Steve and Lindsey Justice could cite a number of attributes and advantages that have helped them succeed as a husband-wife fitness company – experience as outstanding athletes; star power; a deep, first-hand knowledge of exercise and fitness; discipline. Even family values.
But Lindsey keeps coming back to what matters most for them.
“We just want to help people,” she says.
That drove Justice Fitness four years ago when it began in Indiana, and it drives it now. Whether the training session is at their in-home gym in Matthews or at a client’s home, whether it’s for a housewife, kids or a high-profile NASCAR official, they want to help people achieve better physical health.
They’re both well- versed in health challenges.
Although Lindsey and Steve both received athletic scholarships to attend Wake Forest and excelled in soccer and football, respectively – with Steve eventually playing in the National Football League – they’ve seen their share of health hurdles and frustrations. Lindsey has Celiac disease and is severely lactose intolerant; Steve had recurring back issues that prematurely ended his NFL career after he struggled to pile on enough weight to compete in the league. Then he found himself seriously overweight.
They also both have great motivation, which is how the business began.
While living in Carmel, Ind., near Indianapolis, while Steve was a center for the Indianapolis Colts, Lindsey met the owner of a nearby gym and eventually got her Personal Training Certification from the National Strength and Conditioning Association.
“I started renting space from him and had 30 clients at one point,” she recalls. “I didn’t have kids then. A lot of this came out of having to motivate myself.
“It took a lot of work to get a scholarship at Wake Forest. I realized the majority of the population didn’t have that internal motivation, especially when it came to exercise. I just wanted to help people. Being married to a Colt player helped, and we used that to our advantage.”
Steve Justice wasn’t a Colt for long. It wasn’t for a lack of ability; he was a 2007 Consensus All-American at Wake Forest and starred for the ACC championship team that went to the BCS Orange Bowl.
But after he was drafted in the sixth round in 2008, he quickly found the different “schemes” used in the NFL emphasized strength over quickness. Steve was compelled to put on weight in order to stay competitive.
“I was considered undersized – 6-4, 285,” he says. “My agent kept telling me you’ve gotta gain weight, you’ve gotta gain weight. I herniated a disk in my back and it kinda spiraled downhill from there. Two months to the day after surgery I was back in practice – probably too soon.”
Steve was waived during the Colts’ final roster cuts in September 2009. He joined the United Football League in hopes of finding a road back to the NFL, and the Panthers signed him in January 2010.
“It was just neat to be a part of a team again, back in the NFL and having the opportunity,” he says. “I had really high hopes. We moved to the Winston-Salem area, as close to Wake Forest as you could be.
“I had gotten up to 305 and had gained the weight my agent wanted me to gain and I re-herniated the same disk in my back in practice. I tried to power through it but it didn’t work, so they put me on minor injured reserve for six weeks or so.”
The writing was on the wall. The Panthers let him go. After another shot with the UFL at the end of 2010, “I’m living in a hotel in Florida and my wife is living with a newborn in Charlotte. I got a couple more workouts with NFL teams, but they didn’t call back. I got tired of being so heavy and so early in 2011 I just said, ‘I’m done.’”
He wasn’t just done with football. He says he lost 100 lbs. in about 13 months.
Steve and Lindsey say he lost 60-70 lbs. during those first four months.
“I didn’t do anything out of the ordinary,” he insists. “My metabolism is really, really fast as it is. Remember, I was taking in 6,000-7,000 calories a day just to keep the weight on. I was eating constantly.
“Once I got down to 240 or 245, it wasn’t that hard. I ran a little more, worked out a little more, and here I am – around 207, 208. I look back at pictures and I’m like, ‘Who is that man?’ I feel so much better now, so much more energy, and my back feels great.”
Steve says he went through a couple of interviews afterward, “but those doors kept closing. We’re strong Christians, and we were thinking, ‘We’ll keep knocking on doors, and if God opens one of them, fine; if not, we’ll keep training.”
He laughed. “I kept knocking on doors and He kept shutting them, and the training doors kept flying open so I just kept training. It’s been an amazing experience so far, for sure.”
The couple emphasize individual attention for their clients.
“I write customized plans for clients because everyone’s different; everyone has their own struggles,” Lindsey says. “We don’t carry a ton of clients. We want to give each client 110 percent of what we have.
“We’ll bring the motivation,” adds Lindsey, whose two dietary restrictions have added to her knowledge of nutrition. “We’re good about seeing and feeling out in every workout how the client is. Maybe he or she has had a long day; maybe they’ve been traveling.”
Asked about their long-term plans for the business, Lindsey says: “That’s the question of the century. We have explored the opportunity of us having our own studio, but if you have your own studio you get a lot of the stuff that goes with it.
“I’ve written a business plan and met with investors. There are people who would want to invest in us. But we’re only 28 and have two young kids. For now we want to do what we can to help the lives of others. If something else comes, then it comes. Bigger isn’t always better.”
Reid Creager is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Reid? Email him at email@example.com.
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