When Max Soucy and Mara Martin initially opened their business, The Ranch Personal Training, in 2017 they were working out of a converted rustic storage facility in the Town of Waterloo that was owned by one of their clients.

It was unlike any commercial fitness space, and the duo had ambitions of eventually getting a bigger gym.

In the late fall of 2019, Soucy and Martin knew it was time to look for a larger space. At the time, the pair had 40 personal training clients most of who were working with the owners either one-on-one, in pairs or in small groups.

Martin said they looked at several options such as building a larger facility on the property, buying and renovating a building or renting a facility. Soucy added it took about a year to find the right spot for The Ranch Training Center.

What the pair eventually found was a vacant commercial space in a strip mall that had previously housed a fitness center. Soucy looked at the space during Labor Day weekend of 2020 and by Election Day, clients were training in Marshall. Not only could he see what the space would become, the Marshall location had some outdoor space that could be utilized unlike other options the couple pursued.

“I don’t know why we didn’t look at Marshall sooner,” Martin said. “It’s a perfect location for our clients.”

The people who had previously worked out at The Ranch only needed to add another few minutes of travel time to get to the 506 Plaza Drive location. Additionally, the gym is finding itself pulling in members from other nearby communities such as Deerfield, Lake Mills, Cottage Grove and Sun Prairie.

The duo decided to go beyond just a space for personal training; The Ranch now includes a 24/7 gym and soon Martin will launch a satellite branch of Lake Mills-based Optimal Physical Therapy on-site.

“I didn’t realize how valuable (24/7 gym access) would be,” Soucy said. “A lot of people really do appreciate having it open late at night and early in the morning.”

Each member is issued a key fob for secure access.

The gym officially opened March 28 and the goal was to have 100 people sign up to join within the first month. As of April 28, the number of gym memberships purchased was 115 “and I still have five more scheduled to check it out,” Soucy said, noting that number did not include people who just work with the owners for personal training and are not members of the gym.

“I didn’t know how many people would join,” he said. “A lot of people were getting home gyms because of the pandemic. It was a bit of a wild card.”

It took Soucy and Martin along with some assistance from Soucy’s family six months to get The Ranch Training Center ready for opening. They worked on the space primarily during the weekend while spending the week working with personal training clients.

“Each week (the clients) would see something new show up,” Martin said. “They got the chance to see the whole process, which was kind of cool.”

Martin said there was nothing structurally deficient with the space, it just didn’t work for what the gym owners envisioned.

Soucy said before renovations, the space felt very closed off; now, it has a more open feel. The front part of the building is home to various cardio and weightlifting machines, and the back section has free weights and space committed to power-lifting and personal training. There are also two individual bathrooms that are both equipped with single-stall showers.

During the remodeling, The Ranch continued to serve clients in the back portion of the studio space. Martin said doing this also kept costs down since they wouldn’t need to pay rent at both the former and future location during renovations.

While the personal training may have moved from a repurposed storage shed to a commercial gym space, the owners wanted to keep some of the rustic elements. Parts of the walls are covered with pallet wood and above the bubbler is an aerial photograph of the previous location.

“There aren’t any more horses or chickens, but we still have Arya,” Soucy said, referring to the couple’s friendly canine though a picture of the horses does hang in the gym’s office.

“We’re happy with the way it’s turned out and the location,” Soucy said. “The village has really made us feel welcome and we couldn’t have asked for a better spot honestly.”

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