The Workroom settles into new location

Jessica Stölen-Jacobson
Montevideo American-News

The Workroom may be known for their visible workouts through Main Street with participants running the staircases while carrying kettlebell weights, but owner/trainer Heather Olson says that shouldn’t intimidate people who think they may not be capable of that kind of workout. “I think people are intimidated sometimes and there’s really no need to be because they may see or hear that those are some crazy workouts but that’s not necessarily the norm,” Olson says. In reality, she says the training that takes place at The Workroom is tailored to each person’s physical ability to improve the body’s function over time. While classes are all conducted around activities that provide the same kinds of muscle movements, the movements are tailored to each individual. “So nobody has to say I can’t do that and then do nothing. It works for everybody,” Olson says.

The Workroom was formed in 2014 after Olson’s friends requested she find a way to help them work out in the ways she was for her own health. At the time, Olson considered how she could help others, as she changed her routine frequently meaning that any kind of training would be an ongoing process. “We found a space and it was tiny but totally functional, so we started with just 10 people. Classes grew and we outgrew the space and people were having fun with it,” Olson says. While The Workroom was growing, Olson decided to obtain her Level One CrossFit Coaching certification, learning how to coach for different ability levels for functional movements. She continued her education in fitness training through programs aimed at weight lifting, gymnastics, and Olympic training. “Basically learning to train people at every stage of the game,” she says. Olson had also attended college with a Kinesiology Major, studying the mechanics of body movement. Along with her advancements in education and growing the popularity of the group fitness training, Olson grew the inventory of equipment available for class participants as she recognized needs in sessions. The collection of dumbbells, barbells, kettlebells range from as little as a pound to 73 pounds. “If you can lift a one-pound weight, you can work out. If you can lift no weight you can do bodyweight and you can still work out,” Olson says. 

During the COVID-19 shutdown, The Workroom made another move from their downtown space to a space in the old Armory building that provides an opportunity for not just more space for training, but also with their recent construction, a space for shower rooms. Large overhead doors and industrial-sized fans allow for better airflow, while the high ceilings and floor space allow for spaces for everyone to use their equipment separately. With COVID restrictions in place, The Workroom was able to create squares for participants to train in their own separate space with their equipment to allow distancing while the open doors and fans keep the circulation of fresh air through the facility. The move into the new facility and renovation project was a large undertaking, as Olson gutted the entire space which previously served as a garage for the National Guard in order to entirely customize the facility to work with The Workroom’s needs. They utilized salvaged materials to keep with the aesthetic of the rest of the building and hired various contractors, electricians, and plumbers from amongst family and friends of training participants. There is a space away from the workout equipment for children who may need to come to a class to hang out safely while their parents are training, and an office space that allowed Olson to be able to move her management materials out of her home. 

Training focuses on each participant's ability level but includes intervals, weight training, and gymnastic movements. “We do a lot of challenges as far as what each week's goal is, how we keep people accountable and how we’re there for them when they decide they are too tired and don’t want to get out of bed,” Olson says. “These people are a community and everybody keeps tabs on each other and that makes a big difference.” The program also provides for changes in routine each day. “We learn certain fundamentals but the way you apply those fundamentals is different each day,” Olson says. The program is designed not to be a quick fix but to become a routine for life. “This is a lifestyle and those little tiny changes are what’s going to make the difference,” Olson says. “You’re not going to fix your weight issues, or strength issues, or balance issues in a week or even a year. You have to be able to commit to it long-term because it’s about making you a functional, healthy human. It’s not about getting a certain body shape or wearing a certain size. We don’t care how you look, we care how you feel. We care that you are healthy and fit and able to function as a human for the rest of your life.”

Olson also notes that training can start at any level of experience. “The reason people come here is that they don’t have to know it I will show them how to do it. Nobody expects you to do anything for the first three months, you just have to have the ability to show up, to be accountable, and the ability to listen and learn and then practice,” Olson says. “It’s all about long-term goals.” When new participants sign up, the first week is spent observing, trying things out, and practicing learning the fundamentals. They are provided one-on-one coaching to figure out what their goals are. There are multiple options for signing up such as a six-month participation program, or a punch card for those not ready to commit to full six months. “We’re looking at building healthy habits so that means you go to the gym every day it means that you challenge yourself in terms of bodyweight movements, lifting movements, cardiovascular movements every day,” Olson says. “We want everybody to have that mindset that this is just what I do, it’s not a chore or a job it’s just like breathing or sleeping it’s just what I do.”

For those hesitant at the idea of training in a group, Olson says, “They’re there to support you - there’s no judgment. Everybody starts at their own ability level and the group can be so much of a benefit because everybody is here to support you. If you wanna be around good people who love you no matter what who support your goals and understand how hard it is to do something new, then this is your place because everybody was new at one point.” The groups operate in sessions that can be attended throughout the day - there are three hour-long sessions in the morning starting at 5 a.m. and two hour-long sessions in the afternoon starting at 4 p.m. Additionally, there are some weekend events held such as the upcoming Memorial Day Workout that includes a workout, meal, and camaraderie. Signing up is as simple as sending Olson a text saying you’re interested. For more information about the workroom, find them online at theworkroommonte.com