Garage Gym of the Week: Gym VALOR

What’s your name? John Munger

How old are you? 47 glorious years young.

Do you have an Instagram or website? @gym_valor (Instagram) and Facebook

Tell us a little bit about yourself: I remember being a scrawny, little geek when I was young and got picked on a lot in elementary and middle school.  One day a kid a lot bigger than me pushed me to my limits while we were at school. Just like the movie, A Christmas Story, I unleashed.  When the Principle saw what I had done to the other kid, he laughed, smiled and said, “Good job, now head back to class.”  That changed me.  From there I became very active and competed in athletics in high school and college, and went into the military where my ego kept getting bigger and bigger. I got married, had kids and realized upon my return from deployment in late 2006, I had only known my 3 year old daughter for a total of 4 months.  It was a humbling experience but only for a moment.  From the military I went into law enforcement and kept the same mentality I had in the military, even while I was part of the SWAT team.  Then one day life changed.  It was as if someone turned off a light switch in my head.  Literally overnight, I went from this extremely active and egotistical person to being unable to walk or fully care for myself.  I was diagnosed with Arnold Chiari Malformation Type III, a type of brain disorder.  I had brain surgery in June 2013 and again, like a movie, anything that could go wrong after the surgery, did go wrong.  My family was told I probably wasn’t going to make it; to giving me a 20% chance to survive; to I was never going to more than a 2 year old mentally.  Almost 2 weeks after surgery, I woke up about 2 a.m. and the light switch was back on.  By the grace of God, I was myself.  So, everything I had experienced in life up until then was always about me.  Now, it’s about everyone else.  We have classes 3 days a week in the gym, I’ve been recruited as the conditioning coach for a local high school wrestling team, and we have had a ton of events/challenges to the point we had more than 45 people participate in a Murph Challenge.

How would you describe your training style? We’re definitely a functional training gym but with some attitude.  Because of where we live, it is not uncommon for us to do wod’s with the doors open, fans on high and temp’s in excess of 105F.  We recently did a wod when the heat index was 126F.  Yes, 126F!!!

How would you describe your fitness/strength level, currently? I remember when I was 9 years old and I ran some events in the Olympic Stadium in Munich, Germany.  Since then, I’ve always been involved in something, even when doctors told me to stop.  Although I feel better than ever before, I feel like I still have a lot of room for growth.  I consistently train with a weighted vest and/or training masks.  I continuously push my pain thresholds and endurance thresholds.  As a matter of fact, I’m currently preparing for an event where I will be running/walking 22 miles each Saturday morning, for 22 weeks, all in an effort to help bring awareness to the atrocious situation with our Veterans taking their lives.  I know this is a huge commitment but I feel deep in my heart something more needs to be done to help our Veterans and their families.

What are your fitness/strength goals? To qualify for Masters at the CrossFit Games and to ALWAYS intimidate and be stronger than any kid who dares to date my daughters.

Describe your garage gym. We’re a veteran owned, non-profit, three car garage, completely retrofitted into a gym.  We have enough equipment set up to where 15 people can be doing pull-ups, all at the same time.  We have the bar’s, bumper plates, rigs, tractor tires, sledge hammers, battle ropes, jump ropes, plyo-boxes, kettlebells, sand bags, weighted vests, parallettes, Olympic rings,  and more.

Who works out in your garage gym? Our gym is a place where people come to be healed.  We have been blessed with the opportunities to work with people who have had strokes in their mid-30’s, heart attacks at 40, brain tumors, diabetics who have their diabetes under control for the first time in their lives, young adults preparing for the military and so much more.  And the ages typically range from 15 to 50.

Why did you build a garage gym? The origination of the garage gym started with a couple of cement plates and bar loaned to me by my Youth Pastor.  I also had a tractor tire and a sledge hammer.  Because of my medical condition and the extensive recovery period I had to go through I was unable to go to my local gym to work out because I needed to be supervised at all times.  So my wife and I came to the conclusion to bring the gym to us.  There is always someone around if I need help and how can you beat the convenience?  Then some nephews wanted to come over, and then their friends and it keeps growing.  I’m going to have to buy another rig soon to accommodate.

What’s your favorite piece of equipment in your garage? Definitely my kettlebells.  We’ve gone on vacations or weekend getaways and there is ALWAYS a kettlebell or two included in my packing list, and the ease of what you can do with them is absolutely fantastic.

What piece of equipment was a waste? I can’t really say any piece of equipment has been a waste.  Everything has been a progression of learning the do’s and don’ts.  We did have some portable kettle bells at one point but they just weren’t standing up to amount of use they were getting.  I called Fringe Sport and explained the situation and the desire to convert to cement kettle bells instead.  Fringe Sport’s customer service was nothing short of incredible in how they did absolutely everything to ensure I was satisfied with the change.

What’s the next piece of equipment you’re going to get? A row machine. I don’t know when, but a row machine.  I’m still keeping my fingers crossed on this one.

Any dream piece of equipment? Either a row machine or a set up attached to the side of the house to do rope climbs.

How did you build your garage gym? After I had been using the loaner equipment for a few months, I expressed the desire to want more.  I searched and searched for a company which had reasonably priced and sound equipment and I found Fringe Sport.  After careful review and crunching a lot of numbers we bought our first package of bar with bumper plates and a rig from Fringe Sport.  After seeing the number of people working out with us and the equipment withstanding the beatings, we opted to expand.  So we created this garage gym in about three phases and I’m proud to say about 90% of everything we have is from Fringe Sport.  Whether we bought it ourselves or if someone made the donation to the gym, almost everything is from Fringe Sport and we love it.

Do you have any tips for anyone else looking to build a garage gym? Absolutely yes!  I have two tips and one recommendation to offer.  First, learn how to “lag bolt” equipment to a wall.  This could save you from serious injury as well as prevent significant damage to your garage.  Secondly, don’t drill any holes into your garage floor, especially if the floor is “post tension rebar”.  This means you need to find a way to secure any rigs to the floor.  Spend the money to get a sand blasted metal square made for each leg of a rig making contact with the ground.  Then make sure you understand how to bolt the rig to the plate and use a cement glue to glue it all to the floor (from your local hardware store).  I know it may not seem like a big deal but this one decision will make or break how your rig stands up to repeated use.
More importantly is my recommendation.  WHY ARE YOU WAITING?  Stop worrying about whether or not to create a garage gym.  Make the purchase and move forward.  If you don’t you’ll be sitting plumped on your couch, a few pounds heavier, debating if you have time to go to the gym thinking, “I wish I would have bought that rig I so badly wanted.”


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