A Gym 20 Years in the Making

By Mike Doolittle, Co-Owner

  Styrka  co-owners Mike Doolittle and Vanessa Thompson

Styrka co-owners Mike Doolittle and Vanessa Thompson

For 20 years, the space now occupied by Styrka was a small, locally-owned, community-focused gym. I had been a member there since 2001, and had learned a great deal from the knowledgeable, hard-working community. After going through several owners and name changes, it finally closed its doors in early 2015. The owners went on to open at another location, but I couldn't help but feel like something I had long cherished was missing. For nearly 15 years, this location had been my home away from home. 

I started my personal training career in 2004, at the now defunct Reaction Fitness in South Tulsa. I bounced around between corporate gyms before working at a small personal training studio for nearly seven years. In 2013, I went freelance and found the greatest success of my professional career. And when I married my wife Vanessa in 2014, we began to look for opportunities to realize our own creative small-business ideas. 

Opportunity Knocks

Opening a gym seemed like a natural progression for us. Vanessa is a finance and accounting wiz, and I had over a decade of experience in the industry. We looked around Tulsa at various warehouses and shopping strips before it hit us: what about the old gym? If the spot hadn't been rented out, it might be a perfect place for us. This is what we found:

We had our work cut out for us. But we had a vision that we believed in, and in October of 2015 we took the leap, signed the papers, and began the process of design and build-out.

Clean. Modern. Functional.

In creating the new gym, we knew that we had to go our own direction rather than trying to re-create the past. The gym had to be up to speed with current fitness trends — that meant a move away from bulky machines and overstuffed floor plans to more functional, multi-purpose equipment and a more open layout. 

Above all, we wanted our members to feel like the gym is cared for. That means keeping it clean and organized, replacing damaged equipment, and continually re-investing in the gym to bring in new premium equipment. We want a place where our members felt at home, so we decided to roll all our amenities into the cost of membership — cold bottled water with filtered refills, a fully stocked shower, terry and bath towels, men's and women's toiletries, educational workshops, and even the digital access app are offered at no additional cost to our members. We also offer a range of coaching options for a variety of needs and budgets.

A New Beginning

We opened Styrka on February 1st, 2016. It's a small, locally owned, community focused alternative to sterile corporate gyms. We offer functional equipment like Olympic bumper plates and platforms, kettlebells, modular squat racks, battle ropes, a sled, and plyo boxes. Every piece of equipment has been carefully chosen for uncompromising quality, and we've sourced from high-end US-based manufacturers like Rogue Fitness and EliteFTS. Best of all, our layout is clean and uncluttered — even when our membership reaches peak capacity, the gym will never feel overcrowded. 

For Vanessa and me, opening a small business has been exciting and slightly terrifying — we're venturing into uncharted territory. But we're incredibly proud of what we've built, and we can't wait to see what kind of community grows with us. Visit us today—we're confident you'll want to make Styrka your new home away from home.