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“Keep Shoveling That Coal”: Larry Maloney’s Onnit Story

September 16, 2021

If you’re trying to escape the corporate grind and transition over to your dream job, Larry Maloney may have the blueprint for you. At one time a franchise manager for Chipotle restaurants, Maloney’s true passion was fitness, and he yearned for the day he could make his living in sweatpants surrounded by heavy iron. It took working two jobs and attending college classes while raising two kids to get there, but today, Maloney is the General Manager of Onnit Gym in Austin, TX, helping our gym staff take the next step in their careers while giving our members the best possible training experience.

Onnit Chief Fitness Officer John Wolf interviewed Larry live on video for our Onnit Stories series, in which we feature people who have made inspiring life changes through, with, or as the result of finding Onnit. See below for the video and an edited transcript of the highlights. You can stay up to date with Onnit Stories by following Onnit’s Instagram TV (IGTV), where a new one appears every other Wednesday.

John Wolf: How did you get connected to Onnit in the first place?

Larry Maloney: I think, like many people, I heard about Onnit through the Joe Rogan podcast forever ago. I had been working in the fitness industry already, and I happened to live here in Austin, so I’d been following Onnit since its early days. This was probably 2011, 2012. I was into fitness, but I had just started my career working the front desk at a gym and dipping my toes into training people. Then I saw the opportunity for an internship here at Onnit in the cafe/customer service department. I was able to work here part-time while I was still working at the other gym, so I kind of had my feet in both worlds.

Yes, I know you were already working a lot of hours before you settled into your role here. What other demands were you facing at that time?

That was a pretty crazy time in my life. At that point, I had been working at the gym that I came from previously for about eight years, and I was actually the general manager of that facility—so I was running a gym in north Austin. I had also decided to go back to school at the same time I saw the opportunity at Onnit, so I was working 40 to 50 hours a week as the general manager at the other gym, 15 to 20 hours here at Onnit, and taking two classes at Austin Community College—while at the same time juggling a wife and two kids. It was one of those things where you have to go through that struggle to get to the other side, and to appreciate what you have.

You’ve made a lot of sacrifices, and I don’t know how you continue to show up so chipper. You’re always looking for ways to add value at the gym, and at the same time, when you need to clock out and be somewhere else, you’re always ready to do that too. Where did you get your resolve from back then when things were at their most hectic?

I would attribute it to the passion for what I do and being in fitness. I knew that Onnit was a huge opportunity, and every day I step over the threshold here, even now, I’m excited to be here. In this industry, it’s always different. There’s always something new. You’re always working on challenges, but it’s always exciting. So I think that helps fuel me.

The other motivating factor was the chance to come over to Onnit full-time. I’m one of those people that fully believes that if you put up the time and effort in the beginning, it’ll pay off on the backside. Keep shoveling that coal into the fire.

How long did it take from when you were an intern to when you kind of took the keys of Onnit Gym?

I was an intern for three or four months. Then I was full-time, and then it was about another eight months until I fully moved into the gym side of things. Before that I was working customer service. People were emailing in questions and comments about Onnit and our products and I was on the other side of those, responding to emails and answering the phones. I think the hardest part in that time was being in front of a computer a majority of that time. I was working in the cafe one to two days a week, and then the other three or four I was working in the customer service department.

That’s when I realized I was heading more into the business side of fitness, but I really wanted to be in the gym around that energy, and that was the hardest part for me initially. I loved working with everyone in customer service—that was a great department to work in—but it’s just not where my heart was.

Our customer service team is kind of the heartbeat of our organization. To work in that department, someone really has to know the values of Onnit. How did learning that aspect of the business translate into your leadership role at the gym?

We go through a pretty rigorous training in customer service as far as how to respond to customers. I like that we are very liberal with a lot of our policies for the benefit of the customer. Learning how to have that voice and respond in a very customer-centric way translates into a managerial role really well. Onnit Gym is kind of the Mecca for a lot of people that want to visit Onnit. This is where they come. And when they do, we have to know how to welcome them and help them.

How did you get this passion for fitness? Were you always into fitness, or was there a point in life where that really became more important to you?

I was not into fitness, per se. I was relatively athletic as a kid, but I had some knee issues growing up, so I had to actually stop playing sports altogether, and then I gained a lot of weight. By my freshman year of college, I was weighing around 260 pounds. At that point, I made a conscious decision to try to lose weight, and that’s when I got into fitness. Once I started seeing my body transform, and understanding that I had control over it, I really got into fitness. Pretty soon, working out became something that I couldn’t go without doing. I did that for a long time, just working out on my own while I was still working in the food industry.

I was a manager of restaurants—specifically, Chipotle—for a long time. But when I realized that my passion and my heart was in working out, I needed to figure out a way to make money while being in the gym all day. [Laughs]

What do you weigh in at these days?

Right now I’m around 180, 185.

How do you start a typical day?

Well, with two crazy boys, I usually have to get up relatively early, around 4:45 or 5:00. I do mobility drills pretty much every morning to get my day started. It helps me wake up a little bit better. Then I’m usually in the gym by about 5:15 or 5:30 to get some sweat in before the boys wake up. Then I get everyone up and ready for school.

And then you come here and take care of your extended family—the people at Onnit Gym.

Definitely. I like to use “we” and “us” a lot in the gym because this is a family. I mean, it’s not about any one person. I couldn’t do my job without everyone else around here. Everyone from the front desk staff to the cafe to the coaches is a family and a team here. My whole day is about getting everyone where they need to be and keeping everyone on task.

As you have taken on this managerial role, what are the most fulfilling aspects for you?

One is helping our crew and employees succeed in whatever they want to do. Every six weeks to two months or so, we do one-on-one meetings where I personally sit down with all of our employees and go over their goals and what they want to do professionally. Listening to them and trying to get them where they want to go is super fulfilling. I also love being around and helping our members—the people that come in and put in sweat in our gym day in and day out. My desk sits right in front of the gym’s front desk, so I get to see and talk to all of our members every day.

And my door is pretty much always open. I love it when people come by and pop in and I can say just a casual, “Hey, how’s it going, Jack? How’s the workout today?” Sometimes we’ll shoot the shit for 10 or 15 minutes, talking about life. Lastly, I’ll say that it’s really fulfilling to be part of Onnit. I take a lot of pride in being part of this brand that I wholeheartedly believe in and love.

We get people from all over the place coming and visiting the gym, and you’ve played host to so many of them. Do you have any funny stories?

A lot of people will come through the front door with their luggage in hand—like they literally got off the airplane and Onnit is their first stop. I think that’s amazing. I’m kind of getting goosebumps right now thinking about it, because I remember coming through the doors my first time and being so excited to see the place that I had read about for so long and seen in videos. So I know how these people feel and how excited they are.

It’s great that it feels like a homecoming for these people instead of like they’re visiting somewhere foreign. It always makes me feel really good when it seems like they’re at ease and they feel like this is somewhere they’re supposed to be.

Since the time you first fell in love with Onnit up till now, what are your favorite Onnit products?

I take Total Human® pretty much every day. I take Total GUT HEALTH almost every day as well, along with DIGESTech®. I also take Alpha BRAIN®. As far as workout supplements, I recently switched over to the Plant-Based Protein™. I use that to make my own shakes. I can’t get them to taste as good as the ones we make here in the cafe, but the Plant-Based Protein™ helps. Equipment-wise, I’ve stocked my home gym up with as many kettlebells and steel maces and steel clubs as I can.

OK, it’s time to take some questions from the audience. “What is your proudest accomplishment at Onnit so far?”

One of them is becoming general manager of Onnit Gym, and the other big one is being able to become good friends with Juan Leija [Onnit’s Director of Fitness Programming]. I was pretty intimidated by Juan initially. But during the COVID-19 shutdown, Juan and I got close figuring out how to keep the gym going. In that time, he passed the mantle of gym manager over to me, so I’m very proud I was able to pick it up and carry it forward.

Things did change when COVID hit. How has the Onnit Gym been structured since we rebooted?

Upon reopening, we kind of whittled everything down to two offerings. You can come in and do small-group personal training, or one-on-one personal training. Our small-group training is capped at 10 people per class—one coach to 10 people—and we follow Juan’s programming.

A little over 200 people now are following the same training program. I think that’s awesome, and one of the things that separates us from other gyms: we’re on the same team training the same program.

Programs usually run six to 12 weeks and are geared toward helping you reach sports-specific training goals or body composition goals. All of our members are seeing some type of benefit with respect to losing weight or gaining muscle, or they’re getting faster and they’re jumping higher. We offer three workouts per week, and the workouts are about an hour and 15 minutes to an hour-and-a-half long.

Because everyone’s following the same workout, the community as a whole comes together in such a big way, regardless of whether they’re attending the 6:00 a.m. class or the 5:30 p.m. class. Those people can still communicate with each other, know exactly what each other did that day in the workout, and commiserate with each other about the intensity of those workouts. It’s brought our community together in a pretty significant way.

Just to let everyone know, before Larry got here and re-architected the gym, we had a lot of classes that were based on the unconventional tools [kettlebell, steel mace, etc.], and people would drop in and take them as they pleased. It was a general, boutique fitness kind of offering. I’m really happy to see how it’s changed and how many people are invested in doing the same program together.

Larry, what’s your favorite piece of fitness equipment? If you had to choose one.

I have the quad mace in the trunk of my car at all times. In my opinion, it’s the coolest looking piece of equipment we have. I really like the wood handle on it, and I like the way it moves. It’s one of those things that looks really bad ass as well.

Here’s one from a viewer who knows you like anime. “If you could be any Naruto character, who would you be?”

That’s funny. I’m watching Naruto with my kids right now, and I’m a big anime fan. It’s super cliche, but I’d be Naruto, just because he’s the kind of underdog that makes himself better and gets stronger. I love anime because I think it fits in with that fitness mentality, or that forward-momentum mentality really well. I always joke that a lot of fitness people are into anime, usually Dragon Ball Z, for that reason. Funny aside about Naruto… I tried to name my oldest son Naruto, but my ex-wife squashed that one pretty quickly. [Laughs]

One thing we’re always talking about in the gym is how people can be Onnit wherever they’re at. The goal is to make what we do available everywhere. We have digital fitness products, but if someone wanted to follow along with what’s happening in the gym, what would you suggest?

We’re actually working on a digital offering for the small-group program so that anyone, anywhere, can follow along with what we’re doing. We’re probably about two months out from being able to launch something as an online membership. Then, of course, we have the Onnit 6 offerings as well, which I was lucky enough to be part of. We also have Onnit in 30—and we’re working on new installments of those. So there are all kinds of ways to be Onnit in different places around the world.

How would somebody follow the Onnit Gym through Instagram? What’s the handle?

@Onnitgymatx. I should also give a shout out to the Onnit Tribe on Facebook. That’s another great community that can help you stay Onnit around the world. It’s a group of people that help keep each other accountable and uplift everyone.

Lastly, I want to welcome anyone that wants to come through the gym and come say hi to yours truly to do so. Come take a picture underneath one of our banners, or come catch a workout. Our doors are always open and we’re really excited to have anyone that wants to come to the gym and check it out. It’s our pleasure to be able to reach as many people as we can and offer space for anyone that wants to come through.

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Onnit Academy is the most comprehensive database of information related to Unconventional Training, a unique new form of fitness methodology that focuses on functional strength, conditioning, and agility using the most efficient means and tools possible. The online database includes articles, videos, tutorials, and workouts featuring alternative implements like kettlebells, sandbags, steel maces, steel clubs, battle ropes, and more.
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