August 4, 2023

Lars van der Wal: How Did My Gym Story Lead to Gymstory

Like many other 16-year-old teenage boys back in high school, I started working out to supplement my performance in other sports. Baseball, in my case, was the obsession. I was living it up for the chill shower after a sweaty training session, the numbing thrills of scoring another point, and, of course, the attention from the girls (just joking).  My love for fitness was born there and then.

My high school baseball team

As a young and ambitious baseball player I was confident and motivated. However, that confidence and zeal for fitness gradually withered away after I suffered a severe knee injury. After a series of minor injuries and gradual loss of motivation, I quit sports in university, my life descended into a series of sedentary recreational choices and unhealthy eating habits: the all nighter pre-exam cramming, ten seasons of sex and city all in one go, and the midnight fast food takeaway to top it up…. And one day, I looked into the mirror and I couldn’t recognize myself - I’ve gained a significant amount of weight. 

So, I decided to pull myself and my life together. Determined to restore health (and appearance) and strengthen my weak knee, I did what everybody else in this situation would do - I joined a gym. After the routine introductory lesson, the overpriced personal training plan, and sticking to an outrageous workout schedule for a few months, I …… FAILED! 

No, I did not manage to achieve the results I was aiming for. Instead, I got disoriented, demotivated, and frustrated. And finally, I quit. 

Later, it would become apparent that I was not the only person who experienced this chain of events.

So, again, I did what everybody else would do. I spent an insane amount of time googling, or ‘researching’, for a more effective way to get fit. And that is how I discovered the power of fitness tracking. Ever since I started tracking my running with a tracking app, my attitude towards exercise has changed. The feedback (the speed, distance, etc.) provided by the tracker kept me motivated to push myself to run one extra more mile at a time and it was always a great joy/fun to check the progress I’ve made and see how far the baby steps I’ve taken have gotten me. Within 5 months, I lost 15 kilograms with the help of fitness tracking.

My unrecognizable transformation with fitness tracking

I am still jogging until this day, but to have a healthy and balanced workout routine, weight lifting in the gym is also indispensable. So, I got back to the gym, but the same problem remained - without any tracking device for the gym equipment, it was hard to stay motivated and have a clear picture of my fitness needs. There was only one tracking device offered by one particular manufacturer in the entire fitness world back then. It  was inconvenient, with an USB stick that needed to be plugged into the equipment, which means you have to carry it everywhere with you, and it only showed some basic parameters. So, I started talking to the gym manager and asked him why we did not have any trackers in our gym. He told me that these solutions were pricey, not profitable and too invasive for his equipment. 

The idea for Gymstory was born. 

After 60+ interviews and surveying with hundreds of people, we had the information we needed to start building our product. I [Lars] am not a technical guy, so I could only think of the business side of the product. I needed someone with a technical background . At the beginning, Gymstory was  just a two-men's ‘garage band’ consisting of me and my high school friend, Mathieu, who jumped at this idea over coffee. 

Over time, as the product started to shape, we realised that we missed skills in the “cloud” area, because, essentially, we are a data farm, and in order to use the data that we generate,  we need to store and structure it. And that is how we found our last band member - Michael. 

The three of us quit our ‘other’ jobs in October 2020 after receiving the first 200K funding and started working fulltime to make our ‘gym story’ come true. 

And now, we are only days away from the official launching of our product and the future looks ‘fit’.

Lift your progress

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