more closely resembled that of personal care businesses but those protocols did not apply to us under the eyes of the state and Los Angeles Public Health Department.

Another challenge was taking an old business model and transforming it into a new one. People don’t like change. The other trainers who rented space previously were extremely nervous about any new directions. When we created facility rules that didn’t exist before, it was like trying to bring order to the wild west. So, we got some pushback from that. But it’s been entirely essential to create a quality product and our brand as well as maintain a safe environment for all during the pandemic.

As you know, we’re big fans of San Pedro Fit Works LLC. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about the brand?
San Pedro Fit Works is fitness center that offers appointment-only personal training and group fitness classes. We love to welcome all members of the San Pedro and South Bay community to help them establish their fitness goals and build their fitness to be ready for anything life throws at them.

A unique characteristic of our facility is that we (the owners) both hold degrees in Kinesiology and carry several years of experience in different areas that give us a breadth of science-based knowledge. With this background, we apply it towards building individualized programs tailored to build a person’s fitness and meet their life goals whether it’s activities of daily living, strength, power, agility, speed, endurance, or sport-specific conditioning. Some examples include training programs for individuals recovering from surgeries or preparing for ultra-endurance events (we helped a client finish seven marathons, on seven continents, in seven days! Without injury!). Our guiding principle is to promote good techniques to prevent injury and build consistency that can grow into a strong base for clients to really challenge themselves when the time comes. We pride ourselves in providing a safe and fun environment that yields consistent and injury-free results year after year.

San Pedro Fit Works provides one on one training as well as semi private (2 persons at the same time) sessions at 30 and 60 minute rates. Recently our company opened a second location to offer group fitness classes. We currently offer indoor cycling, yoga, suspension strength training, and E.L.D.O.A. spinal health classes. We’ve hired some great instructors with tons of training and experience to follow in our desire to provide quality experiences for our fitness family here in San Pedro.

Is there a quality that you most attribute to your success?
One major essential quality to the success of our business is our education. My business partner has a Bachelor’s degree in Kinesiology and I have both a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Kinesiology. Additionally, we both have experience working in a variety of environments including physical therapy, commercial gyms, community health research, community college teaching, and college strength and conditioning facilities. We both have a love of learning new methods and using as much as we know to help our clients. And if we don’t know something, we have the humility to admit it and try to find a reliable source that does!

Another essential quality to our success is that both of our parents are small business owners. We each grew up with our fathers running successful small businesses. Having that kind of support and knowledge to turn to has been invaluable. There’s a sense of reality when we can ask our folks about a problem. We might get ten different answers and sometimes, even in their wisdom, they are admittedly just guessing. But keeping calm, seeking help, and making a decision in a timely matter are the most important things. I think this has made us relatively grounded when it comes to our ability to run a business successfully.

Lastly, I think patience is a hugely under-rated tool especially when it comes to success in fitness. PERFECT practice makes perfect, not just any ol’ practice. So, if someone can’t lift that weight correctly when it’s light, what makes them think it’ll happen right with a bigger one? Sustainable fitness follows good form. Because of that, we work hard to focus on performing movements that function with the geometry of each individual body.

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All photos by San Pedro Fit Works LLC.

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