Updated: Mar 26, 2020
My name is Todd Siegel and I’m the owner and coach of Queen City Barbell. I wanted to take some time to talk about how I got my start, how this place came to be, plus little about who we are and what we do.
My interest in fitness and good health is rooted in my love of the martial arts. I played nearly every sport growing up, but my biggest passion was always in combatives. It was the “sport” I most understood. Watching a baseball game was totally lost on me... but watching a fight, I could really pick apart and appreciate the intricacies of what was unfolding before me.
My parents sparked my interest by enrolling me in Karate sometime around kindergarten. I quickly progressed to Tae Kwon Do for most of grade school, and then focused on mixed martial arts in high school and college. I was lucky enough to have some really profound and capable instructors over the years, with direct lines to Grand Masters and even Bruce Lee himself. These instructors instilled a lot of lasting good-behaviors, plus the importance of caring for your body for peak performance and general well-being. It was fun, functional, and real world applicable.
In college, I was working the door at my favorite bar by night, and training clients at the local globo gym by day. I was constantly switching majors and wasn't sure what I was going to do post graduation. I started pre-med with the intent to follow in my father's footsteps, but I began to feel the political climate was really changing medicine for the worse. It didn’t seem as though doctors could successfully run their own business anymore, which for my father and I, was the realization of the American dream. This, combined with the debt, red tape, growing paperwork, and constant legal threat, I decided to pursue other avenues. I changed my major to business, then organizational leadership, then several others. I was lost, bouncing around, and had no clear-cut path... yet I remained open to all options.
A lot of my co-workers at the gym talked about leaving to start their own operations, but nobody seemed to take action. I felt I knew the right people to make this happen, and I could get the money together, so I figured why not go for it. A few trainers from the gym jumped ship with me and I pulled the trigger on a 7000 square foot warehouse. We rocked out, made a difference, and improved people’s lives for three years, but under a much different business model than we do today. We did open gym memberships, had a lot more equipment, five full-time trainers, two part-time trainers, yoga classes, boxing/self-defense classes, etc. We had a lot of really good people under that roof. It was a great setup and the perfect trial-by-fire business education... much more accelerated and effective than college was for me. However, some things started to go wrong slowly, and then it all fell apart at once. Sparing the details and heartache, I was forced to close up shop.
The period after the close was arguably the darkest time in my life. My parents had split that year, I had a falling out with my best friend, as well as my brother, and then I had to close up shop. I was beating myself up, thinking I was a failure, and left not knowing what the hell I was going to do with my life all over again.
This continued for a long couple months. I had all these dizzying, reoccurring thoughts of trying the gym again bigger and better, should I downsize, or should I start a totally new venture? I was constantly weighing what worked and what didn't, genuinely to trying to learn from from my experiences and make the right decision.
Another constantly reoccurring thought at the time was enlisting in the military. This had always been my plan B if the business didn’t work out and I had a clear-cut path on exactly what I wanted to do. It's not an exaggeration to say an hour didn't pass that I didn't rack my brain and consider this path, but I had numerous ideas and options so I kept hitting the books, sending my resume to random jobs, and did my best to listen to my gut.
It was a time of a lot of sleeping, a lot of wandering, a lot of thinking, and a lot of drinking. Those were my coping mechanisms at the time and what I felt I had to do to get through it.
Thankfully a buddy of mine, Jimmy Carter (not El Presidente), who has an awesome gym in the area, gave me a home and a place to train a few of the clients that that stuck with me after the close. This was how I managed to put some food on the table and scrapped by while I tried to figure out what life had planned for me.
(Be sure to check out Carter Fitness Systems. Jimmy runs an awesome facility and has such a good thing going. I’ve never seen so many girls doing strict and weighted pull-ups . If you’re reading this, thank you sincerely for the opportunity, Jimmy.... I honestly don’t know what I would have done or how I would have survived without you).
Eventually, the time came and I knew I was stepping on Jimmy’s toes. I was taking up precious real estate, so the pressure was on to get out of there and make something happen. I still wasn’t sure what I was going to do, and honestly, my sentiments were subject to change everyday.
One afternoon, for some unknown reason, I took a turn down a road that I didn't really have any reason to be driving on. Looking back on it, I’m sure I was just wandering... lost and thinking as I was doing a lot of at the time. I spotted a "For Rent" sign in front of a long, narrow warehouse and pulled over to investigate. I briefly recalled a business that was there a while ago and something drew me to it. I peaked in the windows, walked around the building, and everything had a good vibe. The more I delved into in it, the more I dreamed and imagined the possibilities, the more right it felt. I called the realtor and spoke to him, who turned out to be a the father of a childhood friend of mine (actually the first convertible I ever rode in was his Sebring, back in the day)... I took this as a good omen. The landlord seemed nice enough and worked out a deal that was hard pass up. Everything seemed to be falling into place. I felt like I was onto something.
I soon came to the conclusion that the stars were aligned for a purpose. I had something I needed to prove to myself... that the previous operation wasn't a total failure. I needed those trip-ups and slip-ups to create something real, something true, something I was ultimately proud of and happy with.
So dammit, I did it.
As I type this, it’s been a year-and-a-half since signing the lease and I can confidently say I’m so much more happy. Less moving parts, a tighter operation, and meeting my athletes with more frequency have been major improvements to the system. All my athletes are in here five days a week, with cardio outside the gym. Our workouts are generally an hour to an hour-and-a-half long. We start with dynamic warm-ups, progress to strength training, round things out with a stamina focus, and then finish with plenty of mobility and rehab work.
A lot of the new philosophy was product of trial-and-error from the old place, as well my plan B to join the military. In considering enlistment, I studied the Special Operations population and emulated their approach, adjusting my training accordingly. I found a lot of amazing resources in that process and began to realize that these guys were not niche in their training the way a powerlifter, bodybuilder, or a sport specific athlete has to be. Unless mission specific, it wasn't necessary. They had to be disciplined and generally proficient at at all things, being operationally ready for whatever the situation called for... and that clicked with me. I thought, “Why would your average Joe, or your typical civilian, be any different?”
General athletic preparedness is most applicable for most people. You should be able to deadlift at least double your bodyweight and run a 5 or 10K the drop of the hat. That's well-rounded fitness to me. Being able to squat a ridiculous amount, but be out of breath running up the stairs, shows me an imbalance. Inversely so, running marathons with regularity, but vomiting with shaky knees after learning how to squat the bar (true story) suggests the same.
This well rounded approach to fitness... a jack of all trades, master of many… truly defines Queen City Barbell.
This is who we are what we do.