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Chambers combines passion for music, fitness into up-tempo, high-intensity gym

BY Stan Simpson
Special to the Hartford Business Journal

4/16/2018
Photo | Bill Morgan
Photo | Bill Morgan
Shaun Chambers' BODYROC gym features up-tempo music played by a DJ and boxing training all aimed at whipping members into shape.
Shaun Chambers, a former college football player and songwriter, has always been about fitness and entertainment.

So, it's no surprise that this Hartford native has parlayed those passions into a thriving business called BODYROC Fit Lab. A high-intensity gym with a disc jockey rocking up-tempo tunes during rigorous boxing-style exercise classes, Chambers' concept is to make fitness fun so the customer wants to keep coming back.

"It's an environment that people are excited to come to,'' said Chambers, 35. "When you come into an environment that is exciting and entertaining, the work becomes secondary. Now, you're happy to be here and the results are showing for themselves.''

BODYROC can be described as "group personal training" incorporating boxing exercises, strength training and cardio workouts in a high-energy exercise room, booming with dance club music.

After workouts, customers can purchase a protein smoothie to cap their 50-minute regimen. Boxing gloves, barbells, punching bags, step benches and self-propelled treadmills are the most visible fitness equipment.

The gym was a recent recipient of Hartford Magazine's Best Place to Workout poll. BODYROC launched in West Hartford in 2015; an Avon branch opened in February. Both gyms, combined, have a total of 13 employees. Prices range from $23 for drop-ins to $160 a month for unlimited use. There are also five, 10 and 20 class session packages, ranging from $94 to $300.

Chambers says he has about 350 clients and talks proudly about the diversity of faces and body types that walk through the doors.

"It's a community,'' he said. "It gives people the opportunity to come in and release any stress and chase after their goals in a room of like-minded individuals. It's a focused environment where you have a personal trainer that designs the program for you and holds you accountable for the work."

The seeds for Chambers' personal-training ambitions were planted when he was in his 20s, working in New York City as a songwriter from 2005 to 2012. He was known for his eclectic lyrics and chiseled 5-10, 200-pound frame. Chambers said Justin Bieber, Chris Brown and Diddy were among artists who recorded his songs, though they have not yet been released.

During his time in New York City, peers in the entertainment business took notice of his physique and asked the former Southern Connecticut State University football player to train them and give them advice about nutrition.

Chambers' entrepreneurial desires grew from there, particularly as he became more frustrated with the business aspect of the music industry. Songwriters, in his view, were not always rewarded equitably for their contributions. To enhance his business acumen, Chambers earned an MBA from Phoenix University in 2014. He previously held a degree in management information systems from SCSU.

The goal now is for BODYROC to evolve into a global brand with franchises around the world.

"It has an appeal that everybody can benefit from," Chambers said.

No time for sleep

He arrives at the gym daily at 4:45 a.m. to teach a class and closes things down with another class at 7:15 p.m. He's in bed usually by midnight, sheepishly conceding that he doesn't get much sleep.

Chambers said what he likes about fitness is that it benefits people physically and mentally. When people like how they look they usually feel better about themselves. BODYROC's clients have become valued ambassadors for the business.

Though his business card reads founder/CEO, Chambers said his real duties are as "coach and motivator" to his staff and clients.

"I'm helping people to see the brighter side of themselves, so they can begin to develop all of the positive habits that help them to get over their respective hurdles,'' he said. "That's what I love about this. I get to see each person that comes in transform into something completely new. And then they go out and bring new people in that can also be transformed."

As a boss, Chambers said he tries to lead by example and exhibit energy and passion each day.

"I have a positive attitude," he said. "I don't let my environment dictate what happens with me. I'm in control and I move like I plan on achieving the things that I'm optimistic about. Every single day I influence change out into the world. I can't see anything more fulfilling than that. That's why it's so easy to get up in the morning."

Stan Simpson is the principal of Stan Simpson Enterprises LLC, a strategic communications consulting firm. He is also host of Fox 61's "The Stan Simpson Show," which airs Saturdays, 5:30 a.m.