WOODBURY – After 25 years in the restaurant and food service industry, Christopher Ryan wanted to make a career change.
Ryan, a Woodbury resident, always thought he would own his own business, and considered a juice bar. But Ryan says burnout from being judged on his food – and a passion for fitness – led him to open a location of Monkey Bar Gymnasium on North Main St.
“My Krav Maga instructor introduced me to Monkey Bar Gymnasium, and I was blown away,” Ryan says. “I wanted to make a change and leave my corporate career and do something that makes me happy. Fitness is my passion.”
Previously, Ryan had signed up to take a course with the National Association of Sports Medicine, which he said is the route that most personal trainers take. But Ryan wasn’t impressed, because it involved reading a book, taking an online course, and taking a test in front of a proctor.
But in January, Ryan traveled to Madison, WI to meet with Monkey Bar Gymnasium founder Jon Hinds. After four 10-hour training sessions with Hinds, Ryan was ready to open his own location.
“It meant more to me to take a physical exam that I trained five months for, and that I was able to pass this physical exam,” Ryan said.
Monkey Bar Gymnasium opened its doors in March on North Main St. And the first thing you notice when you walk through the front door – there are no weight machines, treadmills or bikes.
That’s not because Monkey Bar Gymnasium affiliate owner Christopher Ryan is waiting for equipment to come in. Monkey Bar Gymnasium’s philosophy is based on functional fitness.
According to Monkey Bar Gymnasium’s website, functional fitness exercises train your muscles to work together and prepare them for daily tasks by simulating common movements you might do at home, at work or in sports.
“I always had a different view of how we’re supposed to work out the body,” Ryan said. “In my eyes, all your muscles are connected, so why wouldn’t you work them all out together as opposed to doing isolation exercises?”
There are also no mirrors on the wall, and that’s fine by Ryan. He says he was bored with traditional gyms for quite some time now.
“The whole idea of isolating muscles and staring at yourself in a mirror the entire time wasn’t really for me,” Ryan said.
Location and Nutrition
Monkey Bar Gymnasium’s address is 125 Main St. North. But it’s tucked away in a building that houses Woodbury Diner, and is not visible from Main St. itself.
While the gym does get some foot traffic from the diner, it’s the partnership with another neighboring business, New Morning Market, that helps grow its membership.
“It’s probably my favorite store,” Ryan said. “There are no questionable ingredients in most of their products, and I feel safe buying food there.”
Part of a Monkey Bar Gymnasium membership includes nutrition coaching by Ryan. He will take his members to New Morning Market and show them how to shop and read nutritional labels.
“That education needs to be there for people to get to their goals,” Ryan said. “If you’re eating the wrong food, you can work out all day long, but it’s 90% about what you put in your mouth.”
Ryan and New Morning Market’s executive chef have also designed a whole-foods organic ready-to-eat pickup menu specifically for Monkey Bar Gymnasium members. Gym members can place an order with Ryan on Sunday for their Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday meals and Wednesdays for their Thursday, Friday and Saturday meals. That way, a member’s whole meal plan can be set for the week.
Ryan said he’s often heard people balk at a whole food diet because of the perceived grocery cart cost. But Ryan sees it as an investment: How much money will it cost you later in life when you’ve chosen to eat processed foods that contain questionable ingredients as opposed to eating good, quality whole foods, Ryan asks.
Ryan decided to become conscious of what he put in his body 15 years ago.
“It’s progressed to a point that now I am plant-based,” Ryan said. “I don’t say vegan, I don’t say vegetarian, I just don’t like to label myself. I eat a lot of plants.”
About The Program
Ryan said new year’s resolutions to join a gym do not usually pan out. But admitting to another person, especially a stranger, that you need help because you are uncomfortable with yourself is a huge thing. He feels Monkey Bar Gymnasium offers people looking to get fit a place where they won’t feel intimidated.
“There are no mirrors on the walls, and no egos whatsoever, I won’t tolerate it,” Ryan said. “I want people to feel comfortable. Our motto is ‘people helping people.’ We work out as a group, and it’s people motivating each other.”
Ryan said that if there’s a workout and there’s one person struggling, everyone else will help that person out.
Workout groups are limited to [preferred] max out at no more than 12. Ryan said 10 to 12 people is a decent size where he can still give that personal trainer touch to each and every member in each and every class. That way he can cue them on where they need help in an exercise, or if they are doing an excellent job.
Right now, all of Monkey Bar Gymnasium’s classes are co-ed. But Ryan will offer a women-only Krav Maga self-defense class soon via its partnership with Defensive Fighting Systems.
“It can be intimidating for women to come to a self-defense class because of the style of self-defense it is,” Ryan said. “If we can’t get them in the door to teach them how to defend themselves, we’re not doing our job.”
But Ryan adds that he wants women who start in a same-sex Krav Maga class to work their way up to the co-ed classes because it’s not women being attacked by other women in the real world.
“It’s unfortunately women being attacked by men,” Ryan said. “We want them to train with men so they can learn how to defend themselves against larger people, but we have to get them in the door first.”