The Healing Touch of a New Kind of Gym

  • /
  • The Healing Touch of a New Kind of Gym

Gym Insight customer profile: Abb’s Muscle & Fitness Gym

Abbe Hockaday started Abb’s Muscle & Fitness Gym the morning after she retired. After a career in the corporate world, she was ready to launch her own brand of fitness. It would be a place of harmony, peace, healing, and growth.

Or, as her Silver Sneakers members wrote on a handmade entrance sign, “Welcome, you will fit in here.” Six words to define a workspace. And a future. 

Profile of an unlikely gym owner

Many of Gym Insight’s clients are gym owners who discovered fitness early and spent their lives in the industry — owning a gym became a destination, not a journey. 

For Hockaday, the trajectory was different. First, a high-powered career in corporate human resources, then a late-blooming launch into professional body building, where she competed for her IFBB pro status at 51 years old. All successes, despite having endured numerous surgeries throughout her life. It is in this transition where she grew into sharing the idea of self-improvement with other people. 

This powerful concept of translating challenge into success ultimately became the foundation of her second life, and, along with her Christian faith, sculpts both her gyms’ character. 

Abbs Muscle & Fitness Gym

Corporate America meets gym culture

Hockaday took over ownership of her first gym in Dallas, GA, in August of 2018. She acquired Southern Muscle & Fitness Gym from Terry and Jennifer Biddy, who had mentored her in bodybuilding, personal training, and, eventually, gym management. “Gym Insight (software) was probably the greatest gift they left,” she said. In October of 2021, she closed on a second location in Rockmart, GA, a fully stocked gym with bank-held equipment. By this time, she had consulted with her tax advisor, who advised leasing rather than building

Both locations offer 24-hour access and personal training services. She employs eight people, about half of whom are personal trainers.

Hockaday relies on her corporate training to run a facility both structured and drama-free. “Everything we do is documented into steps,” she explains. She came to the industry armed with an approach of order, organization, and standard operating procedures. Her skill base included human resources, recruitment, and financial methodologies. That discipline infuses her gyms with a controlled foundation from which to launch a new kind of health center — one that is faith-based with an emphasis on social and mental wellness. “So at this season in my life, I see fitness as more of a ministry. Fitness is our witness,” she says. 

Using human resource skills to develop employees

Although Hockaday approaches her gyms with the soul of a yogi and the mindset of an executive, she fully grasps the need to develop employees in order to build a future. 

For her, this means providing significant personal development with an emphasis on revealing individual strengths. These core capabilities are stepping stones, as emerging employees assume more and more responsibility. 

“I enjoy all aspects of being an entrepreneur. However, I need to figure out which aspects feed my soul, so I hire people to handle the other (parts) in order for me to grow the business effectively.”

Hockaday’s tips to retaining staff

  • Hire for mindset, not skillset. You can’t teach ethics, generosity, honesty. 
  • Develop and invest in employees individually.  
  • Encourage harmony. 
Abbs muscle & fitness Gym

High-touch, high-engagement gyms

Finding fitness brought health to Hockaday. Owning a gym unearthed a more relaxed, open personality. It is a vision she shares with her members, and for the future. Within Abbs Muscle & Fitness centers there is an emphasis on helping people heal holistically. Improving clients’ health and physical wellness is paramount, of course. 

But beyond physicality is the human aspect to wellness.

She wants to reach the person sitting in their car, willing themselves to go inside. The confessor, who immediately tells all to her trainer. The sad, the lonely, the intimidated. A good listener, a feeler for “dis-ease,” and a person of faith, Hockaday meets them where they are — physically, mentally, spiritually. 

Our goal is to give them life back so they can be a better contributor to their community, families, job.

Abbe Hockaday

Creatively and visually, this becomes a health center whose lobby is more garden and café than check-in counters and svelte employees. Emotionally, it’s harmonious and peaceful. Tactically, the center encourages a culture of engagement and self-direction, with membership involved in the fellowship of the gym.

Why all this emphasis on harmony?

Well, because there is more to do in this life. As she carves her gyms’ future, Hockaday sees another road as well. One where a nonprofit corporation establishes fitness/wellness programs to assist individuals rebuilding lives and aids those with mental health issues. 

It is all part of a quest. To use fitness as a tool for good. To find a community after decades of shifting locations to accommodate a corporation. To hold herself accountable for a future that includes a new style of health club, one that exists for the wellbeing of others and manifests the faith that guides her. And, it seems, she’s just getting started.

Gym Insight

Thank you for reading our latest gym profile. Each one of our clients at Gym Insight offers compelling, interesting stories and we are grateful for their willingness to share their knowledge with our greater community. So you know a little about us, we are a gym management software company whose product provides a clear, transparent picture of your company’s financials, and offers a platform from which to run your business effectively. Our software is built in-house, by fitness club owners. There are no cumbersome third-party plug-ins or complicated protocols, and it’s available for a single, low monthly subscription price — no hidden fees, no links to your payment processor. Call us today for a free demonstration of how we can lower your software management costs and free up time and capital.