During her junior year of high school, Kimberly Vincent told a friend, “It would be so cool to workout for a living one day.”
Now 37, she is living her dream.
Kimberly was a high school athlete who enjoyed track, basketball and softball, as well as working out along with fitness tapes. Once out of school, Kim joined a gym in Crowley and fell in love with its cardio kickboxing class. Working out was still just a hobby when she married, graduated college as a paralegal (with plans to become a lawyer) and birthed two sons. After her second son came along, she decided to stay home with her children. The kiddos made it difficult for Kim to get to the gym.
“I would plan to workout,” she said. “I had the entire Beach Body series, the original videos. I would wake up at 5 a.m. to work out but the kids always woke up early, and pretty soon they would be crawling all over me as I tried to do a pushup.”
Her mother-in-law agreed to babysit and Kimberly joined a health club. However, she felt guilty about leaving her children behind in order to exercise, so she decided to get a job at the gym teaching Body Pump.
“I had never done Body Pump before,” she laughed. “I put the largest weights on my bar and never made it through an entire song. My arms were stuck for a week. Three weeks later, I was a certified Body Pump instructor.”
She also had the opportunity to fill in as a kickboxing instructor when another instructor took medical leave. Pretty soon, she was designing her own classes and boot camps.
“I faked it until I made it,” Kimberly said. “For the first six months, I couldn’t even look people in the eye when I led a class. I was so shy, yet I wanted to be an instructor, and I did it. And I did that for seven years, with five of those as a manager and personal trainer.”
Through conversations with a client, she was inspired to enter the world of figure competitions, which required a strict workout regime and even stricter diet.
“For me, it wasn’t about winning but rather taking my body where it did not naturally want to go,” she explained. “It was another situation where I was terrified but I still wanted to push myself. I was the person who never took their shorts off to go swimming, and there I was, posing in a bikini in front of an audience. Through that entire process, I learned so much, especially about nutrition and sacrifice.”
One day a friend sent a video to her called “Nasty Girls” – a WOD featuring CrossFit athletes Nicole Carroll, Eva T and Annie Sakamoto working their way through three rounds of 50 squats, 7 muscle-ups and 10 hang power cleans. That was the video that made Kimberly realize she was not working hard enough.
She started researching the CrossFit website and saw movements she was mostly familiar with, except for Olympic lifts. Then she learned CrossFit affiliates had just opened its doors in nearby Lake Charles and Lafayette.
“The Lake Charles box had actually been running CrossFit in a backyard before it found a building,” Kimberly recalled. “Soon, I was there every free moment I had. It consumed me. It was challenging. I had been working out six days a week for 7 years and still could not do a strict pull-up.”
At her job, she would teach classes, then round up people there to join her in a CrossFit WOD. It was not long until she became a certified CrossFit trainer and introduced it to the gym.
“But I realized it didn’t belong in a gym,” she said. “People at gyms do not work out that intensely. I always had a vision of one day having my own studio with group fitness classes, but soon I wanted my own CrossFit box instead.”
On Valentine’s Day 2011, Kimberly parted ways with the job she held for seven years. On Feb. 21, she opened CrossFit Jennings Unlimited (CFJ) in a metal-and-cement building on US 90 with only 1,100 square ft of workout space. She welcomed 32 athletes on her first day of business.
“It was scary,” she admitted. “I cried because I didn’t know if anyone would come. A lot of people thought I was crazy. Everybody was scared for me. I no longer had a job, my husband and I had used our savings and soon we were selling our house to move closer. I took a big chance.”
By the end of its first year, however, CFJ boasted 70 members.
Today, that one box has spawned the CrossFit Unlimited family, which includes three locations in Jennings, Crowley and Eunice; 330 CrossFitters; 50 group fitness members attending cycling, rowing, Body Combat and Body Pump classes; CrossFit Kids and Teens programs; a highly successful Nutrition Counseling program; and boot camps for beginners held every seven weeks.
“I didn’t want to have some gym where you just pay your membership and no one knows who you are or cares if you show up,” Kimberly said. “I want to know the names of the people here, know their one-rep maxes and how to push them based on their personality. Ninety-nine percent of our members show up on a regular basis or we stalk them.”
Just as dreams change, so do business plans. When Kimberly’s CrossFit family was still calling its original Jennings box home, Rebecca Chaisson joined after a life-altering injury. Kimberly admired the new CrossFitter’s fight from day one.
As Kimberly’s schedule grew with the addition of bootcamps in Crowley, Rebecca stepped up to assist. When Kimberly became pregnant with her fourth son, Rebecca volunteered to become certified as a coach to oversee classes during Kim’s maternity leave.
Although Kimberly admits that she never wanted a business partner, just as Rebecca admits that she never wanted to be a coach, the best friends now co-own CrossFit Unlimited Jennings, Crowley and Eunice, with a possible fourth location set for Hawaii?
Kim’s dream may have turned out bigger than she originally thought, but when asked if she ever thought it would become a reality, she smiled.
“Every damn day,” she said. “I knew I would get to work out for a living one day.”