Don't pay, pay it forward

For many people, just getting to the gym every week is already a struggle, but what adds insult to injury are the fees that a gym membership and classes wrack up.

So, what if the gym and its classes were free? One ASU workout club is taking that approach, and the only accepted form of payment is random acts of kindness.

Beast Fit Nation is ASU’s first workout club that, in return for a professional workout, asks that you pay it forward to someone else rather than paying it. 

“The reason why I wanted to start this club is because I see a lot of people walking around and they’re not engaging -- they're not engaging in community activity and they’re not engaging in fitness activity,” says Sergio Jones, CEO and founder of Beast Fit Nation.

The club started on ASU campus during the Spring 2015 semester. ASU is one of three collegiate Beast Fit Nation programs. The other programs are located at University of Southern California and The University of Pittsburgh.

Jones ran track and field for Idaho State and graduated in 2014 with a degree in political science and certified with the National Academy of Sports Medicine. He created the organization because he wanted to combine two of his passions: working out and giving back.

“People talk about change so we decided to be the change,” Jones says.

In 2012, he began organizing large-scale workouts with a friend on a field in his hometown Portland, Oregon. People were confused that they didn't have to pay at first, and some went to Jones afterwords asking what they owed, he says.

Service and fitness have been what Jones calls “an absolutely lethal combination.” Jones says people are seeing the results from the workout and it makes them feel so good that they are inspired to give back to the community as well.

“We had an amazing turnout at our first community event a couple of weeks ago,” says Joe Mazurick, president of Beast Fit Nation Arizona. “We came together at the Memorial Union with some of our members and made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for the homeless on Mill (Ave.) and then we went over and handed them out.”

Though they are from the same hometown and attended rival high schools, Jones and Mazurick found each other on the ASU campus. The two met through Beast Fit Nation last year when Mazurick first came to ASU. After learning about the program he immediately knew he wanted to get involved.

“It was just a coincidence, but I’m very glad I met this man because being able to take this to a whole other level here at ASU is really inspiring to not only us, but everyone that is involved,” Mazurick says.

The program has been very successful at ASU, but it hasn’t been without its struggles. When it was in its early stages, the workouts were only attracting about four or five people and sometimes no one, Jones says. Steadily, the program has built up a strong following and now sees anywhere from 30 to 50 people at each workout.

“The growth has been amazing -- we couldn’t be happier with the amount of growth we’ve seen,” Mazurick says.

The club has been featured on several national news outlets including NBC, Yahoo News, KGW and CNN, says Jones.

“We actually got enough funding from the members to start a free gym in Portland,” Jones says. “That got a lot of people out there interested in what we’re doing because it was the world's largest free gym.”

Since then, the 500-square-foot gym in downtown Portland was forced to close after being open for only a year because rental prices skyrocketed and Beast Fit Nation could no longer afford it.

But that didn’t hold them back. Three months ago, Beast Fit Nation opened the doors to its first gym in Arizona -- only two blocks from the ASU campus -- located at 1400 S. McClintock Dr. They are the first free gym to ever open in Tempe.

“The reason why we decided to open a gym in Tempe is because not everyone has access to the ASU Rec Center,” Jones says. “Some people out there are living in the inner city, some people out there are less fortunate, some people can’t afford the tuition here at ASU -- we open our doors to the community whether you’re young or you’re old and give you expert training.”

At the gym, they sell apparel and motorized balance boards to help pay for their storefront.

Workouts typically last about an hour. Members come in, warm up and begin their workout with a certified instructor. Often times during the workouts, members are asked to partner up with someone they don’t know to help create a community environment.

“We want it to be like a family setting; we want people to work hard and not think about who’s watching them,” says Aseante Roberts, personal trainer and instructor for Beast Fit Nation. If you get to know a lot of people in the class it’s a little less intimidating.”

Roberts has worked as a trainer at other larger gyms like LA Fitness and Golds Gym, but he likes the energy that Beast Fit Nation has.

“I like helping people. My dad brought me up in the weight room and he kind of does something like this at home so I was inspired by that.”

Roberts’ father works with misbehaved children, training them how to use fitness as an outlet. Roberts says his father is proud his son is following in his footsteps.

Sometimes the random acts of kindness are even part of the workout. Jones says, a few weeks ago the instructors created a workout that would require members to thank the people whose help often goes unnoticed: their parents.

“Everybody was doing pushups in the gym and you had to run outside the gym, find a random person ask them to borrow their phone, and call your mom or your dad and tell them that you loved them,” Jones says.

After the phone call, the members ran back inside and completed the workout. When the workout was over they called their parents back from their own phones and explained the random “I love you” call.

“Often times our parents are so underappreciated but they’re the one who helped us get to this level,” Jones says.

At the end of each workout the group is asked to circle up and share their name, major and what their act of kindness will be for the week.

“The special thing about Beast Fit Nation is that it’s free and all you have to do is give back to the community," says Jessica Sosa, a member of Beast Fit Nation.

Sosa has only been part of Beast Fit Nation for several weeks but she knows already she would like to pursue leadership in the club.

“I’m a really shy person so being kind to everyone else helps talk to people,” Sosa says. “Already, I’ve given compliments, gotten people lunch, helped friends with homework, picked up trash and opened the door.”

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