Jungle Gym strives for success

Southern Ute tribal member and Jungle Gym owner, Daniel Rohde opened the gym with wife Alilison Kardas in January of 2018 and encourages everyone to come join the jungle fun in Durango.
Jungle Gym coach, Jesse Waisbrot demonstrates the proper form and alternations that should be done while using the battle ropes during the noon workout class on Thursday, August 8.
New Jungle Gym member, Ashlyn Martin uses the last of her energy to throw the battle ropes to the ground as hard as she can while working out on Thursday, August 8.
Jungle Gym regular, Brian Thompson shows off his skill during the noon workout class taught by coach Jesse Waisbrot on Thursday, August 8.
Jungle Gym coach Jesse Waisbrot leads an evening class in kettlebell mobility exercises on Wednesday, August 7.
McKayla Lee | The Southern Ute Drum
McKayla Lee | The Southern Ute Drum
McKayla Lee | The Southern Ute Drum
McKayla Lee | The Southern Ute Drum
McKayla Lee | The Southern Ute Drum

Starting your very own small business operation is a big endeavor for anyone, but     for Daniel Rohde and partner Alison Kardas, it’s been a road that they have traveled together. The couple has been working for over a year and a half to structure their fitness facility, the Jungle Gym, which is located in Durango, Colo. to run as smoothly as possible in order to best serve athletes and trainers in the Four Corners area.

The gym began as an idea the couple had when they were struggling to find a multi-functional gym where they could properly train for spartan races and other obstacle-oriented competitions. “There was nowhere to practice these non-traditional functional workouts, so we decided we wanted to create a space for that,” Jungle Gym owner, Daniel Rohde stated. “This evolved from that need.”

Like many small businesses, the first year of operating is full of trial and error to meet the expectations of customers. “I feel like now we pretty much have everything locked in,” Rohde said. The gym has gone from offering classes that were coached by the two owners alone, to hiring three additional staff members. Jesse Waistbro is who Rohde depends upon the most, he is responsible for teaching Kettlebell, Mobility and other exercise classes during the afternoons and most evenings. Sam Post works with Fort Lewis College Intern, Brandon Raborg to teach kids classes, pyrometric classes and plan gym parties. “Our staff is amazing — you hear that it’s hard to find good help, but they stand behind us one hundred percent because they love what they do —14-hour days are not irregular, but together we get it all done,” Rohde stated.

With the success of those classes, the gym is now running a six-week challenge to bring in even more members. The challenge has proven to be a positive move and is geared towards, “people who want to lose weight or people who want to gain muscle—the challenge helps you lose around 20 pounds of weight or it helps you gain about eight to 10 pounds of muscle,” Rohde explained.

The gym has always been open to anyone of any ability. Coaches and members work together to create the best workout experience available. “We want anybody who wants to get stronger or have fun, to join us — every class, workout and plan can be modified to fit the individual,” Rohde expressed. Currently the gym has members as young as five years old and serves members sixty years or older.

In addition to the increase of members, the gym is reaching out to a broader demographic by creating an online program that will allow personal coaching via the world wide web. The program, “Animas Online Fitness” is expected to be released in the next few months. Rohde wants to specifically offer the program to Southern Ute tribal members and decedents first, then expand to the greater Southwest region. “They [program users] will have access to personalized workouts, meal plans and goal coaching,” Rohde stated. “Because I have had so much success here [in Durango], I want to bring it back home now.”

Southern Ute tribal members are encouraged to join the fun that happens at the gym daily. The best way to join is by walking in or if you just want more information you can give the gym a call at 970-764-0254. The Boys and Girls Club of the Southern Ute Indian Tribe has frequented the Jungle Gym in the past year, they were given a tour of the facility and learned new ways to exercise. The youth were also encouraged to step out of their comfort zones and build free climbing skills, walk on tight ropes, and try their luck at running up the warped wall.

“Compared to a year ago, we are a lot more organized—everything is structured which makes things easy,” Rohde explained. “I never knew we would be here—but I love where we are.” The gym not only supports facilities locally, they are a part of a nationwide gym community. The gym community helps owners learn about new certification programs, trainings and offers a chance for more growth. Jungle Gym has a coach of their own that helps them learn about new financial advising, developments and expansion opportunities.

The gym is not only a place for physical growth, it also requires a level of mental strength. Not only are members trying to complete and follow through with tailored trainings, meal planning and goal setting in the gym they have to keep up with their everyday lives at home. With the help of Rohde and his team failure is not an option. The staff follow up with their members through texts, emails and even phone calls. This amount of accountability is just one of the many reasons for the success of the Jungle Gym.

Month by month, the gym has been growing. Rohde expects to cap the membership around 150 people, but that won’t become a reality for another three to four months so you have plenty of time to join the program. A second location for the gym has been visualized, but is not expected to open for at least another two years. “We want to grow, but we want it to be done in a healthy way, so we can keep the personal attention each member receives,” Rohde stated.



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