By James Forrest

IrontribeA couple of years ago, we were delighted to welcome a new client, IronTribe Fitness, to the Triangle. Based out of Birmingham, Alabama, ITF planted its first NC location in North Raleigh in early 2013.

Now in 2015, the N. Raleigh location has blossomed, and ITF has opened a second location in Cary (with plans for a Durham location soon). ITF is one of America’s fastest growing brands according to Inc. magazine. ITF has grown into 40 markets across the country since its humble 2008 founding in a Birmingham garage.

I recently sat down with Cary Manager Micah Shoemaker to get an update on ITF’s successful growth in the Triangle market. Micah chalks up ITF’s success in the Triangle and nationwide to the flexibility and scalability of its program (reaching all audiences), the high end user experience (very nice facilities and full time coaches), and the tight-knit community that is created among ITF’s athletes.

The ITF model is truly unique. As Micah says, “We’re more than a gym.” And I’ve seen it for myself, having joined earlier this year. IronTribe is a top-tier fitness community where people go with their own individual goals, issues, problems, and obstacles, receive coaching and counseling from full-time professionals in fitness and nutrition, and join groups of people looking for commitment and accountability that they perhaps either don’t get at home or just need more of to reach their full potential.

When people are looking to join ITF, Micah says that it’s not for everybody. To be a member of the community, it’s not about athletic ability, but rather about being coachable, committed, and ready for change. As we chat about the growth of the fitness communities in N. Raleigh and Cary, Micah is most proud of one statistic in particular—changed lives. He notes that nationwide, ITF is working toward a goal of changing more than 10,000 lives by 2017, while in just two short years, the communities in Wake County alone have already changed more than 150 lives for the better.

There are plenty of measures for changing lives, such as the obvious scientific tangibles for most people, like weight, body mass index, and cholesterol. But Micah and his staff thrive on those opportunities to change lives in those intangible ways as well, when they identify people with support issues or other factors preventing them from achieving their goals, or situations where they can match individuals with a team of people they know can support them to the hilt for success.
To illustrate the point, he says, “We lift heavy things, but more importantly, we lift each other.”

After working with ITF through the Forrest Firm since 2013, I had to see this life-changing phenomenon first-hand. Fellow Forrest Firm attorney Jeff Wolfe and a few of our friends joined a month-long 101 class for new members this spring. True to his word, Micah’s staff developed a movement-based workout program, complemented by a nutrition program, tailored to each of us as individuals. The program scaled in intensity over the initial four weeks until we were ready to join our respective workout groups based on the times we wanted to come to the gym on a more permanent basis. I can honestly say I’m in better shape than I’ve ever been (even in just a few short months).

What may be the greatest aspect of ITF is what all of this infrastructure and expertise facilitates among the members, and that’s accountability. Due to the flexibility and scalability of the workouts, each group is diverse, meaning that a beginner fresh out of 101 can work out alongside someone who’s been at ITF since day one. The result is that each group not only gets coaching from the staff, but also “player-coaches” within each group ensuring that everyone hits his or her individual goals for a session.

Micah sees the natural bond of sharing the “blood, sweat, and tears” of the fitness mission at ITF as something to behold. “The camaraderie, friendships, and family—just being part of something bigger than yourself—is truly spectacular.” I can certainly attest to that. The 17 guys I went through the 101 program with are guys that I’ll always have a special bond with.
When we talk about plans for the future, Micah says that it’s all about continuing to build the ultimate fitness community. Sticking to the plan will ultimately reward the company with more growth. “Our fitness community should strive to change lives for the better. That is so much more rewarding than anything else I could do, and I hope our members see that and get as much out of the community as I do.” Hear, hear.

For those always interested in a good business-oriented read, I highly recommend ITF founder Forrest Walden’s Iron Tribe: From Garage Hobby To Fitness Franchise. His candid insight related to the growth of ITF is quite valuable. I took away quite a few lessons for Forrest Firm!

For more on IronTribe Fitness and its unique, life-changing opportunities in north Raleigh and Cary, visit their website at and