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Sunday, January 13, 2013
Saints' Will Herring a real gym dandy

By Andrew Linnehan

He's not a money-hungry macho man seeking to produce the next multimillion-dollar workout franchise. Heck, he isn't even all that envious of athletes-turned-weight-loss-spokesmen Charles Barkley and Dan Marino.

But at his core, New Orleans Saints linebacker Will Herring is happy when he sees the average man drop weight in an effort to live a healthier life.

Maybe it's because he was born into a chiropractic family, his father always teaching him about the human body, muscle groups and how they work together. Maybe it's because his wife, Ashley, whom he met while attending Auburn University, likes to run more than Forrest Gump. Whatever the case, Herring has a passion for getting people excited about exercise.

It wasn't until 2011, however -- during the NFL lockout, when Herring needed a place to stay in shape -- that he decided to make a profession out of his passion.

"I already had purchased a bunch of workout equipment through a friend of mine," Herring said. "Then the lockout came around and offered an extended period of time to get a gym going."

Just like that, Herring went to work. He didn't want to be the only one to benefit from the exercise equipment he had just purchased, so he started a fully functioning business. The gym, called Herring Fitness, is an intimate establishment, minutes from where Herring played his college football at Auburn's Jordan-Hare Stadium.

A business license, a rental space, some interior decorating and a couple of employees later, Herring Fitness has quickly become a secret gem of a gym where young and old, overweight and buff Auburn residents can try to meet their fitness goals.

"With any business venture, you definitely have a huge learning curve," Herring said. "Our biggest challenge was with marketing. We had to figure out where to put our dollars, what works and what doesn't, but we eventually found that word of mouth is the best advertising you can have, and that's been great for us recently."

Among the things customers enjoy are the high-tech features Herring has installed in the facility, including a keyless and front desk-less entry. To enter the gym, which is always open, customers simply enter an assigned security PIN on a keypad on the exterior of the building to unlock the front door. Herring said he got the idea when he played with the Seahawks and learned of Snap Fitness, a chain that has the same entry system.

The high-tech access isn't just ornamental; it also serves a business purpose. By allowing customers to check themselves in, employment costs stay manageable for Herring. He can afford to have a 24-hour gym without an around-the-clock employee presence. In fact, Herring employs only two managers (his cousin Rachel Herring, and his wife's cousin Bailey Wilson), which means his payroll pales in comparison to most other gyms.

"[Will and Ashley] are amazing business partners," Rachel said. "They are so professional. They can't always be here, obviously, but when they come to town the gym is always a top priority."

Herring does not have immediate plans to open a second gym or to start a franchise; he and Ashley are spending this offseason raising their first child. But don't rule out a future in the exercise industry for the budding entrepreneur.

"I don't know what I'm going to do full time when I'm done playing ball," Herring said. "But I do want to do something that impacts other people. And I know that it makes me feel good when we can get a guy to come into the gym that's maybe 30 pounds overweight and use our environment to allow him to lose some weight."