By Brian Gallagher and Ryan Wilke, Co-Founders
Ryan and I were just a couple of bankers rocking our Brooks Brothers dress shirts, monk strap shoes, and not so skinny ties, working on a deal team together. Tasked with selling a private chemicals business, we spent endless hours together trying to keep sane while life felt very mundane. We enjoyed passing the time wondering how long I could grow my beard before I’d get in trouble with the senior bankers, or wondering if Ryan could expense toothbrushes if he had to sleep at the office. Our escape from reality was always working out or talking about fitness. So you could say that our brand was the result of our own boredom — bored in both our day-to-day lives AND the traditional ‘bodybuilding-style’ fitness routine we were following. We didn’t love what we were doing, we never took ourselves too seriously, and we both loved to exercise. Enter Throwback Fitness.
With fun at the forefront of our minds, recess lent itself well to our concept. Recess was the time of day you most looked forward to as a kid, because sadly, class time was never quite as awesome as it was on Boy Meets World. During recess you could forget all your school work, your teachers, or the fact that your crush just turned you down for the dance. Recess was a fun break from your childhood worries. We wanted to recreate that same feeling for adults. The objective was to create an environment where people could escape the stress of work and life, let loose and have fun — all while getting an awesome workout. This focus has definitely earned us brand recognition as the fitness studio to try if you’re looking for a ‘murderously fun’ workout experience.
We each have our own unique strengths, which helped us significantly in taking Throwback from concept to reality. The most useful: Ryan creates fun workouts, and I talk a lot, and loudly. Most of the games we use during our classes are Ryan’s brainchild. My strength as a speaker and presenter allow us to bring these games to life with our clients. I try to help with game creation too, but Ryan, like most geniuses, likes to work solo. So how do I do my part in coming up with new workouts? I leave town. Ryan swears I don’t stifle his creativity, but every time I come back from a trip, we have a new recess game. I’m beginning to think this is no longer a coincidence!
Along with our complementary strengths, we also have some differences, which we’re confident help us come to the right decisions for Throwback. Our varying levels of conservatism have pushed us to compromise on many different aspects of the business. Ryan’s affinity for short shorts and my liking of striped tube socks helped us come up with what we think is the perfect Throwback uniform (even though Ryan never rocks the tube socks!). We’ve also had to work around other differences, not as critical for the business: I’m neat and organized. Ryan, not so much. I’m fast asleep by 11pm, Ryan does most of his best work after midnight. Ryan’s favorite carb source is vegetables. Mine is chocolate. So there are definitely differences that are easier to work around.
Once combined though, there was one thing we did not differ on that helped shape our brand more than anything else: our strategy to “just get started.” There is no better way to get feedback on your idea than to get out there and do it! We bought rowers, found a sublet, and got started teaching free classes for friends and family, asking for feedback and incorporating what we learned. We initially wanted to be a rowing studio, but after listening to our early adopters, we took a different approach. This approach has led to a more authentic brand by allowing our personalities to become the brand, not the other way around. At Throwback, yes, we provide fitness classes, but we are selling a fun, light-hearted, non-intimidating reprieve from daily stresses. We believe if our clients have fun and look forward to exercising, the reward of becoming fit will follow.
Everything we do, say, and share about the brand reflects this idea of fun and nostalgia. From social media posts, to studio decor, to class games, we keep this message consistent. Even some workouts that Ryan and I do together outside of class, called our RyBri Throwdowns, are meant to be challenging, but also super fun. Our most recent: The Rosé Handstand Walk. We had to complete a 50-meter handstand walk, but with one small catch: you had to run back to the starting line to drink a glass of the summer’s best wine whenever you fell. Waaaiiit… wine in a workout? Why not? We can do anything we want, now that we’re running the show!
Although these workouts below don’t have alcohol incorporated (hey you can always adapt!), check out these solid partner workouts so you can add some fun and competition to your routine. Grab a friend and give them a try!
Up The Ladder
Work as: Partners (Suggested time: 20min)
Partner A: Runs a lap around a track (or any set distance; can sub rowing)
Partner B: Completes 2 squats, 2 pushups, 2 sit-ups, then 4 squats, 4 pushups, 4 sit-ups, then 6 squats, 6 pushups, 6 sit-ups, and so forth, as high as possible
Switch when partner A completes the run, and pick up on the circuit wherever partner B left off. The goal is to see how high you can get up the ladder as a team in set time.
Work as: Opponents (Suggested time: 4 rounds)
Opponent A: Completes the following circuit once, as fast as possible
- 10 Burpees
- 20 Kettlebell Swings
- 30 Lunges
Opponent B: Rows as far as possible until opponent A has finished the circuit.
When opponent A has finished, he/she tags B who is frozen and must stop rowing. The goal is to see who rows the furthest combined distance over 4 rounds (each person completing 4 circuits and 4 rows).
Brian Gallagher is a co-founder of Throwback Fitness, and has been a fitness enthusiast since the age of 13 when he began working out to increase strength for his first season of wrestling. His passion for fitness continues to this day. Brian found the rowing machine to be an excellent full-body, low impact way to achieve great results, and knew he could create a fun, effective way to train. To stay in shape now, Brian constantly varies his exercise methods and includes a healthy mix of boot camp-style workouts, bodyweight circuit training, kettlebell circuits, and yoga. Brian participates in races as often as possible, most recently competing in the Men’s Health Urbanathlon, Tough Mudder, and Civilian Military Combine.
After graduating from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Throwback Fitness co-founder Ryan Wilke spent the next 5 years in the finance industry. Not much of a fitness buff prior to moving to New York, he discovered that the high intensity interval workouts he created with a rowing machine were not only a great way to relieve the stresses of a banking analyst, but also a more effective way to train for a marathon than running 50 miles per week. His enthusiasm for fitness eventually took over his enthusiasm for his desk job. Ryan also enjoys long distance road races, obstacle courses, rock climbing, and military-style workouts at East River Park.