Thomas Thatcher was in sniper school in the Marine Corps when he did his first CrossFit workout. He realized it was not only a great workout, but there was a lot of information online about it he could research on his own.
Thatcher quickly fell in love with CrossFit and a few years later, in 2009, he found himself sitting on the floor of CrossFit Oahu getting his Level 1. “They were talking about paleo and Zone and all this other shit,” said Thatcher. “They asked who here did paleo, and half the hands went up. Then they asked who here did Zone and the other half went up. I was the only one sitting there saying, ‘I don’t even know what the hell you are saying.’”
He quickly learned the ins and outs of paleo, Zone and CrossFit, along with how to run a business. He shared with CrossFit Oahu owner Bryant Powers he had a week or so left in the area and asked if he could spend his time at the facility learning how to run a Box. Powers agreed and Thatcher quickly formed a blueprint of how he wanted his future gym to be structured.
Thatcher traveled back to his hometown of Lawrence, Kansas, where his brother Kyle was studying construction at a community college. Thatcher knew he could put his brother’s carpentry skills to quick use — they moved in together and Kyle built a pull up-rig in their backyard.
“I remember running him through his first CrossFit workout and he puked his ass off,” said Thatcher. “It was a typical big brother move. I was like, ‘Dude, come on.’ I was just out of the Marine Corps and was like ‘OK, we need to get into shape.’”
The two brothers built a community with 30 and 40 people working out in their backyard. Thatcher would lead workouts and correct form while Kyle built all the equipment needed.
However, with the stress and culture shock from the transition of Marine Corps to civilian life, on top of juggling college and starting a business within a four-month period, Thatcher’s parents had to check him into a mental facility for various health issues, including depression and PTSD.
Thatcher gained 30 pounds in the three months he was in the facility, his credit score dropped severely from not being able to make payments, and the community he had built in his makeshift, backyard gym quickly disappeared.
“I realized these were just a ton of first-world problems I was going through and I had a ton of people I knew still in Afghanistan that had it way worse off, so I got my shit together,” said Thatcher. “I started the gym back up in February of 2011.”
By selling lifetime memberships for $2,500 to a few families who remained loyal to their gym, the brothers were able to move into their first facility, and after many ups and downs, CrossFit Lawrence finally began to take shape. After two years there, they moved again to their current location, a 6,000-square-foot warehouse right off of a running trail.
The space has consistently housed their CrossFit equipment, but it’s also a home for other hobbies as well. A friend of Thatcher’s once taught rock climbing and bouldering in a corner of the gym where they constructed a wall. Currently, they have an area dedicated to mixed martial arts. They purchased an MMA-styled ring and now offer various forms of martial arts and combat training.
Because of the addition of other forms of fitness, CrossFit Lawrence is currently going through a rebranding phase. Thatcher’s Training Center will be the new name and it will house CrossFit Lawrence, Lawrence Fight Club and Lawrence Barbell Club.
“Our theory is by having fit communities be able to come in and train together, hopefully we can cross train and work together,” said Thatcher. “I’d rather you be in my facility training safely than somewhere else, so if we can accomplish that it will be a success.”
While Thatcher recounted multiple sibling-styled arguments, he said going into business with his brother was a great decision. “I would do it all again in a heartbeat,” said Thatcher. “It is a little easier to deal with that stress and the hardships of a business because you know you have the blood bond.”