Demond Mabray kicks off the new year with a class at Farrell’s eXtreme Bodyshaping’s south location.

Farrell’s eXtreme Bodyshaping

5850 Championship View – 473-3921

3639 Star Ranch Road – 203-3230

Owners: Mark and Jenny Vohsmann

Years in Business: 3

A fitness program changed Mark Vohsman’s life.

He had lived nearly his whole life in Des Moines, Iowa. He was married with four daughters and owned a construction company when he realized it was time to do something about his weight.

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“I was becoming the fat guy I always told my wife I’d never be,” Vohsman said.

He signed up for Farrell’s eXtreme Bodyshaping — an intensive 10-week program that combines cardio kickboxing and strength training six days a week.

After a couple weeks in the program, Vohsman and his wife Jenny started thinking about giving up the construction business to become one of Farrell’s first franchisees.

“I was having a blast getting my butt kicked and watching the people come and go,” Vohsman said. “I started crunching the numbers in my head and thought — ‘you could make a living at this.’”

After a lifetime in construction, it would be a big change. But Vohsman said he didn’t expect his daughters to take over his construction business and if the family was ever going to make a change, the time was right.

“We had the choice of anywhere in the country,” Vohsman said.

Selecting Colorado Springs

The concept already was successful in Des Moines and the founder, Lance Farrell, was just starting to franchise it. So the Vohsmans could have their pick of locations as long as it wasn’t their hometown — Des Moines was obviously taken.

The Vohsmans chose Colorado Springs for several reasons, but first considered the city because Vohsman’s brother, Dave, lived here.

“After years in construction, working outside, I was looking for a milder climate,” said Vohsman, now 42.

They also wanted a market with demographics similar to Des Moines since they knew the concept worked there.

“We thought about going straight to Denver,” he said. “But that’s a big city, and we had no idea how it would work there.”

Colorado seemed like a good idea, though. The state is always at the top of fitness lists, so there’s a built-in awareness about health and fitness that Vohsman thought would be good for business.

“If you’re out of shape in Colorado Springs, you probably don’t feel like you’re doing your part,” Vohsman said.

He opened the first location on the east side of town near the intersection of Powers Boulevard and Barnes Road in early 2010. Initially they marketed with radio ads and going to fitness fairs and bridal shows. Now, it’s mostly growing through word of mouth. About 80 percent of participants are 35- to 55-year-old women.

In July 2011, the Vohsmans opened a second location in the southwest part of the city near Colorado Highway 115 and Star Ranch Road. Now they’re starting to look at opening a third location. Vohsman said he expects to open one on the north end of the city and another somewhere on the Westside before the local franchise is built out.

“But our model is different,” Vohsman said. “We’re not going to open as quickly as some other concepts will because we build from within.”

All of the instructors and coaches at Farrell’s have gone through the program themselves. That way they understand what’s in store for the participants and they know how to guide them through the experience.

Farrell’s isn’t like a regular gym. There are only four times a year people can join — January, April, June and October. They join as a class and work together in teams of six to eight with a coach who holds them accountable. They come to set classes six days a week and abide by a customized nutrition plan.

“It’s all about real, whole foods,” Vohsman said. “We don’t charge for the class and then wheel out the cart and tell people what supplements to buy.”

The cost for the program is $385. That one-time upfront fee helps to keep people accountable. Of course, there’s still some attrition. Vohsman said that about 10 percent quit within the first two weeks and another 10 percent quit coming at various other times during the program.

After the 10 weeks, members can pay a monthly fee and keep coming. They can also sign up as coaches. Coaches aren’t paid, but they get to go to the classes with their teams and they get a monetary gift at the end.

Alumni still involved

More than a third of the first local class is still involved. Cindy Spatafora joined with her mother in one of Vohsman’s first classes.

“The first two weeks were an adjustment,” she said. “I remember turning to my mom — we were planking — and I said ‘what were you thinking?’”

But she fell in love with the program when her clothes started fitting better. She didn’t like the way she felt if she missed a day, and soon she was hooked. Now she works part-time at the front desk of the south location.

Chris Mott works at the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office. One of his co-workers did the program, lost a lot of weight and got toned. He decided to try it in June. His wife thought he was nuts. But after he lost 40 pounds and dropped from size 40 to a 34 waist, she was sold. She lost 26 pounds in the class that wrapped up in December, Mott said.

“I wish I had these legs and these lungs back when I was in the military,” he said.

Between new classes, there are still sessions and members mingled beforehand, chatting and stretching.

“It’s really a community,” Vohsman said. “And we want to make sure, before we open another location, that the community is strong enough.”

It’s getting close, he said.