P.I.T. gym teachs confidence and fitness to local kids

What started out as a modest gym for a couple families to train in has become a full-fledged fitness community in Cowley. 

Kelly and Angie Spann, the owners of The P.I.T.- Performance, Improvement and Technique, LLC, bought their location on 61 Main Street as more of a year-round training facility for their children. 

“We wanted to have a year round training facility,” Spann said. “It kind of evolved from there.”

The thing was, her children had friends, and then they all started to come regularly, too. The P.I.T. gym was born. 

“At first it was just a building with my kids and Jess Campbell’s kid, then we started getting more and more wanting to lift,” Spann said.

It wasn’t long before Spann had to purchase more equipment. Structured classes started soon after. That was a year and a half ago. The impromptu business has boomed since.

There are currently 55 local children working out at The P.I.T. weekly, from Lovell, Cowley, Byron and Powell. The P.I.T runs three youth training classes Monday through Thursday and 1 adult training class in the evening five days per week. Spann is in talks with the Town of Cowley to purchase a new gym in order to occupy more members. The youth athletic developmental programming is for ages ranging from 6 to 18 years of age.

The growth she’s seen in the classes “you have to see to believe”, Spann said. 

Makayla Thormalen takes a strong stance as she lifts the bar over her head during a Tuesday afternoon workout at The P.I.T. Behind her, to the left, is Katie Thormalen. To her right is Kassidy Brimhall. Carson Asay stands behind.
Ryan Fitzmaruice photo

 There’s Makaila Thormahlen, 14 years old. She’s deadlifting 255 pounds. “She is unbelievably strong and humble. I love having her leadership qualities at The P.I.T.”.

There’s Max Cooley, who has always been a little passive but has proven to find his athleticism through various movement. “I didn’t do that,” Spann said.  “He’s an exceptional athlete. He’s found that in himself.”

More than a place for members to get their workouts in, The P.I.T. has transformed into a place where local kids are discovering their confidence. 

“I have a lot of kids who have not found their “athleticism” yet. They may not be a basketball or football player, but they can come in here and they can find something that they will be good at,” Spann said. “They find a level of confidence in themselves that becomes contagious within their peers. The kids here have learned to be excellent teammates to each other. They have found strengths and qualities in each other that they don’t get to see through regular school athletics.”

The P.I.T. is not the same kind of gym that you would find five miles away at Club Dauntless. It’s not filled with a variety of machines. It’s modeled far more on programs like crossfit. The gym is open and intended to accommodate gymnastic style movement as well as handstand walks, Olympic ring work and other movements like sled pushes. 

“We do a lot of Oly style lifting, so we throw a lot of weight around,” Spann said. “It’s not a regular gym.”

“The gym is also far more focused on youth development and physical literacy than other area gyms”, Spann said. 

Still, it has the essentials. There’s four separate workout rigs, there’s a whole host of free weights and treadmills and stationary bikes are up front. Participants can expect to get their fill of pull-ups, push-ps, rope climbs, and spend quality time in the indoor batting cage. 

At the youngest age of six, children start with minimal weight. The P.I.T. is equip with youth standard equipment such as three-pound weights and five-pound bars. “We teach the kids proper mechanics and build their base as young as 6 years old. Once that foundation is solid through movements such as proper abdominal flexion and hip hinges we begin to start the impact process with weight”, Spann said. 

“We don’t try to impact the kids with much weight until they hit puberty age, but they can still learn the movements, they can learn the mechanics,” Spann said.  “When that starts to develop, these kids already have the movements down and they are ready to roll.”

It builds until kids in their late-teens are doing intensive workouts weekly. 

“My older kids, those guys are driven harder and they have a much harder regimen,” Spann said. “We want to launch our methodology to not only provide these individuals with a rounded education in fitness but to develop and retain longevity in this training through careful application of our individualized programming.”

But it’s not just muscle building and physical movement. Spann also teaches the concept of having a solid mindset. Every Monday is focused on developing positive mindset. 

“What the kids learn is how their minds actually communicate with their body. We teach them how to suppress negative thoughts and how to engage their positive movement. They learn to set realistic goals and reach those goals,” Spann said. “What we actually do is alleviate that ceiling. These kids have learned by watching themselves accomplish amazing tasks, and regulating their thought process there is really nothing they can’t achieve.”

Thormalen, before she was deadlifting 255 pounds, didn’t even lift at all before she joined the The P.I.T.  

“It’s been fun, and I like improving. I’m getting better,” Thormalen said.  “She makes it fun. She makes it so we can have a good time. I can lift more, and be more confident now. She helps us gain confidence, and everyone supports each other.”

Carson Asay said almost every exercise performed in the gym was new to him when he started. It’s the same story for him as well. Being a member of The P.I.T. has helped him find his own confidence – even to the point where he’s looking forward to household tasks. 

“I’m more confident in doing things, and can help out more,” Asay said. “I can pick up heavier things in my house.”

The gym will soon be holding The P.I.T.-Fit games with the support of Freedom Fitness on July 6.  “The competition will be the first of its kind in the area”, Spann said. 

The competition is for children ages 6 to 17. It’s structured much like Crossfit, Spann said, modified for kids. Split into divisions based on age and ability, participants will participate in a series of three workouts, with the final workout taking place among the top-placing athletes. 

“The thing is, there is no other competition like that between Bozeman and Cheyenne. What we are trying to do is create exposure and start this style of competition for our local athletes,” Spann said. “I’m not looking for it to be too popular this year, but I’m hoping by next year it becomes trendier and people start sending their kids and start seeing that these type of movements are safe and that this is a great competition and atmosphere for these kids to be involved in.”

It’s not the only way The P.I.T. is branching out this summer. Spann’s adult class is preparing to enter fitness competitions in Casper. 

“It’s big for me, I didn’t plan for this, I wasn’t targeting an adult clientele. I have some very competitive clients that want to do things like that,” Spann said.  “This kind of a jump, why not?”

It may not have all been planned, but The P.I.T. has turned into a space Spann and those she watches over feel pride in. Getting into youth training like this is a dream, Spann said, and she can see the difference the gym is making in kids’ lives. 

“You have a good humble kid who has got a good mindset and is focused at school and everywhere else, and he/she comes to the gym, he/she enjoys their workout, he/she enjoys watching their own growth, that kid is going to be a pretty exceptional adult some day and I love being able to be a part of that,” Spann said. 

By Ryan Fitzmaurice