For Keith Connolly, working out has quite literally been a lifesaver. In the midst of an uncertain world, the Cincinnati native and competitive weightlifter is bringing a new company to the Queen City, one that he hopes will inspire others to stick to and improve their workout routines.
Connolly is the owner of Cincinnati’s first GYMGUYZ franchise, a personal training service that brings trainers and equipment to their clients for custom, one-on-one workout sessions. Founder Josh York launched the company in 2008, and now has franchises in 20 states, Washington, D.C., and Ontario. Connolly’s Eastside Cincinnati location is only the second in Ohio.
“The main thing that really attracted me to GYMGUYZ, of all of the in-home and brick-and-mortar fitness options that are available, [is that] there’s nothing as convenient, customized, and creative as GYMGUYZ,” Connolly says. “The Peloton and the Mirror workouts, they’re fantastic pieces of equipment, but without the accountability of somebody showing up to your house like GYMGUYZ is going to be doing, they become really expensive pieces of furniture in a couple of weeks.”
For Connolly, this is more than just a business venture; GYMGUYZ is an organization with a message he believes in. Connolly was born with cystic fibrosis, a disease that affects the lungs and digestive system, and he credits regular exercise with keeping his symptoms under control.
“When I was diagnosed with it … the life expectancy was only 18 years old,” Connolly says. “The doctors had said that exercise is important because it’s a great way to keep the lungs clear, and luckily for me, it was always something that I really enjoyed doing, so I took pretty naturally to sports and exercise in general. It’s definitely the number one reason I’m in such good health today.”
While attending Elder High School, Connolly wrestled and ran cross country, and during his undergrad he was a member of Xavier University’s cheerleading team. In 2009, while earning his MBA at Xavier, he decided to take advantage of the university’s free personal training sessions for students and was introduced to a new passion: Olympic weightlifting.
“The lady I got paired up with was getting my athletic background … and she asked me if I wanted to try Olympic weightlifting, so I just said sure without really knowing what it was,” Connolly recalls. “I ended up falling in love with it and I’ve been doing it for about 12 years now.”
In 2022, Connolly will compete in the International Weightlifting Federation’s Master’s World Championships in Orlando, Florida, which had originally been set for October 2021, but was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. He hopes that his success in weightlifting will encourage others with cystic fibrosis to take up an exercise routine that works for them. “People are capable of more than they realize,” he says. “Just having an example out there, to know that it is possible, helps a lot.”
In March, when gyms across the state closed due to Ohio’s stay-at-home order, Connolly bought buy a squat rack for his home before they sold out. Nevertheless, he struggled to maintain his regular workout regimen. “Working out by myself, there were days that I skipped that I didn’t normally skip, because there are people that I go in and see when I go in the gym,” he says. “Those days wouldn’t have been missed if there was somebody coming to me.”
Connolly hopes that GYMGUYZ will offer Cincinnatians a new workout option with increased accountability, particularly at a time when many are still working from home and concerned about the safety of visiting gyms during the pandemic.
“With somebody coming to your house or your job or wherever you’d like to be met for your workout, that accountability piece is there,” he says. “If you tell yourself you’re going to commit to working out three days a week, GYMGUYZ is showing up and making sure that you work out three days a week.”