Iraq veteran inspires Marine-style teamwork in his unplugged fitness studio

Veterans: Josiah Schultz, who served two overseas deployments as a Marine, has opened a fitness studio in a Salt Lake City neighborhood. (Paul Fraughton  |  The Salt Lake Tribune)

Josiah Schultz, who served two overseas deployments as a Marine, has opened a fitness studio in a Salt Lake City neighborhood. (Paul Fraughton | The Salt Lake Tribune)

A Marine flag hangs on one side of the entrance to the workout room, and the American stripes adorn the other.

But that doesn’t mean Josiah Schultz, a veteran and the owner of a new fitness studio in Salt Lake City, casts himself as a drill instructor, whipping recruits into shape.

Rather, the 29-year-old former Marine, who started 212 Fitness with his wife, Jamie Schultz, in January, sees the studio as a community center for people who want to live healthy, active lives.

The growth of his business — there are more than 30 members already — suggests he is on to something.

Veterinarian Dale Smith began working with Schultz at the gym where Schultz previously was a trainer, Studio Cove, about a year ago and followed him to 212 Fitness.

An avid runner, Smith was skeptical when his wife suggested he join her, because he didn’t want somebody —  a trainer — telling him how to do his workouts.

He’d also heard of boot-camplike workouts in which the trainer degrades class members to get results.

“This is the opposite of that,” Smith said. “He’s just got this relentless, positive attitude that really encourages everybody in the class. He’s never critical but pushes everyone to their limits.”

The name  212 Fitness comes from the boiling temperature of water: 212 degrees. “At 211 degrees, water is hot. At 212 degrees it boils. … Just one degree is transformational. This is the foundation of everything we do at 212, because we believe that one extra degree of effort makes all the difference.”

Veterans: Former Marine Josiah Schultz is finding success as the owner of a fitness studio in a Salt Lake City neighborhood. (Paul Fraughton  |  The Salt Lake Tribune)

Veteran Josiah Schultz is finding success as the owner of a fitness studio in a Salt Lake City neighborhood. (Paul Fraughton | The Salt Lake Tribune)

‘You have one shot.’ »  Schultz was raised in El Paso, the son of a Lutheran minister, and earned a bachelor’s degree in biology at the University of California at Davis.

Two months after graduating from college in December 2004, he was in Marine boot camp. It was at the height of the Iraq war.

“I joined because I knew I would regret it if I didn’t,” he said. “You have one shot at providing a service to your country.”

His second deployment, for much of 2007, had him in Iraq as a scout sniper and infantry team leader in charge of small groups of Marines away from base and in rural areas.

He left the Marines, moved to Utah to ski in 2009, met his wife and stayed.

Today, the veteran some parallels between his Marine team leader experience and what is happening at 212 Fitness: In both cases, small clusters of people form communities in which each member has the others’ backs. When one member misses class, the others notice.

”There is almost an unstated accountability in our classes,” said Schultz. “If they are another face in the crowd, it’s easier to quit.”

‘They are counting on me.’ » Kiley Pitano, 41, said that community aspect of Schultz’s class hooked her, as did his “fun” workouts using free weights, plywood boxes, punch bags, gymnast rings, stationary bikes and sledgehammers for whacking semi-truck tires.

There’s not a single machine plugged into an electrical socket at 212 Fitness.

An occupational therapist in the newborn intensive-care unit at Primary Children’s Medical Center, Pitano had always been an “intermittent exerciser” before joining Schultz’s classes about a year ago.

In the past, she said, “I went to workouts wanting to ignore everyone.” Now, “they are counting on me being there. I look forward to seeing them every morning,” said Pitano, who goes to the 5 a.m. classes weekdays and at varying times on Saturdays.

She has seen “huge, huge progress,” said Pitano. “It’s helped me feel more confident and live life on my terms rather than feeling trapped in my body. It makes me feel like I can tackle this day.“

Fit for life » Fitness 212 is small, for now, and that’s by design, Schultz said. It has just 1,500 square feet and, aside from two bathrooms, is just one big room in a strip mall. “It’s about having controlled growth,” Schultz said of his business.

But the maxim also applies to his training ethic. While all the workouts are designed to build core strength and lean muscle, he is big on safety so that a member’s new strength is sustainable.

“I’m not about high-risk, high reward,” the veteran said.

His main goal is to help people be fit for everyday life, which in Utah often includes skiing, biking, climbing and running.

“People are realizing that their health is about more than running on a treadmill at a big box that charges $10 a month,” said Schultz.

Anabel Greenlee, who is in Schultz’s 6 a.m. class several times a week, said she appreciates his attention to safety and his ability to tailor the workouts.

“We cross-country ski, hike, snowshoe, but … I can’t do everything a 30-year-old can do,” said Greenlee, who is 69 and has arthritis in her knees.

“He’s good about saying, ‘Instead of jumping jacks, do toe raises. Instead of squat jumps, do this.’ I’m able to keep up.”

One of her motivations is to avoid what happened to her mother, who lived into her 90s, but died after falling on stairs because she lacked the strength to hold onto the railing.

Smith, 56, said that after a year of training with Schultz, he still has sore muscles at times, a sign that his fitness is still improving.

“Josiah,” he said, “has gotten me in better shape than I’ve ever been in my life.”

 

 

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