BANGOR, Maine — Louie Morrison had a good thing going at Union Street Athletics, but something was weighing on him.
A personal trainer for 13 years, Morrison had plenty of clients and work, a boss he called a friend, a spacious gym with all the necessary equipment plus amenities, and a job he loved doing every day.
Still, there was a part of him that wanted something more.
“I’ve always wanted to have my own place,” said Morrison, who said the idea began to take off once he began noticing more and more personal studio-type businesses opening in larger areas such as New York City. “I literally just woke up one morning and said I should do this. I looked at a couple places, but once I looked here, I knew I was going to do it.”
“Here” is Morrison’s LA Training two-floor studio space at 40 Columbia Street in Bangor. While it doesn’t offer all of the equipment and classes of the gym he has worked at for nine years, it’s all his — and it’s both personally satisfying and successful.
“The first week, I was sick to my stomach coming in here every day. I was second-guessing myself, asking myself what I was doing because I had such a good thing at USA,” he said. “But now it’s no regrets. I love what I’m doing.”
Morrison’s studio has been open since July. He and longtime friend, neighbor and colleague Jamie Perry both left USA to team up at LA Training.
Perry also struggled with her career decision.
“I could have stayed at the gym and grown, but I think going this way I could grow more,” she said. “I tend to be a person who sticks in my comfort zone and I told myself I needed to try this.”
Their story isn’t unique as fellow USA trainers Mike Wilcox and Steph Henry did the same thing, opening Wilcox Wellness & Fitness at the corner of Third and Union Streets last week.
“It’s nothing against USA. I loved it there and [USA owner] Sherry [Haller] and I are friends who still have a working relationship,” Wilcox said. “But this is my own place and it gives me much more personal, one-on-one time with my clients.”
That seems to be a common thread with both new training studios.
Perry said three of her clients have benefited from working out in a more personal, private setting.
“I have one client who has social anxiety and I can’t believe how much she’s doing here that I couldn’t get her to do at the other gym,” Perry said. “I think the more intimate, close setting helps her and a couple other clients.”
Their ability to strike out on their own with initial success may be indicative of an increase in the number of Bangor-area residents who are more health- and fitness-conscious. Those people seem willing to invest in fitness, even during a slow economy.
“Ironically I think a lot of our success is because the bad economy, which doesn’t make sense,” Morrison said. “But rather than spend money to travel or take vacations, they’re thinking they can afford to spend $40 or $50 a week on themselves instead.”
Morrison and Wilcox still have a relationship with their former gym, referring clients to USA for classes which they don’t offer.
“We do offer one class, which is a bar sculpt class, but we don’t have any aerobics or anything,” Morrison said. “We just don’t have the space for it.”
“But, on the training end, you’re getting three to four more exercises in per half hour with the more personalized training approach and having everything in a much smaller space,” he added. “And when we are moving, it’s up and down the stairs, which is another workout.”