Mike Manning believes in community, country, and fitness
Mike Manning had two dreams, to serve his country and to run his own gym. He achieved them both by drawing on the leadership skills he gained in the Marines to sustain and grow Black Iron CrossFit gym.
"I’ve been an athlete my whole life, playing baseball and football, then wrestling and power lifting in high school," said Mike.
As a boy, Mike drew pictures of himself in uniform. "I felt called to serve my country and be a warrior," he said. He joined the Marine Corp in 2008 and served until 2012, completing tours in Afghanistan and the Philippines, as Signals Intelligence Support Team Leader.
"It was a way of life that was totally different," Mike said. "Being a Marine taught me how to be an adult, a man, a leader. I take a lot of pride in earning that title."
Transitioning back to civilian life was challenging. As Mike tried to figure out what to do with his life, and deal with post-traumatic stress, he resumed his exercise routine. "I like to stay in shape, but my workouts help my mind even more than my body," he said.
"I knew I wanted to be active and help people. But how do you make a living doing that?" he said. That’s when he returned to his dream of having his own gym.
Creating community through fitness
Mike joined the staff of Black Iron CrossFit in Frisco, Texas in 2014, about a year after it opened. He became one of the owners and bought out his business partners in 2018. Solo ownership was — and continues to be — scary and amazing. He’s always on duty, handling lots of details to keep the gym and its members in top-notch shape.
"Movement is medicine, vital for your mental and physical wellbeing," he said. "The gym is my vehicle to connect with people. I help them see how exercise can improve their lives, and guide them as they progress."
"Owning a gym is like being a parent. You are never off duty, but it’s amazing to see it grow," he said. Mike, now 32, and his wife Jen are also parents to their son Zander,10 months old.
To bring Black Iron CrossFit to the next level, he had to step back and hire others to coach and lead classes, so he could focus on the big picture, pay the bills, and manage a hundred other details. "I relied on techniques I used to lead my team in the Marines," he said.
Energy and hydration drinks I can trust
Mike offers TruLabs energy and hydration drink mixes at Black Iron CrossFit. "For me to carry a supplement, it has to be clean, affordable, and taste good," he said. "I’ve followed TruLabs since the beginning and I know it’s complete, high quality, and matches my mission of health and fitness."
Overcoming fear in 2020
"To get through the COVID pandemic, we had to be creative," Mike recalled. "The gym had to shut down, so we let our members take stuff home: weights, barbells, kettle drums."
The gym pivoted to online workout videos, coaching, and exercise demonstrations. "We saw the love that our members have for us. They stuck with us, and came back when they were ready."
"It was an odd time to own a gym," Mike said. "I’ve never seen fear affect my business. I’ve never had to sell peace of mind to get people to leave their homes and come in."
"But we made it," he said. "We’ve been around almost 10 years now. I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished."
Follow Mike Manning on social media
Black Iron Crossfit on Instagram: @blackironcf
Mike on Instagram: @blackironmike
Black Iron Crossfit on Facebook: Black Iron Crossfit