I JUST WANT TO LIFT HEAVY SHIT WITH DOPE PEOPLE: MEET CHRISTOPHER "GRIZZLY" HUFF
one goal, one gym, be a savage - Grizzly Huff
WRITTEN BY: DONNE' WYNN
PERFORMANCE 80 GYM
LOCATED IN OAK PARK, MI
If you’re from Detroit or the metropolitan area, then you would know about strength and conditioning coach, Chris “Grizzly” Huff. Huff a native from Detroit graduated from Hillsdale College from Hillsdale, Michigan. Huff just knew that he wanted to help young athletes and even non-athletes work to become a better version of their selves.
Tell me something that people don’t know about Christopher Huff, everyone knows Chris “Grizzly” Huff or P80 Huff but who IS Christopher Huff?
People don’t know the time and effort I put into training, that my degree is from Hillsdale College, most people think training is something I picked up along the way with being a former athlete. But this is something I’ve been planning since I was about 18, that I wanted to do and be a strength and conditioning coach and personal trainer. I wanted to help out the city’s youth who couldn’t afford the training that the suburbs or more well off kids that were getting that type of training. I wanted to set up a safe for our kids to be able to train and get the type of training that other kids getting are getting that we weren’t receiving down here when I was younger.
How did you end of at Hillsdale College, knowing the demographic?
Well I ended up at Hillsdale because they were one of the schools that stuck by me when I struggling with my ACT score. They one of the schools, the only school that stuck by me. I was D1 player pretty much and I didn’t get my ACT scores until late June, like right before you get out of school. Hillsdale was the only school that didn’t pull their scholarship. They stuck by me all the way. Back then, there was a thing called Prep/Prop 48 and I was on the verge of becoming a Prop 48, but at that last minute I ended up getting a 21 on the ACT. Then Hillsdale honored their scholarship and just stuck with me. So I went with the school even though it was a Division 2 school. Considering you know where it’s from and who mostly populated there, they stuck with me through my tough time and I just wanted to honor that.
So I know you wanted to aim towards being a strength and conditioning coach for the inner city youth, so was that your main motivation or was there something else for your career path?
Well, that wasn’t my main motivation that was one of them. One, I wanted to create an environment for ladies to get rid of that stigma of trainers being slim buckets. More so, there are guy trainers who prey on women because most women come to trainers in their most vulnerable state. They’re either going through a break up or divorce and want to get their body back together. I just wanted to take that away and have them feel great again or empowered again. They can control their situation which being physically fit is one way to make you feel good. I feel like that’s a way to treat our women. By me being a married guy, people understand how much I feel about my wife and the things I do for my wife. I wanted other women to feel that empowerment, you know you can feel great and still be around other guys without them not wanting you every minute of the day. You come here and wear the nice clothes you want to wear and feel good about it because you worked hard for it.
Okay, so basically going back to Pre-P80, so where did you actually first start out? Career wise.
Career wise, I first started out in my basement and my wife knew I wanted to train. You know I was training the track girls in college in my senior year. That’s what I was trying to do to get my craft together and me and my wife was dating at the time, and at the time I told her what I wanted to do and one day I came home to a bench, 300 pounds, 50 pound dumbbell, a mat, and couple other small things. Thats how basically P80 started right in the basement of a house.
Wow, so what boosted your reputation?
One person at a time, word of mouth, just one person at a time. Get he person in shape they tell the next person, then they tell the next person. It wasn’t any passing flyers, no gimmicks, it was word of mouth. We were getting one person in shape at a time. Changing one life at a time, then it was two lives, then three lives,then four lives, and as we grow that life changing situation keep coming and that cycle keep starting over, over, over—
So, I’m sorry to cut you off, so you really didn’t use anything for advertisement?
CHRISTOPHER "GRIZZLY" HUFF
Nope, just myself and just results. Just results and the athletes I was training at the time. It seem like P80 just stuck out to other athletes. When I coaching little league I took some of the unwanted kids, the sorriest team and turned it around into a pretty solid team.
What team was this?
The Eagles. The Detroit Eagles.
Whoa, so how do you feel when your younger athletes go to college and doing strength and conditioning with their school(s) BUT they come back to you?
Well, I’m glad they're doing something they’re supposed to doing with their school but they always comeback and say, “man it’s much harder coming here.” They feel like they try and prepare themselves at school before they comeback and work with me. They said, they feel like they're better prepared when they're working with us. It makes me feel like we’re making our mark and doing what we’re suppose to be doing. I think it might be time for me to take that step into being in somebody’s college program soon but if I do that then that means I just utilize me to one group of people. I want to be accessible to a lot of people.
Right, what was the evolution of P80? More so like, what brought you to say okay, I’m not going to do just athletes but I want to bring in regular people like regular men and women?
Well, bootcamp classes. I just started doing the bootcamp classes and the bootcamp classes just sort of grew and these are the same classes that we are running today—20 years later.
Yeah, you’re very active in the sports and fitness industry. You do a lot of activities such as: Cardio classes; kick boxing; boxing; track, like coaching track; football; preparing collegiate, professional, youth athletes; and speed training; how do you make time?
I would say making time by making a schedule or a time frame. Having guys behind you that are understanding that I do multiple things so that they can carry on where I left off at. We got guys here who work for us who carry their weight around here, when I’m not around. So it’s all about have good guys all around you that can carry the business around just like you. So if I’m not around the business doesn’t miss a beat. So when I’m doing multiple things,you know the main thing which is P80, which is the gym, which is also the training. I will let everybody know that all the other stuff, you have to have multiple streams of revenue to bring business.
Right, I feel that, I really do. So how do you feel about the relationships or ties you had to severed by running P80? I know it can be tough breaking off relationships.
I don’t break off relationships people break off relationships with me because when I’m in somebody’s corner, I’m in their corner for life. Most guys can’t handle—I’m more into a group setting. I rather have five millionaires instead of one guy saying “I own this building and only make 100,000 dollars,” I rather all of us run a business, all of us make five million dollars or whatever the cost is. Instead of saying I’m the boss and not make that much money. So I would say people sever ties with me because they’re searching to be on their own. Or we have guys leave training where we get them up to a point and they jump ship. It’s just the nature of the business.
Another question I have is that, there is a fear of running a business in the inner city of Detroit because the economics and how do you deal with that?
I created a formula that works well with me. I created a price where I can train multiple people at one time where the pricing is low and they still get the quality work of somebody who’s charging 100 dollars per session. Where I’m charging 150-200 dollars per month. Where I created a formula where I’m reaching a goal that’s doing one-on-one training. We’re hitting it more with multiple people, that way we can keep people still training and make training more affordable. What I charge a month is only two sessions somewhere else. So, I just created a formula where we can just train multiple people.
Were you nervous jumping out and starting your own business at first?
Um, the support of my wife because out of school training isn’t something that you do as a career right away. It’s something you got to be built up. For her to say go ahead and chase your dream an I’ll hold the fort down, while you build the business up. i did have a regular job where I may work at night and train during the day. Worked around in commercial gyms which I hated but that was revenue to bring it back to the gym and keep building the brand up. Once she said, just build you business up and don’t worry about what’s going on at home and that she’ll take care of it. That allowed the business to build up and get us to where we at now, even though we’re not where we want to be we’re still growing. We haven’t hit the marks yet because it’s so many pop-up gyms that pop up every year that we have to fight off. Competition is crazy because a lot people copy what we do. We had created a format that everybody want to do because they see that format work. There’s a lot of copy cats out here that’s running the same thing we running. A lot people—so many people jump ship with these new places and eventually they come back. When you comeback to know how and knowledge and all that people don’t care, they just following what they see what I post. If Internet was not around most of these people wouldn't survive, I would survive because of word of mouth and what I do. There’s a lot of people watch what others do, not just me but what others do. Whether it’s YouTube or whatever we try to be creative, you can go down and see other gyms and be like, “hold on, I seen this at P80!” Which is a fact and anybody denying it they’re lying to themselves.
Right, I’ve been seeing a lot of people, even people my age who wants to become trainers and/or fitness coaches and I feel like with you have to have a lot of dedication, um —
Yeah knowledge and passion for it—
Yes, it’s a lifestyle.
Yeah, so how do reaction to people who really feel or think that being a personal trainer might be easy?
The same way the back alley mechanics think it’s easy way to get some quick money. If I learn how to do a brake job, I can cut the big shop out and get some money. It’s just the nature of any business that people can feel like they can do what you can do and cut corners.Do I feel like they’re a disservice? They’re kind of dampering the training scene because you get more people like aww they’re making trainers look bad, because a lot of them are not ethical and just like a doctor you got to have ethics and I think as a trainer you got to have ethics.
That’s why I all people when you look for a trainer ask multiple questions. Don’t just settle just because he says do this ask multiple questions. Where did you go to school at? Where is your certification at? What qualifies you to do this? Why am I doing this? Just ask questions and if they can’t answer them and say do what I do, that’s not the person you need not to mess with.
What services do you offer to those who ask you, what can you do to help me be great? What can you do to help me become a better me?
You ask them what’s their goals number one. Most people got to have some type of goal when they come in here. You can’t just come in here and just say because I want to workout. You just come in here and get that goal by helping them feel comfortable reaching that goal and that you actually care about their goal. That you’re going to push them past that normal feeling that you’re really, really going to try to get them there. I think that’s what set us apart from everybody else’s [business] because we actually care and we’re trying. We try to figure out a way to get them where they need to be.
Okay, okayyyy. What got you interested in coaching track?
Well, I’ve always ran track my whole life, I always felt that football players should run track. Something that was instilled in me by my high school coach and part of my scholarship was to run. So, track has always been a passion of mine and the opportunity like um, Darnell Hall kind of opened that up for to get involved more in track, you know and it was just something I just wanted and it just grew. I’m always passionate about track, that’s probably my second favorite sport after football.
And Darnell Hall, that’s Mike’s [Carson] dad right?
Yep, that’s Mike’s dad. The Olympian from here, gold medalist Olympian.
Following that, you also coach a lot of younger female athletes.
Something we knew, we were going to get into. We feel that P80 is for everybody. We feel like we can train any sport, any level, and if we feel a lady wants to be trained to be better in her sport we’re all for it. I know a lot of people who shun off women athletes, saying women sports is this and women sports is that. Honestly, I think women athletes can make just as much as male athletes. If the avenue for them is playing sports why not help get them to where they want to be? So, that’s why you see a lot of female athletes in here because we take them serious. Most places don’t take them seriously. We’re pushing them towards their goal like we do to guys.
I feel it because there’s a lot of debate going on with the women’s basketball team [WNBA] and how they’re not getting paid as much as male basketball players. Also you have male audience saying, well the women aren’t exciting as a man.
Well I feel that women’s basketball is more fundamental when it comes to shooting, passing, and the defenses, there aren’t more of the glitz and glory of running down and dunking.They take it more seriously when learning the game and their X’s and O’s. That’s what draws me to women’s basketball. A lot of them around here take it more seriously um, a lot of guys just go off athletic ability. The women go off from really learning the game and going hard, as far as the money thing one day it’s going to happen.
That’s why a lot of them play overseas, they make money overseas. I wouldn't say it won’t catch up to men’s basketball but it’s other sports out here, like track these women make a lot of money. Women’s beach volleyball, you know you got tennis. We got sports out here that make money it’s just that women’s basketball has not caught up to men’s basketball because that gap is so wide.
Speaking of pro-athletes, when professional athletes seek and come to you for training. How does that make you feel about your business as a whole, when professional athletes seek for your service?
That just means we created an atmosphere where any athlete can come in here and get better. So getting pro-athletes in here tells me that if they’re coming in here, they’re coming in here to get better. So we feel that if we can make you better then why not here. So, you know it doesn’t make me feel any special way or nothing like that. It just makes me feel like we’re doing something right. For a professional athlete who’s at the top of his level of whatever sport it is they want to come in here. It just means we’re ding something right to make them get better to want to choose us. There’s multiple million dollar places out here to go get trained and we’re definitely not a million dollar place.
Exactly, because one of your notable pro-athlete client who comes here is Ameer Abdullah, the running back for the Detroit Lions. Was there anything he has ever said to you about your facility, like compliment your service?
Yeah, he compliments us a lot. He feels this is hardcore, gritty, training that you know like he said something about how the NFL training prevents them from getting hurt not to get better. So he wanted to get better so thats why he came here. Devin Gardner kind of drew him here because Devin been with us for a long time. He’s a professional athlete, he’s trying to tell other professional athletes this is where you need to be and that’s what kind of got Ameer going here. He seen the transformation of Devin Gardner’s body and brought him in. Ameer works with a lot of other people not just us, he works out in California and works with us from time to time. He did spend an entire summer with us but you know as an athlete he uses his multiple other streams to train and workout.
I just wanted to point that out because I’ve seen former NFL athlete Thomas Gordon, who’s on Instagram shouts you out and even compliments you on there.
Well you know that means a lot, you know they just looks at me like the “older guy.” Where I feel like some type of a mentor but these guys have a lot of knowledge of their own. I feel like, they feel like I’m the older guy they can look up to, they can get tips from me and I get tips from them. You know because I’m constantly learning, they learning from me and I’m learning from them. I think that’s what separates me from others because I don’t I’m at the top or I’m the best and I don’t have to listen to nobody. Why, because I feel like I’m still learning everyday. Anybody that’s coming into the business, I may learn something from someone who just started. He might know something I don’t know. So that’s why I think that’s what sets me apart, I don’t stand at the top beating on my chest, like “Ohhhh I’m the best, do this and do this,” do I feel like I’m one of the best? Of course I do! You know I put a lot of hard work, why wouldn’t you want to be? If you don’t think you’re one of the best around you’re cheating yourself. So I do feel like I’m of the best around.
I’ve been around longer than anybody, and not many people can say they been around 20 years training not having no other job but training. It’s not many people who can say they do but you got a lot of young starters that’s beating their chest, like “Ahhh I got some of P80’s clients blah blah blah!” I feel like training is like going to the hairdresser, when you get tired of your hairdresser you go to another one. We don’t feel like we lose clients because of results, we lose clients because they generally like us to kiss their asses at some point. I feel like we don't have to do that because once we got you along and got you where you know the process, we’re trying to get the next person along. I feel like that’s one of our biggest downfalls. As a gym, I wouldn’t say it’s a downfall we move people forward, they need to go to the next step and bring other people forward. Instead of, “I don’t want that person to get up to where I’m at.” We got people who are in super shape and we have people who aren’t who’s looking like “I want to get like them,” so I’m trying to guide that person that’s trying to get to where they are. So now that person feels shunned and they’re not. You know the process is to keep the process up don’t get jealous.
When I work with a person I give them my all and then when it’s time to work with next person, I think they feel like I don’t like them no more. It’s not that, we just got to a point where you should be able to pull someone else along. Now do have people who have pulled people along but you know it’s human nature. That's many downfalls of this business is keep trying to grow and bring the next person. Another person want that hug everyday instead of giving that hug to the next person.
I just feel like to wrap this up, somebody who actually have a clientele full of Division 1 athletes, who’s actually able to go Pro and then youthful athletes—
It’s crazy ain’t it?
Yeah, it’s-it’s really crazy with somebody of your clientele—which it’s so large and you’re so known throughout the Detroit Metropolitan area, yet here you are humble as ever.
That’s the name of the game. Remain humble and you’ll get the things you want. Instead of me saying I train this person nobody has ever seen me jump on social media and say I do this, I do this, I’m the greatest, and I got this person. No, I do know a lot of people who do, do that but that’s not necessary to do. I don’t need a pat on this ass for what I do. I don’t need anybody to “that a boy” me, that’s something that was instilled in me young, if I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing. I’m following my plan and what I’m supposed to be doing I’m doing right. I don’t need nobody to constantly tell me “that’s a good boy” and “that’s great you’re doing this…” I don’t need that. As long as I’m doing what I’m doing the process will greatly reward me later. A lot of people think “Oh you got this person you must be making a lot of money.” No, P80 is not making a lot of money. Eventually do we want to? Yes, but are we making a lot money now? No, I wouldn’t say that, I’m not saying we’re broke or nothing like that.
You’re just very content.
Yeah, we’re just not on the extremes like other people driving around in [Mercedes] Benz. Eventually we might get there but right now we’re just staying humble and building the brand the right way: My way! So when we build the brand that way we’ll never come down. So when we’re at the top all the way there’s no falling down, it’s no crash. We’re going to gradually get there, it’s a marathon we’re not trying to sprint the 100 meters dash to the top and then crash. I want to get to the top and gradually get this business going.
Well I hope you guys enjoyed my chat with Detroit's very own Christopher "Grizzly" Huff because I know I for sure did! I want to give him a special thanks for letting me interview him and picking his brain!