I moved to New Hampshire in November of 2000 and left for Florida in the summer of 2005.
It was a great 5 years for me in many ways. I look back on the time with a certain degree of pride and satisfaction about certain aspects of my life.
Personally it was a great time. I started business, I was coaching, I was raising an amazing son, I did a lot of exploration, and I was able to compete in several different sports and had some freedom to train.
Life is rarely one dimensional; mine is no exception. While my me time was great there was some behind the scenes stuff that would eventually lead to our decision to leave for Florida and even to the ending on my marriage in 2010.
During the years in New Hampshire we had a lot of problems with my ex wifes two older kids; the oldest in particular. She very much strained our life and our marriage.
The details don't matter but one of the results was a certain degree of selfishness that I developed as a coping mechanism. While I see this now and have reversed the process it strained my relationships a lot back then.
Our life's circumstance shape us. This certainly helped to shape me and that's why I mention in briefly here.
Those years were full of many challenges.
When we first moved I didn't have a job. I was a stay at home dad and, like the first try the year before, that didn't last long. I tried hiking with my son. I tried biking with him. I tried pushing him is a baby jogger on a snowmobile trail in the middle of the winter.
There was just no way that life was going to work for me.
I found a daycare and I found a job working the fitness floor at a local health club for $7.50 per hour.
Thank God for my Masters Degree. [Sarcasm: Level EXPERT]
I made enough money to cover day care.
The money wasn't important. What was important is that it re-ignited my passion for fitness.
I started personal training, fixing the equipment, started new programs, went to weekend seminars, and again invested time reading, studying and learning everything that I could about health and fitness.
I quickly become the most successful personal trainer the gym had ever had. I was doing over 20 sessions per week and no other trainer had ever done more than just a few sessions.
I really helped to change the gym for the better.
Sadly then gym was owned by a local ski area that didn't care about the gym or its members.
The manager left and I interview for his job. I didn't get it.
The Fitness Director left and I interview for that job as well. Again, didn't get it.
I put together a business plan I tried to BUY the gym from the ski area. They didn't even respond to my offer.
I was undervalued and under appreciated. My clients and the members loved me but management didn't know to do with this 28 year old kid that thought he ran the place.
After less than two years I up and quit one day.
I had no plan. I had no money. I really had no idea what was next but I knew that working at a health club wasn't for me.
Corporate America wasn't my place. I just couldn't hack it.
I came up with a plan after I quit. (For the record, it's a better idea to have a plan THEN quit. I would made the same silly mistake in 2010 right before my divorce. Some lessons are hard to learn...)
It was early summer and a friend on mine asked me to do some paint touch ups on his office building. I told him the whole place needed to be painted so that's what I did that summer. I painted an old house and did a couple of little other jobs and earned over $10K.
I also asked a few of my clients to do some in home personal training a couple of days per week. That summer was spent painting and driving around town with my bag of fitness equipment.
By fall I had saved up enough money to start my own gym on a bootstrap budget.
"Rick Copley's Ultimate Fitness" was born in the fall of 2003 from a summer of painting houses and a bold idea from a guy with a lot of passion for fitness.
It was a awesome at first.
I brought over all my clients (every single last one of them) from the old gym. I did personal training, Spinning classes (did you know I was once certified Spinning instructor??), BOSU Ball classes and specialty fitness programs.
We were super successful at first.
As time went one I realized that my marketing skills were shit. These were the days before social media. I didn't even have a website or cell phone for crying out loud.
Not much over a year in we were barely making enough money to cover the bills.
It was still fun but getting frustrating.
I needed to go one direction or another. I needed to invest in myself and my business and learn the skills necessary to be successful as a small gym owner or I needed to do something else.
At the same time that I was struggling with my gym my ex wife was struggling with her job and she wanted a fresh start. She was a manager, and a really good one, but the stress of running a department in her early 30s without the college degree that was required was more than she wanted and I didn't blame her.
Other parts of my life were a lot of fun like I mentioned before. I was competing in triathlons and doing really well. I was doing some mountain bike and running races and even doing some ski racing.
I was also coaching at local high school. I was helping out with track every year. It was a thankless job with all those rainy Saturday track meets and that northern New Hampshire "spring" weather but I loved it.
In January of 2005 our lives were in flux. We both wanted out of what we were doing but weren't certain of the answer. We wanted a change for the two boys that were still in the house. (The oldest had moved on by this point.)
We decided to take a vacation to visit her family in Florida. We left frigid New Hampshire and found it to be over 80 degrees every day for the two weeks were in Eustis, Florida.
Each morning I went for a walk and just soaked in the amazing warm air and questioned why were were really in New Hampshire.
On a whim we started looking at houses and signed a contract the day we left.
She moved down in July and I stayed till late August to finish one last race and drove to Florida all by myself. I haven't been back to New Hampshire since August of 2005.
We lived with my ex's aunt in Eustis for a few months while our house we were building in Grand Island was being finished.
We were now Floridians.
The reasons for the move were numerous. Besides the personal challenges we both faced in our careers, and the fresh start for the boys, I also wanted to take a shot at being a professional triathlete. I was 32 now and not getting any younger. I knew this was my one chance and moving to a place where I could train all year was an obvious help.
Gosh, life would take some crazy turn in the next five years.
I don't believe in regrets of second guessing decisions. You can't go back and there are no redos. You just live and you learn.
I remember when I arrived with hope and excitement in 2005. Not sure I would have made that same choice if I knew how many challenges that I would face in the next 5 years. The hardships and the life altering challenges would start so come fast and numerous soon....
My life was about to get exceedingly hard to the degree that I could never have imagined. I'll save that for the next installment. Till then....