CrossFit gym owner: ‘It’s the supportive, like-minded community that creates the magic’

Nick McCombs, President of Branded One Cross Fit, poses for a photo with his dogs Skyla, left, and Bowie in his gym, Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2020.

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A view of the Branded One CrossFit gym, 2055 E. Windmill Lane, Monday, Nov. 6, 2017. The gym offers free membership to disabled servicemen (police, fire, military) and women. Clockwise from left: Sarah Oettining, Nick McCombs, Mara-Lee Greiner, and Bill Oettinger.

Nick McCombs never has to look far for motivation: He just looks around his gym.

Branded One CrossFit, a nonprofit that provides free memberships to disabled servicemen and women, aims to empower veterans through physical exercise and a supportive community.

“This has been the most humbling pursuit of my life and I am forever grateful for their service and sacrifices,” said McCombs, president and head coach at Branded One. “CrossFit changed my entire thought process and how I perceive challenges. We have some truly inspiring ‘Branded Heroes’ that have to overcome mental and physical challenges every day just to work out. It makes it very difficult for a person to look at them and then feel like they can’t overcome their grueling workout given the tenacity they see in those heroes.”

Tell us your background and when you discovered your passion for CrossFit. 

I’ve lived in Las Vegas for 31 years and until 2017, I worked for my parents’ architectural/manufacturing business. I enjoyed what I did, but I was always passionate about sports and staying active, so I naturally found CrossFit in 2011. In February 2012, I became a CrossFit Level 1 Trainer and started coaching family and friends in my own “garage style” gym. In 2016, I became a CrossFit Level 2 Trainer, and my love and passion for helping people become better versions of themselves took over. That’s when I decided to create the first non-institutionalized nonprofit CrossFit gym in Nevada.

Do you have any news you’d like to share?

Last month, we hosted our third annual “The Battle at Branded One.” This is a local CrossFit competition/fundraiser that helps us raise enough money to provide free memberships to disabled servicemen and women. This year, we were able to raise over $36,000 to help further our mission thanks to our supportive community.

CrossFit is often considered as much a lifestyle as a workout. How has CrossFit changed you?

Although I played sports and considered myself someone living a healthy lifestyle, when I found CrossFit I realized very quickly that I knew little about nutrition and that I needed to seriously reconsider what health and fitness really meant. It’s not just about being active or moving some weight around, it’s about the intensity of movement and how you handle that both mentally and physically. CrossFit will quickly expose your weaknesses. It’s then your choice whether you want to fix them or not. You’ll see people that never thought they could reach a specific goal overcome that thought through hard work and perseverance. It’s the supportive, like-minded community that creates the magic. It’s the functional movements, performed at high intensity that create results.

How has the pandemic affected your gym?

We’ve been very fortunate. Our community is very close and supportive and continued to support us as best it could during the March-June shutdown. Since that shutdown, I’ve had a lot of inquiries to try CrossFit, which has been very good for the gym/community. We anticipate the worst, but always hope for the best because we know layoffs and closures mean more people give up their memberships or stop donating to nonprofits.

What layers of protection are you providing your customers to prevent the spread of COVID-19?

We adhere to all local regulations. All members wear masks while entering, exiting, or wandering around the gym to gather equipment. All members are assigned a 10-foot by 10-foot square, and those squares are 6 feet apart. All equipment and exposed surfaces are wiped clean after each class. Coaches and staff are always wearing a mask. Hand sanitizer is available throughout the gym.

Has “normal” forever changed, or will you aim to get back to what normalcy was pre-pandemic?

We have always wiped our equipment down, but wearing masks and distancing is definitely new. The one thing I miss are the partner workouts. I look forward to those again someday because working out with a partner often pushes you harder, because you know someone else is relying on your efforts.

What is your favorite thing about being a trainer? What’s the most frustrating?

I love seeing the dramatic change in people that put in hard work for a year or more. Whether it’s weight loss or getting their first pull-up, it’s very rewarding when you see them hit their goal. The frustrating part can be when those people don’t see it since it can be so incremental, but that’s why we record our workouts, weight, etc.; then it’s really easy to look back and see how much change has really happened. 

Other than the obvious, what’s the biggest issue facing Southern Nevada?

I imagine many issues are huge for many people depending on their environment. From what I see, mental health, obesity and heart disease seem to be the biggest three.

What’s the best business advice you’ve received?

There’s a few, but these are my favorite:

1. Work on your business, not in your business. Someone is, likely, better than you at each part of your business; find those people and delegate.

2. Focus on the clients you have and deliver the highest level of service possible. You’ll create raving fans.

3. Be resourceful and start small.

Whom do you admire?

My amazingly smart, clever and beautiful wife, Whitney. Without her, there would be no Branded One. I’m forever grateful for her and her continued support through all of this. Other than my father-in-law, Bill, she is the most giving person I know.

Do you have any advice for aspiring gym owners?

Start a gym for the right reasons and your life will only change for the better, despite all the work you’ll have to put in.