Every other Tuesday, Svveat Stories brings you Svveatspiration: an inspiring series of first-person narratives from our fitness community’s unsung heroes. This week, Grey Wolf Athletics co-founder James Mesina reveals what it took to make his dream of opening a Scarborough-based fitness business a reality—plus, how he discovered his love of running along the way.
In 2015, a couple of high school friends and I, who all trained at the same gym, got together one day to brainstorm ideas about opening our own gym. Our lives revolved around fitness and it’s what brought us all together, so why not?
We formed Grey Wolf Athletics, an outdoor boot camp that focused on full-body circuit training, held every Saturday morning in Scarborough. In the first few months, we combined our savings for potential gym locations, equipment and permits. We were getting great turnouts and training different people every week; however, we knew it wasn’t going to work year-round.
We started to hit a downward spiral, and some days only one person—or no one—would show up. We had many hurdles to overcome, like getting kicked off beaches, being forced to skip sessions because of field conditions, losing our permit with high school gyms and having disputes with studio owners.
A bit discouraged, we took a few months off to figure out another game plan.
During that time, I came across a group on social media called November Project, which hosted free workouts every Wednesday morning at Casa Loma, so I thought I’d try it the following week. Long story short, I met a lot of interesting people—people who wear shorts in -10 C weather, people shouting F-bombs at 6:30 a.m. and people who just enjoy exercising outside year-round. Through that group, I was introduced to other training and running clubs, and from there I gained a huge interest in running.
Then, three weeks prior to the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon, my friends and I decided to sign up for the half-marathon with no training whatsoever, just relying on our athletic ability. Starting off, I thought I was in good shape to run, but running long distance was a different story. The race was one of the toughest hours I’ve ever had to endure. As much as I wanted to stop, I just kept going. Heading to the finish line and seeing random spectators cheering me on really motivated me.
After that race, I gained a deeper appreciation for running because it challenged me both physically and mentally. I’ve gradually improved since, and this time with proper training. Toronto’s running community has helped me network and meet a lot of new people. I’ve been inspired by all the runners who perform these daunting feats, which has led me to set a new goal this year to complete the full marathon.
Going back to our boot camp, we finally found a gym last spring and an owner we can work with. Since then, we’ve gained many new members, collaborated with other fitness groups and even started a small running club of our own. We want to build a running community in Scarborough and bring some local awareness to the sport because there hardly is any. Some people find Scarborough an intimidating environment, but it offers some of the best hills, beaches and trails for people to train on.
Join Grey Wolf Runners every Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. at lululemon Scarborough Town Centre for a free five-kilometre group run, and every Thursday at 6 p.m. at Fitness Distinction. No registration required; just show up.
The Grey Wolf Athletics team never gave up on our goals because, to us, this is a passion project. We’ve been through rough patches, but found a way to overcome them. We’re still grinding it out in hopes of one day opening our own gym that will make an impact and better people’s lives. We offer classes that are suitable for all fitness levels, whether you’re new to working out or a competitive athlete.
Author: James Mesina, co-founder of Grey Wolf Athletics.
Check out the Grey Wolf Athletics page on Svveat for the gym’s social links, upcoming runs and special events.